H I S T O R Y
"It is only through the pass that a people can become really good and truly great..."
-Mary Church Terrell Dunbar Alum
On November 14, 1870, the high school for the education of colored youth was organized as the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth in the basement of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church by William Syphax, the first chair of the Board of Trustees of the Colored Public Schools in the District of Columbia. It was the first high school for African-American students in the country and the first public high school for any student in the District of Columbia. The school moved around the city until 1891 when it settled into a new building at 128 M Street, NW (now the Perry School building) and was renamed M Street School. In 1916, the school moved to First and N Streets, NW and the Commissioners of the District of Columbia renamed the high school in honor of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), one of the most acclaimed writers at the turn of the 20th century, who lived in Washington from 1897 until 1902. Since its inception, the school has graduated many of the well-known figures of the 20th century, including Sterling Brown, Edward Brooke, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Charles R. Drew, Sadie T. M. Alexander, Charles Hamilton Houston, William Hastie and Robert C. Weaver. Its illustrious faculty included Mary Jane Patterson, Anna J. Cooper, Robert H. Terrell, Francis Cardozo, Richard T. Greener, Mary Church Terrell, Kelly Miller, Ernest E. Just and Carter G. Woodson. Dunbar was considered the nation's best high school for African Americans during the first half of the 20th century. It helped make Washington, DC, an educational and cultural capital.