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Petersburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Earliest Known Public High School for African Americans in Virginia

Petersburg, Virginia

 
 
Earliest Known Public High School For African Americans in Virginia CRIEHT Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, December 27, 2009
1. Earliest Known Public High School For African Americans in Virginia CRIEHT Marker
Inscription. Petersburg established a public school system in 1868, two years before the state’s mandate. Colored Elementary School #1 was conducted in the old church building of the African Baptist Church, which stood to your left. The building had been moved to this site in the 1830s from Bolling’s Hill, where it had served in the 1820s both as a church and as one of the earliest organized schools for African Americans in Petersburg. A second story was constructed within the building designed to accommodate the opening in January 1870 of a Colored high School. This was reputedly the first African-American public high school in the state. Maj. Giles B. Cooke, who acted as Lee’s staff officer during the siege of Petersburg, served as principal.

By 1874, this school had so expanded as to require the construction of a new building in the space in front of you, facing Fillmore, still accommodating both the elementary and high school. Since both schools had been funded using George Peabody Fund money, the new school was called the Peabody School. As a result of repeated petitions by the Rev. Henry Williams of Gillfield Baptist Church and others, African Americans were appointed as administrators and teachers in the African-American schools in Petersburg for the first time during the 1882-83 school year. The first of these appointments
Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail® Map image. Click for full size.
2. Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail® Map
Appomattox County
1. Winonah Camp/Mozella Price Home
2. Carver-Price School
3. Education in 1800's Rural Virginia

Buckingham County
4. One-Room Schoolhouse
5. Carter G. Woodson Birthplace

Cumberland County
6. Hamilton High School
7. Rosenwald School at Cartersville
8. Jackson Davis

Amelia County
9. Russell Grove Presbyterian Church and School
10. Mrs. Samantha Jane Neil

Chesterfield County
11. Virginia State University

Petersburg
12. Earliest Known Public High School for African Americans in Virginia

13. McKenney Library
14. The Peabody-Williams School

Dinwiddie County
15. Southside Virginia Training Center
16. Rocky Branch School
17. Early Education in Dinwiddie County

Nottoway County
18. Blackstone Female Institute
19. Mt. Nebo Church
20. Ingleside Training Institute

Lunenburg County
21. The People's Community Center
22. St. Matthew's Lutheran Church Christian Day School

Prince Edward County
23. Prince Edward County Public Schools
24. R. R. Moton High School
25. Farmville Female Seminary Association
26. First Baptist Church
27. Beulah AME Church
28. Hampden-Sydney College

Charlotte County
29. Southside Virginia Community College - John H. Daniel Campus
30. Charlotte County Library
31. Salem School

Halifax County
32. Meadville Community Center
33. Mary M. Bethune High School
34. Washington-Coleman Elementary School
35. Mizpah Church

Mecklenburg County
36. Thyne Institute
37. Boydton Academic and Bible Institute

Brunswick County
38. Southside Virginia Community College - Christanna Campus
39. Saint Paul's College
40. Hospital and School of the Good Shepherd
41. Fort Christanna
was Alfred Pryor as Principal of Peabody School.

Due to Peabody School’s growing inadequacies, the school was moved to a substantially larger new building on Jones Street in 1920. For several years the old building served as an armory, and was then demolished to make way for the new Anna Bolling Junior High School for white students, which opened in the present building in 1926. Court-ordered integration in 1971 led to the closing of Anna Bolling, which now houses apartments for the elderly.

(sidebar)
(Above) In 1870, the Old African Church was renovated and housed both an elementary school and the first public high school for African Americans in Virginia.

(Left) Major Giles B. Cooke, the first principal of the Number One elementary School and the Colored Public High School, 1868-1871.

(Above Right) Walter C. Holmes (1884-1963) graduated from Peabody High School in 1901. He is pictured wearing his graduation pin. His father, James Meredith Bolling Holmes (1844-1923) was the first black letter carrier in Petersburg.

Church Photo courtesy of First Baptist Church, Harrison Street. Photo of Walter C. Holmes courtesy of Nathaniel Dance. Photo of Major Cooke courtesy of Elsa Verbyla.
 
Erected by Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail®. (Marker
Harrison Street image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, December 27, 2009
3. Harrison Street
Number 12.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail marker series.
 
Location. 37° 13.314′ N, 77° 24.177′ W. Marker is in Petersburg, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Harrison Street and Maple Lane, on the left when traveling south on Harrison Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Petersburg VA 23803, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Peabody High School (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Poplar Lawn (about 600 feet away); Weddell-McCabe-Chisholm House (about 800 feet away); Bishop Payne Divinity School (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lincoln In Petersburg (approx. 0.2 miles away); McKenney House (approx. 0.2 miles away); McKenney Library (approx. ¼ mile away); North Carolina Confederate Hospital (approx. 0.3 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Petersburg.
 
Also see . . .
1. Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail. Virginia's Retreat (Submitted on December 30, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 

2. The Peabody Fund. The African American Registry (Submitted on December 30, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 

3. Anna P. Bolling Junior High School (PDF file)
East Fillmore Street image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, December 27, 2009
4. East Fillmore Street
. National Register of Historic Places (Submitted on December 30, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsEducation
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 3,840 times since then and 99 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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