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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.


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