history sumner school parkersburg - Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair



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The history of Sumner School at Bottom of page

class mates Jimmy Harris and James Sprigg stand on the porch of the Original Sumner School at fifth and Avery streets. the school was named for united states senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts , an outspoken champion of rights for blacks from 1848 to 1877. during the civil war, Sumner pushed for the emancipation of slaves and introduced the thirteenth amendment to the senate in 1864.


the Sumner school today, located at 1016 Avery street , is the home of the Sumnerite African-American Museum and community center. it houses an outstanding collection of photographs and memorabilia of the African-American community in Parkersburg . rae brown, curator, organized the museum. 


the Sumner School Faculty, c. 1930, poses for a group photograph.


Miss Florence Jackson coached Sumner High School 's girls basketball team. Rae Brown, curator of the Sumnerite   museum , remembers most of the girls' names. from left to right, they are (front row) Viola Brass, Zelda Robinson, Nellie Comdey, and Grace Brown; (back row) Miss Florence Jackson, Unidentified, Minnie Fleming, Naomi Tibbs, and Principal J. R. Jefferson.


Ethel Carr Watson taught fifth and sixth grades at Sumner school in the 1930s. in addition to regular classroom instruction, she taught acrobatics, classical ballet, and, according to Rae Brown, "every kind of dance." Ms. Watson and her students presented a musical revue at the Smoot Theater in 1935. 


students in grades 1 through 12 attended Sumner school. Miss Almeda Brown's fourth grade class at Sumner school poses for the camera. at the blackboard, from left to right are Hazel Bateman, Lewis Jones, Barbara Davis, Melanie Brown, Clifford Martin Jr., Emory Carr, Roger Fitzgerald, Tom Donaway, Lois Jones, and Virginia Lee Hatcher. seated, from left to right, are Sonny Jones, Caroletha Ballard, and Billy Seymour. Clifford Martin Jr. later became principal of Sumner school .


the Sumner football team won the state championship in 1917. the team played schools in Clarksburg , Fairmont , Wheeling , and Morgantown . the team, unable to afford their own equipment, used cast off uniforms and helmets from Parkersburg high school's football program. 


this was written in 1896 The history of the colored schools is unique in at least two particulars: The first free schools in the city of Parkersburg were for colored children and supported by the private funds of colored men; the first public schools south of Mason and Dixon's Line for colored youth were in this city. These two statements, according to the best evidence at hand, seem to be settled beyond question. On the first Monday in January, 1862, a number of the best colored men in this city met to devise ways and means for the instruction of colored children.

 An organization was perfected, a constitution and bylaws framed. A board consisting of Robert Thomas, Lafayette I Wilson, Wm. Sargent, R. W. Simmons, Charles Hicks, William Smith and Matthew Thomas was elected to carry out the provisions of the organization. A school was established to which all colored children were admitted. Those who were able to pay it were charged one dollar a month tuition, but those who were not able were admitted free.

Among the first teachers were Sarah Trotter and Pocahontas Simmons, both colored, and Rev. S. E. Colburn, a white man. The first school enrolled about forty pupils. From that time to the present, the colored youth of this city have enjoyed school privileges. In the Weekly Times, a paper published here of date June 7, 1866, appears

the following notice: "The first public free school for the colored children of the city of Parkersburg, West Virginia, was opened in the school ward lately removed. All colored children over 6 years of age and under 21, as the law directs, are at liberty to attend and are requested to do so.

Rev. S. E. Colburn, Teacher. With this notice probably dates the beginning of the public schools for colored children under the provisions of  the Constitution of the State, a time four years later than when colored schools began. After this the organization formed in 1862 ceased to exist and the colored schools have been under the same Boards of Education as the white schools. The last session of the colored schools under the original plan ended with a school exhibition, in 1866, by colored pupils in Bank Hall under the charge of the teacher, T. J. Ferguson. The colored schools struggled along overcoming many obstacles for ten or more years, when, with the appointment of a superintendent for all the schools, the course of instruction was improved, the work of the teachers inspected and the schools placed upon a better footing.

For some years the colored schools have had, so far as text books, supervision and course of instruction are concerned, the same opportunities as the white schools. The improved condition in the colored schools is generally recognized. After completing the same primary and grammar course as in the white schools, the pupils take up algebra, general history, geometry, civil government, physical geography, physics, rhetoric and Literature. A general review in the advanced work of the common branches is also given, and when the course is completed a teacher's certificate or a diploma is given, as the Board of Education may determine.

Daniel Gould,Commissioner. graduated and given diplomas in 1887 and every year since then except 1890 and 1892 there have been graduates. The total number of graduates is 23, as follows:

Class 1887, 4.

Class 1888, 4.

Class 1889, 3.

Class 1891, 3.

Class 1893, 5.

Class 1894, 2.

Class 1895, 2.

The present graduating class ( 1896 ) has 11 members. The colored school building is a brick structure of four rooms, on Avery street near Tenth. The building was originally two rooms, but was enlarged in 1883 to its present size. The teachers of the colored schools are subject to the same regulations and enjoy the same privileges as the white " teachers. "With the exception of the principals of the building, the colored teachers have been for years selected from home talent and several of the teachers have been graduates of the High School. the earlier principals of the colored schools included these men: E. Whitman, W. H. Horn, John E. Fletcher, Wm. Cross, in addition to those before mentioned. They were succeeded later by J. H. Champ, A. W. Pegues, T. D. F Scott and C. H. Barnett. The present corps of teachers is: John R. Jefferson, principal; Clara Thomas, Harriet Robinson and Bernardine Peyton, assistants. The future of the colored schools seems no less bright than that of the other schools and the education of the colored race promises .as successful results in this city as anywhere else in the United States.


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