Greenville in Greenville County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
Sterling High School Memorial
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"
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.
rides, limited equipment and
restricted funding, the faculty of
Sterling High School, still provided
the formula for success.
Sterling was the incubator that
produced known artists, attorneys,
agriculturalists, business owners,
ministers, educators, scientists,
technicians, tradesmen, physicians,
elected officials and a presidential
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
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
Johnston Design Group, LLC
City of Greenville
The Old Master Tailor
Freddie S. Reid, Morris F. Hall, DDS
Andrew L. Whitmire, Margaret Brooks
Wilfred J. Walker, Sr., Curtis 'Giggie' Thompson
Henrietta Y. Bradford, Crystal and Bobby D. Burch
1955 Sterling/Washington 1962
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,
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
Hall of Fame
John L. Smith Charities
Erected 2006 by Friends of Sterling.
Topics. This historical marker African Americans • Civil Rights • Education. A significant historical date for this entry is November 19, 1928.
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 Street and East Washington Street, on the right when traveling south on North Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Greenville SC 29601, United States of America. Touch for directions.
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); Vardry McBee (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Kress Building (about 500 feet away); Downtown Greenville (about 500 feet away); South Carolina's First National Bank (about 500 feet away); a different marker also named South Carolina's First National Bank (about 600 feet away); McKay Memorial Chapel (part of First Presbyterian Church) (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). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greenville.
Also see . . . Sterling High School, Bless her Name! (1896-1970). African Americam Website entry:
Book excerpt, by Ruth Ann Butler - the record of Sterling High (Submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
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 leading Caucasian
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 in civil rights marches
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 later when Greenville County
— 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 changed our city," said City
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 months as a developer begins
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 School, the city's first all-black
"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 question the downtown project we've
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.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 24, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 7,282 times since then and 131 times this year. It was the Marker of the Week June 12, 2011. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on November 27, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on February 17, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 12. submitted on April 15, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 13. submitted on May 24, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 14, 15. submitted on November 27, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. submitted on March 12, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.