Fact Friday 81 – Second Ward High School
Happy Friday everyone!
Only a sign commemorates the spot where so many African-Americans were once educated.
Second Ward High School opened as the first exclusively black public high school in Charlotte in September of 1923 in the Brooklyn community. There were a couple of local high schools for white students, but until that point African-Americans had to attend church schools or travel out of town to receive their diplomas. The school initially had the capacity for 600 students, and it nearly filled up its first year because it served as a combination junior and senior high school that accepted students from the nearby Myers Street School. In 1944 a night school to teach returning black World War II veterans opened here and would eventually evolve into Carver College in northwest Charlotte. By the time of this view (below) in 1960, the school had added a gymnasium behind it, which was built in 1949, and more highly trained teachers were teaching a much larger student body.
Second Ward Tigers Basketball Team
Rival West Charlotte High School was built in 1938 to accept overflow population from Second Ward. Between 1947 and 1969 the two rivals played a series of football games known as the Queen City Classic. Like most of the Second Ward, the school fell victim to the wrecking ball of urban renewal, but in 1969 the Charlotte Mecklenburg school board voted to close it, along with six other local black schools, to comply with court-ordered desegregation (Brown v. Board of Education). Black students were to be bused to white schools to achieve integration, and the Second Ward School was demolished.
Today all that remains are the gymnasium, which has been incorporated into the nearby Metro School, and a historical marker to symbolize the importance of the school. The Second Ward High School National Alumni Association remains one of the most active black organizations in Charlotte, and still holds annual reunions and operates a foundation to collect and preserve materials telling the story of Second Ward.
Inside the Second Ward High gym
Second Ward High School Marker Ceremony
More recently, and rightfully so, plans were released to renovate the gym into a place for fitness classes, camps and extra recreation space for use during swim meets. The building is also expected to house the Second Ward Foundation Museum, and the front lawn will be turned into part of a park planned for East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
Find all previous Fact Friday blog posts by clicking here.
Information taken from:
Charlotte, Then and Now; Brandon D. Lunsford, 2013
The Queen City Classic; Herron Speaks, Vernon M. Herron, 2012
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass