Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. was America’s first black public high school. Named after black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the high school produced some of the most successful blacks in the country.
Dunbar High was founded in 1870 as the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth in the basement of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. It was later changed to M Street High School before being renamed Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1916. Dunbar High was D.C.’s answer to the lack of funding for black schools from D.C. Board of Education. Gaining the reputation of the best black establishment for higher education in the country, the school employed a high number of teachers with PHD’s.
In 1977, the original structure was torn down and rebuilt with a more contemporary look. It was the center of controversy for many blacks who believed the old structure held more history and significance.