Dunbar Traveling Exhibit
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School: The Finest High School for Negro Boys and Girls, Dunbar High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1929-1955
Little Rock's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School has long been a symbol of opportunity, achievement and pride in the African-American community. It served as the city's only African-American high school from 1929 to 1955.
Built in 1929 with funding from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation and the Rockefeller General Education Fund, the school was briefly named the Negro School for Industrial Arts. Under pressure from the African American community, which had raised money for the school's construction, the school expanded its industrial curriculum to include college preparatory courses. On April 14, 1930, the school was dedicated as Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. The new name honored African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) and the school's new mission.
A Dunbar education became synonymous with academic excellence and became desired around the state. In 1931, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) endorsed Dunbar's academics with regional accreditation. Dunbar was the only black high school in Arkansas with NCA accreditation until 1938, when Fort Smith's Lincoln High School was added. Dunbar became a junior high in 1955 when Horace Mann High School opened as the last black high school in segregated Little Rock.
The National Dunbar Alumni Association of Little Rock (NDAA) continues the legacy of Dunbar High School. With chapters in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Little Rock, the NDAA has dedicated itself to "perpetuating the ‘Dunbar Spirit' of excellence" through community service and by documenting the history of Dunbar High School.
Please contact Bryan McDade, Curator of Collections, at 501-683-6278 or via email at [email protected] for more information on borrowing this exhibit.
Creation of this exhibit was funded in part by a grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, funded by the Arkansas Real Estate Transfer Tax.