Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Greenville in Greenville County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Sterling High School Memorial

 
 
Sterling High School Memorial Marker -<br>Civil Rights Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 15, 2009
1. Sterling High School Memorial Marker -
Civil Rights
Inscription.
Civil Rights
The students of Sterling High School
were the driving force that promoted
the change of institutional
segregation in Greenville County.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Sterling
students held demonstrations,
marches and rallies that finally
integrated the Greenville County
Library and public accommodations,
changed the seating arrangement on
city buses and eliminated the
segregated lunch counters at the
former Woolworth's Department
Store at this site.

Sterling High School
"Bless Her Name"
1896-1970

The charter for Sterling High School
was received from the South Carolina
Secretary of State in 1896.

As the first black high school in
Greenville County, the record of
Sterling High School is that of
struggle and triumph.

For a period of nearly seventy-five years,
Sterling High School students
descended the front steps of their
beloved alma mater and stepped into
the world to make it a better place
for us all.

Leadership
In spite of outdated books, long bus
rides, limited equipment and
restricted funding, the faculty of
Sterling High School, still provided
the formula for success.

Sterling
Sterling High School Memorial Marker -<br>Sterling High Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 15, 2009
2. Sterling High School Memorial Marker -
Sterling High
was the incubator that
produced known artists, attorneys,
agriculturalists, business owners,
ministers, educators, scientists,
technicians, tradesmen, physicians,
elected officials and a presidential
candidate nominee.

Sterlingites hold records as the first
African Americans elected to the
Statehouse since Reconstruction, the
first black graduates of Furman
University, Superintendent of the
School District of Greenville County,
and first black female elected to
Greenville City Council.

"Raise High the Torch of Sterling!"
Dedicated November 19, 2006
Maria J. Kirby-Smith, Sculptor

Committee
Chandra E. Dillard, Chair
Member, Greenville City Council
Thurmon Norris, Vice Chair
President, Sterling Alumni Association
Mary Duckett, Dr. Baxter Wynn
Dr. John H. Corbitt, Anne S. Ellison, Esq.
E. Erwin Murphy III
Mayor Knox White, Arlene Marcley

In Appreciation
Johnston Design Group, LLC
City of Greenville
Andrew Meeker
Lisa Williams
Lynda Solansky
Gimme-a-Sign Co.
Southerland Construction, Inc.

Sterling Tigers
Winfred Daniels
The Old Master Tailor
Freddie S. Reid, Morris F. Hall, DDS
Andrew L. Whitmire, Margaret Brooks
Wilfred
Sterling High School Memorial Marker -<br>Leadership Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 15, 2009
3. Sterling High School Memorial Marker -
Leadership
J. Walker, Sr., Curtis 'Giggie' Thompson
Henrietta Y. Bradford, Crystal and Bobby D. Burch
Fred Bostic

Class of
1949 1959
1953 1960
1954 1961
1955 Sterling/Washington 1962
1956 1969
1958

Our Beloved Principals
Rev. D.M. Minus, Robert Hickman
Rev. E. Riley, Joseph E. Beck
E.H. Trezevant, Harols O. Mims, Sr.
J.C. Martin, Luke Chapman

Sterling Pride Society
Duke Energy Foundation
Michelin North America
Nancy and Erwin Maddrey
Mr. and Mrs. W. Hayne Hipp
Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Hughes, Jr.
Sterling High School Alumni,
Greenville Chapter
Sterling High School Alumni
New York Chapter
Sterling High School Alumni
Washington, DC Chapter
Xanthene S. Norris
County Councilwoman, District 23
Lottie B. Bigson
County Councilwoman, District 25
Carolina First Bank

Sterling
Hall of Fame

Graham Foundation
John L. Smith Charities
Bi-Lo, LLC
Daniel-Mickel Foundation

 
Erected 2006 by Friends of Sterling.
 
Location. 34° 51.05′ N, 82° 23.933′ W. Marker is in Greenville, South Carolina, in Greenville County. Marker is at the intersection of North Main
Sterling High School Memorial Marker -<br><i>"Raise High the Torch of Sterling!"</i> Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, November 2, 2010
4. Sterling High School Memorial Marker -
"Raise High the Torch of Sterling!"
Street and East Washington Street, on the right when traveling south on North Main Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Greenville SC 29601, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Stradley and Barr Dry Goods Store (within shouting distance of this marker); South Carolina's First National Bank (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named South Carolina's First National Bank (about 600 feet away); McKay Memorial Chapel (about 600 feet away); Downtown Baptist Church (about 700 feet away); Poinsett's Spring (about 800 feet away); Joel Roberts Poinsett (about 800 feet away); The Old Record Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); Vardry McBee (approx. 0.2 miles away); Greenville County Courthouse / The Willie Earle Lynching Trial (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Greenville.
 
Also see . . .
1. Sterling High School Marker. Sterling High School stood ¾ mi. southeast of here and served generations of African Americans in Greenville. (Submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

2. Sterling High School Marker. Established 1929 - Destroyed by fire 1967 (Submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

3. Prospect Hill Park. Site of Sterling High
Sterling High School Memorial Marker -<br>Sterling Tigers Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, November 19, 2010
5. Sterling High School Memorial Marker -
Sterling Tigers
School. (Submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

4. Sterling High School (1896-1970) by Ruth Ann Butler. The record of Sterling High School is that of struggle and triumph. (Submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

5. Richland Cemetery Honors Greenville's African-American Past. Established in 1884, and named to the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of the first African-American burial grounds in the city. (Submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

6. Monument Aimed At Cementing Sterling's Legacy. A group dedicated to preserving the history and civil rights legacy of Sterling High School is putting a monument to the school on Greenville’s Main Street. (Submitted on May 24, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

7. Sterling Square Dedication. Hundreds of people gathered on a picture perfect Sunday, November 19 at West Washington and North Main streets to take part in a historic ceremony -- the dedication of the first African American sculpture in downtown Greenville. (Submitted on March 12, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

8. Dr. Thomas Elliot Kerns. Born in 1931, Dr. Thomas Elliott Kerns is the first African-American Superintendent of Education of the School District of Greenville County, the largest school district in the
Sterling High School Memorial Marker -<br>Sterling Pride Society Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, November 19, 2010
6. Sterling High School Memorial Marker -
Sterling Pride Society
state and the 64th largest public school system in the nation. (Submitted on April 3, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. Sterling High School Statue
The origins of Sterling High School began with the visionary leadership of Reverend Daniel Melton Minus. The primary mission of Minus's move to Greenville in the 1890s was to take over the pastorate of the city's earliest surviving African American church, Silver Hill Methodist Episcopal (soon to be renamed John Wesley Methodist Episcopal). Within a few years, Minus's passion grew to provide local African America children with their first high school. He proceeded to spearhead the organization of an educational committee, finding funding and securing the permits from the state to open the school. His dream became a reality with the opening of the Greenville Academy in 1896 in a humble room at the Silver Hill Church. Enrollment steadily increased and more space was needed to accommodate the growth.

According to Ruth Ann Butler, the school bought the church building and remained in it for several years until trustees decided a new purpose-built structure should be erected. Minus enlisted the financial and organizational help of a number of Greenville's
Sterling High School Memorial Marker -<br>Sterling Hall of Fame Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, November 19, 2010
7. Sterling High School Memorial Marker -
Sterling Hall of Fame
leading Caucasian businessmen, in an unprecedented display of racial unity. The most important contributor was Thomas Parker, who financed the building of the new two-story school in west Greenville on the corner of what would become Jenkins and Maloy Streets. With the move, Greenville Academy was renamed Sterling Industrial College to honor the name of the woman who had financed Reverend Minus's education at Claflin University. Soon new streets and an African American community developed around the school.

The school prospered in its early years under the leadership of Reverend Minus and his successor, Carey Jones. However, the school closed for a short time and was reused as Enoree High School until 1929, when Greenville County bought the building and returned the Sterling name as Sterling High School. The rejuvenated institution went on to produce a the majority of Greenville's future African American leaders.

Joseph Allen Vaughn, Sterling's student body president, became Furman University's first African American undergraduate student admitted when the university desegregated in 1965. He was embraced by the student body and became an officer in the Baptist Student Union, vice-president of the Southern Student Organizing Committee, a sports cheerleader and a volunteer in the Collegiate Educational Service Corps. He also organized and rallied fellow students
Sterling High School Memorial Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 15, 2009
8. Sterling High School Memorial
in civil rights marches in downtown Greenville.

Jesse Jackson attended Sterling and became an honors student as well as the star quarterback for the football team. His talents were good enough to earn him a football scholarship to the University of Illinois in 1959. He went on to get involved as a civil rights activist before going to seminary in Chicago. Just before graduating, he left school to join Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights movement in Alabama. After the death of Dr. King, Jackson led a number of civil and economic rights organizations, including Operation PUSH and the National Rainbow Coalition. Jesse Jackson became the first African American to run for president of the United States in the 1984 race and again in 1988. Jackson continues to be an internationally known civil rights leader.

Other notable graduates of Sterling include Ruth Ann Butler, founder of the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center; Ralph Anderson, South Carolina senator; Lillian Brock Fleming, one of the first female African American Furman graduates and the first African American woman to serve on the Greenville County County; and Xanthene Norris and Lottie Gibson, also both Greenville County Council members.

A significant chapter in Greenville's history closed when Sterling (except the gymnasium) was destroyed by a fire in 1967 and was dissolved three years
Sterling High School Memorial Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 15, 2009
9. Sterling High School Memorial
later when Greenville County schools were integrated. Sterling's influence hasn't been forgotten in the local community, and starting in 2006 everyone who walked Greenville's bustling Main Street would remember too. On November 19, hundreds of people attended the dedication of this bronze statue on the northwest corner of Washington and Main Streets commemorating the legacy of Sterling High School. Two African American students are depicted proudly walking down the steps of the school. The boy wears an "S" on his sweater and the girl carries schoolbooks. Sculptor Mariah Kirby-Smith made the statue with funds raised from the Friends of Sterling. The location was chosen for the African American history that took place in the Woolworth's store formerly on this corner. Sterling High students and other members of the community gathered regularly at the store's lunch counter for peaceful civil rights sit-in demonstrations in the 1960s. Such events ultimately led to the integration of Greenville's public buildings. Sterling students also used to wait at the corner here for the bus to take them to school. Wildred Walker, the school's oldest living teacher (ninety-four) at the time of the statue's erection, laid a symbolic brick in the monument wall. Fittingly, he had taught masonry, which was one of the many trade skills students could learn at the school. (Source: A Guide to Historic
Sterling High School Memorial -<br>Overlooking Intersection of <br>Main and Washington Streets Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 15, 2009
10. Sterling High School Memorial -
Overlooking Intersection of
Main and Washington Streets
Greenville, South Carolina
by John Nolan (2008), pgs. 88-90.)
    — Submitted May 24, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

2. Sterling High Graduates Freeze a Moment in Time
by Paul Alongi
The Greenville News
November 20, 2006

It's been nearly 40 years since Greenville's first all-black high school burned down, but the graduates aren't about to forget. Hundreds gathered Sunday at a downtown intersection steeped in black history to unveil a statue that captures Sterling High School students as they were before fire destroyed their alma mater in 1967. Captured in bronze are two students walking down a set of steps, looking hopefully toward the future.

The statue sits at Main and Washington streets, an intersection that's remembered as a flash point in the city's civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

Sterling-ites, we have a lot to be proud of today," said Thurman Norris, president of the school's alumni association. The statue, the first on Main Street to honor black people, sits in front of a building that once housed a Woolworth's. Before blacks were welcome, Sterling High students took a seat at the lunch counter, launching a movement that led to the integration of Greenville's public buildings. "It was the catalyst that
Sterling High School Memorial -<br>College Admission Slip Held in the Male's Hand Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 15, 2009
11. Sterling High School Memorial -
College Admission Slip Held in the Male's Hand
changed our city," said City Council member Chandra Dillard, whose parents met at Sterling High. The school was founded as Greenville Academy in 1896 and burned during a time of racial tension. A fire marshal listed the cause of the blaze as faulty wiring, but many have considered the fire more suspicious. In the downtown intersection, now known as "Sterling Square," students used to stage civil rights protests, carrying signs that said, "You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea," Dillard said. The intersection is also where the Sterling High marching band would "show out," giving their strongest performance. Even now, many blacks return to the site to watch the city's annual Christmas parade, Dillard said. Just before a blue sheet was pulled off the statue, graduates stood and sang the Sterling High song, wrapping it up with "Sterling High School -- bless her name."

And the grads, many of whom went on to become community leaders, shrieked like teenagers at a pep rally.
    — Submitted March 12, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

3. Old Woolworth Building, Site of Civil Rights Sit-in, to Make Way for Development
by Rudolph Bell
The Greenville News
September 14, 2009

A large open space should appear along Main Street in coming
Woolworth's - Site of Sit-ins Protesting Racial Inequality<br>Corner of Main and Washington Photo, Click for full size
William B. Coxe Collection, Greenville County Historical Society, circa 1965
12. Woolworth's - Site of Sit-ins Protesting Racial Inequality
Corner of Main and Washington
months as a developer begins tearing down three vacant buildings to make way for what the city of Greenville hopes in time will be a spectacular development.

City officials and the developer - local real estate investor John Boyd and partners - have reached an agreement that calls for demolition of buildings that formerly housed Woolworth, G.Q. Fashions and Young Fashions.

Robert Martin, a vice president at Boyd's company, TIC Properties of Greenville, said the Woolworth store at the comer of North Main and Washington streets should start coming down first, sometime after the Fall for Greenville festival next month.

In 1960, black students staged a sit-in at the store's segregated lunch counter. It was the local version of a wave of demonstrations that began that same year at a Woolworth store in Greensboro, N.C.

Civil rights leader and Greenville native Jesse Jackson said he regrets the pending change in the Main Street landscape.

"Woolworth opening up for the blacks and whites eating downtown was a breakthrough for the new Greenville we celebrate," said Jackson, who did not take part in the Woolworth demonstration but was arrested that same summer for trying to use the public library.

In Greenville, the downtown corner where the demonstration took place is marked by a bronze statue of two students from Sterling High
Students Demonstrating at a Downtown<br>Greenville Lunch Counter Photo, Click for full size
By Staff Photo, Greenville News, 1960
13. Students Demonstrating at a Downtown
Greenville Lunch Counter
School, the city's first all-black high school until it burned in 1967.

"In Greenville, we don't really have a museum for the struggle of civil rights that changed our city, and we should have it," Jackson said.

Greenville Mayor Knox White said a citizens committee picked the theme of the statue to commemorate the site of the sit-in. He said a civil rights museum is a good idea.

The buildings are set to be torn down even though the developer does not have a firm schedule for constructing new ones in their place.

"Until we can get something back there, we're going to have a plaza there," Martin said.

Last year, the developer disclosed plans for a $200,000-square-foot office building, hotel with 125 to 150 rooms and a ground level retail corridor fronting Piazza Bergamo, the public square at the intersection of Main and Coffee streets.

The proposal, dubbed Washington Square, was announced by a joint venture that included Boyd and partners and Cousins Properties Inc., a publicly traded real estate investment trust based in Atlanta.

Now the developer is reconsidering the design, though a mix of uses and a hotel are still planned, Martin said.

Nancy Whitworth, Greenville's director of economic development, said the aim is to design a development that's "spectacular for the city."

"This is without
Sterling High School Memorial<br>Old Worlworth's Building Stands Behind the Monument Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, November 16, 2008
14. Sterling High School Memorial
Old Worlworth's Building Stands Behind the Monument
Within three months of this photo being taken, the building had been demolished. A mixed-use project has recently been announced for the location which will house office and retail space.
question the downtown project we've spent the most time working on with developers and also recruiting prospects," the mayor said.

The agreement between the city and the developer also calls for demolition of a raised brick office building and staircase that form a bridge across Piazza Bergamo.

But demolition near the plaza can't begin until after the Christmas holiday season under the development agreement approved by City Council this week.

Terms of the agreement call for the city to spend $540,000 demolishing the brick office building and buying a piece of land near Piazza Bergamo from the developer.

The city has long intended to redevelop the plaza in a way that dovetails with the private development planned next to it.

White said the money will come out of a special pot of property tax revenue designated for downtown improvements.
    — Submitted March 12, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsEducation
 
Sterling High School Memorial<br>Old Woolworth's Building Stands Behind the Monument Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, November 16, 2008
15. Sterling High School Memorial
Old Woolworth's Building Stands Behind the Monument
Sterling High School Memorial Square -<br>Former site of the Woolworth's Building Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott, February 20, 2010
16. Sterling High School Memorial Square -
Former site of the Woolworth's Building
Sterling High School Photo, Click for full size
By Brian Scott
17. Sterling High School
Sterling High School -<br>After the Fire on September 15, 1967 Photo, Click for full size
By Greenville Cultural Exchange Center, circa 1967
18. Sterling High School -
After the Fire on September 15, 1967
Professor R.L. Hickman Photo, Click for full size
By Greenville Cultural Exchange Center
19. Professor R.L. Hickman
Principal of Sterling High School 1930-1940
Joseph E. Beck Photo, Click for full size
By Greenville Cultural Exchange Center
20. Joseph E. Beck
Principal of Sterling High School 1940-1961
Reverend. O.M. Mims Photo, Click for full size
By Greenville Cultural Exchange Center
21. Reverend. O.M. Mims
Principal of Sterling High School 1961-1968
Luke Chatman Photo, Click for full size
By Greenville Cultural Exchange Center
22. Luke Chatman
Principal of Sterling High School 1968-1970
Dr. Thomas Elliot Kerns Photo, Click for full size
Greenville County, South Carolina by Leola Clement Robinson-Simpson
23. Dr. Thomas Elliot Kerns
Graduate of Sterling
First African-American Superintendent of
Greenville County School District
Joseph Vaughn Photo, Click for full size
Greenville County, South Carolina by Leola Clement Robinson-Simpson
24. Joseph Vaughn
Graduate of Sterling
First African-American to graduate
from Furman University
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 5,604 times since then and 211 times this year. This page was the Marker of the Week Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   12. submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   13. submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   14, 15. submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. submitted on , by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
Paid Advertisement