WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

D.C.'s Dunbar High, America's First Black Public High School

D.C.'s Dunbar High School will begin classes this year in a brand new building. It's a state-of-the-art facility nestled right in the middle of one of the city's fastest-changing neighborhoods. More than a century of history will follow faculty and students into that new facility: Dunbar was the nation's first public high school for black students. Its alumni include the U.S. Army's first black general and the first black federal judge in American history. We talk with author and journalist Alison Stewart, whose new book explores Dunbar's past and ponders the future of D.C.'s public school system.

Legacy Of Notable Alumni

Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., was the nation's first public high school for black students. As students and faculty prepare to move into a new state-of-the-art building, more than a century of history follows them. Among the school's many notable graduates are Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the first African American general in the Armed Forces, Lawrence Chambers, the first African American graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to reach the rank of admiral, and Edward Brooke, the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the U.S. Senate.

Dunbar High alums Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (Class of '55) and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (Class of '59) share their memories of attending the famed school. They reflect on the education they received at Dunbar and how the experience shaped their future careers.

Read An Excerpt

Excerpt from "First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School" by Alison Stewart. Copyright 2013 by Alison Stewart. Reprinted here by permission of Chicago Review Press. All rights reserved.


'Steve Jobs': As Ambitious As Its Title Character

Danny Boyle's new biopic, Steve Jobs, is a look at the man who made Apple mean computers, not fruit. NPR film critic Bob Mondello says it's an invigorating story told in three acts of crisis.

Could A Mushroom Save The Honeybee?

The bees that pollinate crops are on the brink of collapse. One big reason why: a virus-carrying mite. Now, researchers think a rare fungi could boost bees' immune system and attack the mite itself.

'Quartet' Member: Nobel Peace Prize Is 'Very Important For Tunisia'

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with Wided Bouchamaoui, president of the Tunisian Employers' Union, and a member of the National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia, about winning the Nobel Peace Prize Friday.

Volkswagen Faces Uphill Battle In Repairing Tarnished Reputation

Volkswagen faces two enormous repair jobs: fixing its polluting diesel cars and its battered reputation. Both may be much harder to fix than anything other scandal-plagued car companies have faced.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.