John W. Ligon Middle School

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John W. Ligon GT Magnet Middle School
John W. Ligon Middle School.jpg
Entrance to Ligon's atrium
706 East Lenoir Street
Raleigh, North Carolina
United States
School type Public (Magnet)
Founded 1953
Focus Arts
Principal Gretta Dula
Number of students ~1200
Education system Wake County Public School System
Schedule type Eight period
Hours in school day 7:35am - 2:20pm
Yearbook The Echo[1]
Feeder to William G. Enloe High School
Assistant principals Jennifer Zezza
Curtis Brower
Ronald Sharpe

John W. Ligon GT Magnet Middle School, formerly John W. Ligon Junior-Senior High School, is a public magnet middle school in the Wake County Public School System located in the Chavis Heights neighborhood of Raleigh, North Carolina. It was historically an all black high school in Raleigh until it was integrated in 1971.


High School[edit]

John W. Ligon High School was founded in 1953, replacing Washington Graded and High School as the only all black secondary education institution in Raleigh, North Carolina. The overall building costs amounted to $1 million, making it the largest school construction project in the state at the time.[2] It was named after John William Ligon, an educator, local pastor and interim principal at Washington.[3][4] The school's books were supplied secondhand from its white counterpart, Needham B. Broughton High School.[5] Ligon was seen as model for black education throughout the state, attracting a large number of students and an educated teaching staff from the local black colleges.[6] By the late 1960s it possessed a higher percentage of teachers with graduate degrees than any of Raleigh's three white schools.[7]

Middle School[edit]

Ligon served as the city's only black high school until 1971, when it was desegregated and subsequently converted into a junior high school.[8] In the late 1970s, officials considered closing the school, but this was met with opposition from alumni and Ligon continued to operate.[5] In 1982, Ligon was formally consolidated into the new Wake County Public School System and became involved in the Magnet Program. The Crosby-Garfield school in Raleigh merged into Ligon at the same time.[9] Between 1994 and 1995, computers and laserdisc players were installed in many of the school's classrooms. 360 students were educated on the use of ClarisWorks, HyperStudio, and MacGlobe software. Teachers were trained in the areas of data management, email, and multimedia.[10] In recent years, the school has undergone major renovations and expansions, including the construction of new hallways, a baseball field, and more classrooms.[11]


Chart representing racial composition of the student body at Ligon

After the racial integration period, Ligon heavily promoted diversity, which is still part of its goal. As of 2007, there were 157 Asian students (~15%), 376 African-American students (~36%), 496 White students (~47%), and 17 Hispanic students (~1%). In addition, students' differences in income and class are shown by the 24% of the school which gets reduced price or free lunches.[12]

A large number of its NC state-identified Academically Gifted students go on to the Magnet William G. Enloe High School.


In the 2008-09 school year, only 34% of applicants received admission.[13]

School Awards[edit]

  • 2004 Magnet School of Distinction
  • 2005 Magnet School of Excellence
  • 2006 Magnet School of Excellence
  • 2008 Magnet School of Excellence
  • 2009 Magnet School of Excellence
  • 2010 Magnet School of Excellence
  • 2010 Football Conference Champions
  • 2012 Football Conference Champions
  • 2012 Girls' Soccer Conference Champions


Ligon belongs to multiple school related organizations. Among them are:


Mandatory Courses[edit]

Students at Ligon are required to take a Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies course each year, as well as two quarters of either a dance or physical education course. Students in the sixth grade are required to take Ligon Way, a course introducing students to middle school, and either Computer Skills or Keyboarding.


Ligon has many extracurricular courses and electives. These include foreign languages, which include Spanish, German, French, Japanese, and American Sign Language. Ligon will be starting Chinese again starting with the 2013-2014 school year. Ligon also offers courses in physical education. These would include, Archery, Tennis 1, Tennis 2, basketball 1, basketball 2, basketball 3, racket sports, sports variety, golf, soccer 1, soccer 2, and fencing. Ligon also has electives that can be as specific as Flash software and Visual Basic programming. Many electives involve students in running the school, such as technical theater, yearbook, and LTV (Ligon Television).[14]

Unlike most middle schools, who only have ten or so electives, Ligon has about 300 electives. Students can take three electives per quarter, unless they are taking semester-long, or year-long electives.

Performing arts[edit]

Ligon offers multiple courses in orchestra, band, dance, chorus, and acting. Two of Ligon's string orchestras, Silver Strings and Ligon Philharmonic, performed in Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY. Mrs. Ruth A. Johnsen is the conductor of both orchestras, along with Apprentice Orchestra.[14]

Extracurricular activities[edit]


Ligon's colors are blue and gold, and their teams are referred to as the Little Blues.[2] Some call them the Lynxes.

Ligon's sports teams include:

In the 2009-2010 and 2012-2013 seasons, Ligon's football team went undefeated.


Besides sports, Ligon has a wide variety of after-school clubs that meet regularly, including a Japanese anime club and a MathCounts club. These usually meet once a week, but it depends on the club. There is also VisPro (Visual Production / Computer Club) and Art Club meeting on Tuesday afternoons. In 2009-10, Ligon created the Chain Links club in response to Rachel's Challenge. The Ligon Battle of the Books team, coached by Crystal Carley, came in second place in the local competitions in 2013.


Shantan Krovvidi went to the National Geography Bee after winning the North Carolina state competition. On 19 May 2009, Krovvidi qualified for the final round. On 20 May 2009, Krovvidi took third place in the final round.[15]

Calvin Deng ('09) took home fourth place from the national math competition MathCounts.

Notable Alumni[edit]

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
John Baker 1954 NFL football player, first black sheriff in North Carolina since Reconstruction [5]
Chuck Davis 1954 dancer, founder of DanceAfrica and the African American Dance Ensemble [16]
Staley B. Keith 1957 politician, civil rights activist [17]
Mel Tomlinson 1960s (?) award winning ballet dancer [18]
John Arthur Greene Broadway actor and singer [19]
Tristian Brown 2005 rapper, member of Troop 41 [20]
Lelynd Darkes 2005 rapper, member of Troop 41 [20]
Dakare Wilder 2005 rapper, member of Troop 41 [20]


  1. ^ The Echo.
  2. ^ a b Todd, Renee (9 November 2015). "Ligon GT Magnet Middle School wind Ensemble" (PDF). Ligon GT Magnet Middle School. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "John W. Ligon". North Carolina State University. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  4. ^ "Washington School". North Carolina State University. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Geary, Bob (9 April 2014). "Raleigh school explores the past on its 60th Anniversary". Indy Week. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  6. ^ "Background Information: An Historically Black High School". North Carolina State University. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  7. ^ Thuesen, Sarah Caroline (1 August 2013). Greater Than Equal: African American Struggles for Schools and Citizenship in North Carolina, 1919-1965 (illustrated ed.). UNC Press Books. p. 240. ISBN 9780807839300. 
  8. ^ Alibrandi, Marsha; Beal, Candy; Thompson, Ann; Wilson, Anna (2000). "Reconstructing a School's Past Using Oral Histories and GIS Mapping". National Council for the Social Studies. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  9. ^ "Crosby-Garfield School". North Carolina State University. Retrieved 12 July 2016. 
  10. ^ Baenen, Nancy (1995), Improving Achievement through Technology: Status Report on the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP). E & R Report No. 95E.05., Magnet Schools Assistance Program, p. 3, retrieved 5 November 2016 
  11. ^ Ligon History Project: "Ligon History Project" at, 2008
  12. ^ Ligon Middle School; National Center For Education Statistics:
  13. ^ The News and Observer, "Ligon Limits Classes to the Most Gifted."
  14. ^ a b Ligon Middle School: "Courses" at, 2008
  15. ^ "Raleigh boy third in National Geographic Bee". Capitol Broadcasting Company. 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  16. ^ Barr, Sarah (11 April 2014). "Raleigh’s Washington Elementary and Ligon Middle mark major anniversaries". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  17. ^ Our Inspiration. Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center.
  18. ^ Ethan, Hyman (21 January 2016). "Ballet dancer Mel Tomlinson returns to Raleigh to teach students". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved 24 May 2016. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b c Trust, Gary (16 December 2010). "Weekly Chart Notes: P!nk, 'Glee' Cast, Rick Ross". Billboard. Retrieved 12 July 2016. Troop 41 consists of Tristian Brown (T-Breezy), Lelynd Darkes (Lil Lee) and Dakare Wilder (Lil Inferno). The group formed five years ago in a rap music class at Ligon Middle School in Raleigh, N.C., Wall's hometown. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°46′20″N 78°37′35″W / 35.7721°N 78.6264°W / 35.7721; -78.6264