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Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.)

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Title: Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.)  
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Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.)

Dunbar High School
Dunbar Senior High School
1301 New Jersey Ave Northwest[1]
District of Columbia, DC, 20001
School type Public high school
Established 1870
School district District of Columbia Public Schools Ward 5
Principal Stephen Jackson
Faculty 66.0 (on FTE basis)[2]
Grades 9 to 12
Enrollment 837 (as of 2009-10)[2]
Student to teacher ratio 12.68[2]
Campus type Urban
Color(s)      Black
Athletics conference District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association
Mascot Crimson Tide

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is a public secondary school located in Washington, D.C., United States. The school is located in the Truxton Circle neighborhood of Northwest Washington, two blocks from the intersection of New Jersey and New York Avenues. Dunbar, which serves grades 9 through 12, is a part of the District of Columbia Public Schools.


  • History 1
  • Athletics 2
  • Student body 3
  • Feeder patterns 4
  • Notable alumni 5
    • Scholars and artists 5.1
    • Athletes 5.2
    • Government 5.3
    • Business, religion and professionals 5.4
    • Other 5.5
  • References 6


Originally named Preparatory High School for Colored Youth and later known as M Street High School, Paul Laurence Dunbar. Founded as an educational mission at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Dunbar was America's first public high school for black students. It was later the academic high school, with other schools related to vocational or technical training goals. It was known for its excellent academics, enough so that some black parents moved to Washington specifically so their children could attend it. Its faculty was paid well by the standards of the time, earning parity pay to Washington's white school teachers because they were federal employees. It also boasted a remarkably high number of graduates who went on to higher education, and a generally successful student body.

It is similar to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland and Fort Worth, Texas, as all three schools have a majority African American student body and are of a major importance to the local African American community. All three schools are also highly regarded for their athletic programs within their respective school district in the sports of Football, Basketball, and Track. There is also a Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky.

Since its inception, the school has graduated many well-known figures of the 20th century, including Sterling Brown, H. Naylor Fitzhugh, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Charles R. Drew, William H. Hastie, Charles Hamilton Houston, Robert H. Terrell, Benjamin O. Davis, Benjamin O. Davis JR., Paul Capel, III, Robert C. Weaver, and James E. Bowman. Its illustrious faculty included Anna Julia Cooper, Kelly Miller, Mary Church Terrell, A.A. Birch Jr., Carter G. Woodson and Julia Evangeline Brooks who was also a graduate of the school. Among its principals were Anna J. Cooper, Richard Greener, Mary Jane Patterson, and Robert H. Terrell. An unusual number of teachers and principals held Ph.D. degrees, including Carter G. Woodson, father of Black history Month and the second African American to earn a Phd. from Harvard (after W. E. B. Du Bois). This was the result of the entrenched white supremacy that pervaded the nation's professions and served to exclude the majority of African-American women and men from faculty positions at predominantly white institutions of higher learning. As a consequence, however, Dunbar High School was considered the nation's best high school for African Americans during the first half of the 20th century. It helped make Washington an educational and cultural capital.

Following desegregation and demolition of the original facility, the school's prestige dropped notably. As of 1976, the campus is situated in a newer, but, to some, far less architecturally appealing, facility in Northwest Washington. Through the years, Dunbar High School continued to perform below the standards and was among a list of failing schools identified for turnaround or closure. In 2008, then schools chancellor Michelle Rhee transferred management of Dunbar to Friends of Bedford, an educational consultancy company known for its ability to transform failing schools in successful ones. Under its management, Dunbar High School achieved the second highest gains on state examinations - second only to another Friends of Bedford managed school. The culture of the school began to transition to one of student success and academic achievement. However, in 2010 and with the election of a new mayor-elect, the direction of education reform within the District took a new direction. Dunbar High School was lost its status as a management school.


Dunbar competes in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Student body

During the 2004-2005 school year, Dunbar had 1500 students.[3]

Approximately 46% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch.

Feeder patterns

Feeder elementary schools include:

  • J. F. Cook
  • Emery
  • Langdon
  • Marshall
  • Terrel
  • Webb
  • Wheatley
  • Young

Feeder middle schools include:

  • Browne

Feeder K-8 schools include:

  • Walker-Jones Education Center

Notable alumni

Notable graduates include:

Scholars and artists



Business, religion and professionals



  1. ^ GNIS entry for Dunbar Senior High School; USGS; December 31, 1981.
  2. ^ a b c , National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed December 6, 2011.
  3. ^ Dunbar High School
  4. ^ Jones, Robert B. "Jean Toomer's Life and Career". Modern American Poetry. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois: Department of English, University of Illinois. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Shinhoster Lamb, Yvonne (2005-01-23). "Arts Administrator, Playwright Vantile Whitfield Dies". Washington Post (Washington, DC). Vantile Whitfield, known as "Motojicho," an influential playwright, director of stage and screen and founding director of the Expansion Arts program at the National Endowment of the Arts, died Jan. 9 at the Washington Home of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 74 and was considered a dean of black theater. 
  6. ^ a b c d Risen, Clay. "The Lightning Rod", The Atlantic, November 2008. 2.
  7. ^ Bernstein, Adam (2014-12-05). "Mary Washington, government official and widow of former D.C. mayor, dies at 88".  
  8. ^ "Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr.". Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  9. ^ Colbert I. King - Dunbar High School's sad descent into hard times
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