DCPS History is DC History - School Names 

School names and the great Americans they are named after


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Neval Thomas

Neval Thomas was a beloved and respected history teacher at the M Street School and later Dunbar High School where he taught for 29 years. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Howard University in 1901 and his bachelor of laws, the predecessor to the juris doctorate, in 1904.

Thomas augmented his content knowledge by visiting the lands that were the subjects of his lessons. At a time when few people could make transatlantic trips, Thomas visited Europe, Egypt and the Near East several times, and returned to lecture about them in the Washington, D.C. area.

Thomas was an active leader in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Thomas fought for equal job opportunities in the District Public Libraries, more adequate recreational facilities for blacks, equal salaries for school officials, and a stadium for Dunbar High.

Information courtesy of the Sumner School

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Malcolm X

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, has been described as one of the most influential men in modern American history. Credited with raising black awareness and reconnecting Black Americans with their African roots, he was largely responsible for the spread of Islam in the black community.

He saw the importance of a vibrant and thoughtful education as a key to the rise of a people. "Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today,” said Malcolm X.

He fought against the inequalities that blacks faced, not only in the Jim Crow south, but the northern cities as well. 

Though largely remembered for his militant stances, El-Shabazz renounced them in his later life. Learn more »

[Malcolm X. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 16, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_X]

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Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was a prolific American composer who wrote over a thousand compositions. He won 12 Grammys for his work including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ellington also earned a Pulitzer Prize, posthumously, in 1999.

Widely regarded as the most influential American composer of the twentieth century, Duke Ellington has deep roots in the District. He attended Armstrong Technical High School located at First St. and P St. NW in the Truxton Circle neighborhood near his family home in LeDroit Park. Learn more »

[Duke Ellington. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 15, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_ellington]

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Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist who shepherded more than 70 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad and helped recruit men for John Brown for his raid on Harper’s Ferry.

Tubman, born Araminta Harriet Ross, was enslaved until 1849 when she escaped to Philadelphia. She returned to the slave master’s plantation in Madison, MD several times to lead her relatives, and eventually dozens of other slaves to freedom. She came to be known as “Moses.”

In her later life, she also worked for women’s rights and along with Susan B. Anthony, was an active member of suffragist organizations. Learn more »

[Harriet Tubman. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 13, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman]

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Alfred Kiger Savoy

Alfred Kiger Savoy served the children of the District of Columbia for 49 years as a teacher, principal, and finally as Associate Superintendent of Elementary School Education until his retirement in 1952.

Savoy attended the M Street School which later became Dunbar High School. He then went on to the Miner Normal School to earn his certification to be a teacher, and then earned his B.A. in Education from Howard University and a M.A. from Columbia University.

Information courtesty of the Sumner School

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H.D. Woodson

Howard Dilworth Woodson was active in city-wide efforts to improve all aspects of city life in the District. Woodson concentrated his efforts in the far Northeast section of the the city including the Deanwood neighborhood. He moved into the area in 1913 and for the remainder of his life was the foremost leader in the effort to provide school, sewer and water systems.

Woodson worked tirelessly for the improvement and modernization of the Deanwood neighborhood. He was responsible for the widening and surfacing of Benning Road, which at that time was a one-lane road.

H.D. Woodson was the son of Lewis Woodson, one of the first ministers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and, along with Daniel Payne, helped found Wilberforce University, the first historically black university to be owned and operated by African Americans.

Information courtesy of the Sumner School Archives

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Lucy Ellen Moten

Dr. Lucy Ellen Moten was the first black principal of the Miner Normal School located on Georgia Avenue NW. Miner’s primary focus was the training and educating of young African-American women to become teachers.

According to an article printed in the Afro-American newspaper in 1952, “The entire elementary school personnel of the colored schools of the District of Columbia, with but few exceptions from 1883 to 1920, received their professional training under her leadership.” Learn more »

[The Afro American - Feb 9, 1952. (n.d.). In Google Newa. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2012, from http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=n9QmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kgIGAAAAIBAJ&pg=3039%2C4346982]

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Daniel Payne

Daniel Payne served as a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal church. Along with H.D. Woodson’s father, Payne helped found Wilberforce University, the first university owned and operated by African Americans. Payne was the president of Wilberforce until 1877.

As the sixth bishop of the AME, Payne argued for ministers to be taught a full curriculum that included English grammar, geography, arithmetic, ancient history, modern history, ecclesiastical history, and theology with the belief that “a regular course of study for prospective ordinees” would uplift their parishioners. Learn more »

[Daniel Payne. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Payne]

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M.C. Terrell

Mary Church Terrell was the first African-American woman to be appointed to the D.C. Board of Education in 1895, and served for 11 years. She was a school teacher and principal at the M Street School which later became Dunbar High School.

The daughter of former slaves, Terrell earned her master’s degree from Oberlin College in Ohio, and was the third black woman to graduate from college. She worked tirelessly for civil rights and universal suffrage, and lived to see both the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. Learn more »

[Mary Church Terrell. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 6, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Church_Terrell]

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Charles Drew

Dr. Charles R. Drew was an American physician, surgeon and medical researcher. He researched blood transfusions and helped improve blood storage techniques and used that knowledge to develop large scale blood banks during World War II. The American Red Cross Blood Bank came out of his work.

Drew is also famous for protesting against the practice of racial segregation in blood donations as it lacked scientific foundation. Learn more »

[Charles R. Drew. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 3, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_R._Drew]

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Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731, in Ellicott's Mills, Maryland. Banneker was one of  the first African Americans to gain distinction in science. Banneker's mechanical and mathematical abilities impressed many, including Thomas Jefferson who recommended him for the surveying team that planned the layout for Washington, D.C.

His significant accomplishments and correspondence with prominent political figures profoundly influenced how African Americans were viewed during the Federal period (1775 - 1830). Banneker urged Thomas Jefferson to fight for the abolition of slavery in a letter written in 1791. 

Jefferson responded, “…no body [sic] wishes more sincerely than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa & America.” Learn more »

 [Today in History: November 9 (n.d.). In The Library of Congress. Retrieved Feb. , 2012, from http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/nov09.html]

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Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906) was an African American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dunbar took a job at the Library of Congress in Washington in October 1897. He and his wife moved to Washington, D.C., in the LeDroit Park neighborhood.

Dunbar became the first African-American poet to earn nation-wide distinction and acceptance. The New York Times called him "a true singer of the people — white or black."

Writer Maya Angelou titled her autobiographical book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) after a line from Dunbar's poem "Sympathy" at the suggestion of jazz musician and activist Abbey Lincoln. Angelou named Dunbar an inspiration for her "writing ambition" and uses his imagery of a caged bird like a chained slave throughout much of her writings. Learn more »

 [Paul Laurence Dunbar. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 1, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Laurence_Dunbar]

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Kelly Miller

Miller graduated from Howard University in 1886. He was the first African-American admitted to Johns Hopkins University when he began his graduate studies in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. 

Appointed professor of mathematics at Howard in 1890, Miller introduced sociology into the curriculum in 1895. As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, he modernized the classical curriculum, strengthening the natural and social sciences. Miller graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1903.

Miller was a prolific writer of articles and essays which were published in major newspapers and magazines, and several books including Out of the House of Bondage. Learn more »

 [Kelly Miller. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Jan. 31, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Miller_(scientist)]

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