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A look inside America’s first black public high school

Alison Stewart, author of the new book First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School joined Andrea Mitchell Reports this week to talk about a storied institution in American high school education.
/ Source: Andrea Michell Reports

Alison Stewart, author of the new book First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School joined Andrea Mitchell Reports this week to talk about a storied institution in American high school education.

Alison Stewart, author of the new book First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School joined Andrea Mitchell Reports this week to talk about a storied institution in American high school education.

The daughter of two Dunbar graduates herself, Stewart told Mitchell:

“I was very concerned that the history of Dunbar High School was going to be lost because so many of the graduates who could tell about the old Dunbar, this elite public high school, where the teachers were some of the first to get PhDs and master’s degrees and thereby taught the next two generations who became the greatest generation of African-Americans.I was worried it was going to get lost because these people are in their 80s and their 90s. So I went around the country looking for them, and having them tell me their stories to bear witness to this school. “

Started just a few years after the end of the Civil War in a church basement, Dunbar educated some of the best and brightest African-Americans in the country, and sent 80% of its graduates to college in its heyday in during the first half of the 20th century.

Today, Dunbar is in crisis.

“When it should have been at its height, it became a neighborhood school and really fell victim to all of the pathologies of the neighborhood,” Mitchell said.

The school is slated to open a new, $122 million state-of-the-art campus this fall.

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