Sumner High School (St. Louis)

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Sumner High School
Sumner High School 2.jpg
Sumner High School and football field, October 2012
Sumner High School is located in Missouri
Sumner High School
Sumner High School
4248 Cottage Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63113

United States
Coordinates38°39′35″N 90°14′21″W / 38.6597°N 90.2391°W / 38.6597; -90.2391Coordinates: 38°39′35″N 90°14′21″W / 38.6597°N 90.2391°W / 38.6597; -90.2391
TypePublic high school
School districtSt. Louis Public Schools
PrincipalDr. Michael Tripplet "Sumner High School / Overview". Retrieved 2013-10-16.</ref>
Enrollment356[1] (2016[1])
Student to teacher ratio12.15[1]
Color(s)Maroon and white
PublicationThe Collegiate (defunct)
Charles Sumner High School
Location4248 W. Cottage Ave.
St. Louis, Missouri
Area5.5 acres (2.2 ha)
Built1908 (1908)
ArchitectWilliam B. Ittner
Architectural styleColonial Revival
Georgian Revival
NRHP reference #88000469[2]
Added to NRHPApril 19, 1988

Sumner High School, also known as Charles H. Sumner High School, is a St. Louis public high school that was the first high school for African-American students west of the Mississippi River. Together with Vashon High School, Sumner was one of only two segregated public high schools in St. Louis City for African-American students. Established in 1875 only after extensive lobbying by some of St. Louis' African-American residents, Sumner moved to its current location in 1908.


As of the 2012–13 school year, the school had an enrollment of 576 students and 32 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student-teacher ratio of 18:1 [3]


Sumner High opened in 1875, the first high school opened for African Americans west of the Mississippi.[4][5] The school is named after the well-known abolitionist senator Charles H. Sumner.[6] The high school was established on Eleventh Street in St. Louis between Poplar and Spruce Street, in response to demands to provide educational opportunities, following a requirement that school boards support black education after the radical Constitution of 1865 in Missouri.[7] The school was moved in the 1880s because parents complained that their children were walking past the city gallows and morgue on their way to school.[6] The current structure, built in 1908, was designed by architect William B. Ittner. Sumner was the only black public high school in St. Louis City until the opening of Vashon High School in 1927.[6] Famous instructors include Edward Bouchet.[8] Other later black high schools in St. Louis County were Douglass High School (opened in 1925) and Kinloch High School (1936).[9]

In 2009, St. Louis Public School Superintendent Kevin Adams proposed several options with students and parents of how to deal with the problems of the school. He recommended improvements including using Sumner alumni to mentor current students, transferring troublesome students to different schools, and setting achievable goals for the school year.[10]


Sumner High's mascot is the Bulldog. Sumner's 1969 basketball team won the Missouri Class L state championship and featured future NBA and ABA players Harry Rogers and Marshall Rogers[11] as well as David Brent who was a 6th round draft pick for the Los Angeles Lakers.[12] Sports that are currently offered are football, volleyball, basketball, baseball, track and field, tennis, and soccer.

Notable alumni[edit]

Ronald L. Townson (1934-2001), singer The 5th Dimension


  1. ^ a b c d "Public School Search". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. ^ "Building Demographic Data". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  4. ^ a b c d "TRAVEL ADVISORY; Black History in St. Louis", The New York Times, May 10, 1992. Accessed December 11, 2007. "Sumner High School, the first school west of the Mississippi for blacks, established in 1875 (among graduates are Grace Bumbry, Arthur Ashe and Tina Turner)..."
  5. ^ [1] Archived October 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c "J'S THEATER: 130 Years of Sumner High School (St. Louis)". 2005-06-14. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  7. ^ Primm, James Neal. (1998). Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Missouri, 1764-1980. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society.
  8. ^ "Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society : Charter" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  9. ^ Dillon, Dan (2005). So, Where'd You Go to High School? Vol. 2: The Baby Boomer Years: 1950s-1960s. Virginia Publishing. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-891442-33-9.
  10. ^ "Newsworthy-What Will Happen to Historic Sumner High School?". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  11. ^ [2] Archived June 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "1973 NBA Draft". 1973-04-24. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  13. ^ Weinraub, Bernard. "Sweet Tunes, Fast Beats and a Hard Edge", The New York Times, February 23, 2003. Accessed December 11, 2007. "A significant moment in his early life was a musical performance in 1941 at Sumner High School, which had a middle-class black student body."
  14. ^ Haberman, Clyde, "Dick Gregory, 84, Dies; Found Humor in the Civil Rights Struggle", New York Times, August 19, 2017. "the pioneering black satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s". Retrieved 2017-08-20.
  15. ^ Dick Gregory , AEI Speakers Bureau. Accessed December 11, 2007. " A track star at Sumner High School, Gregory earned an athletic scholarship in 1951 to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and became the first member of his family to attend college. "
  16. ^ Dodd, Donald. "A tale of two high schools: Sumner of yesterday is a world apart from the Sumner of today", The Salem News, August 23, 2016. Accessed February 13, 2017. "Sumner was more than up to the challenge and left a legacy. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers? Chuck Berry and Tina Turner. Wimbledon champ? Arthur Ashe. Actor? Robert Guillaume of the TV show Benson."
  17. ^ Mather, Frank Lincoln, ed., Who's Who of the Colored Race, p. 127. Chicago, 1915. Accessed February 13, 2017. "HALEY, Victoria Clay, lecturer; born at Macon, Miss., Jan. 1, 1877; daughter of Samuel and Charlotte (Williams) Clay; grad. Sumner High School St Louis Mo 1895"
  18. ^ Owsley, Dennis (2006). City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, 1895–1973. Reedy. p. 145.
  19. ^ King, Chris (2012-01-26). "Oliver Lake as poet and painter - St. Louis American: Living It". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  20. ^ Robert McFerrin Sr. (1921–2006), Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. Accessed December 12, 2007. "His father arranged for him to attend Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri. McFerrin intended to become an English teacher but changed his career plans after he joined the high school choir and received his first formal music instruction under chorus director Wirt Walton."
  21. ^ Young St. Louis. Accessed July 28, 2008. "Wendell Pruitt was a Sumner High School graduate who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen."
  22. ^ "Tough Catches, a Tougher Life : Scott Leaves Troubles in St. Louis for an Opportunity in San Diego". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  23. ^ "Margaret Bush Wilson: NAACP". Retrieved 2013-10-16.