Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.)

Dunbar High School
1301 New Jersey Ave NW
Washington, D.C.
School type Public high school
Established 1870
Principal Stephen Jackson
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 807
Campus Urban
Color(s) Red and Black


Mascot Crimson Tide
Information 202-673-7233

Dunbar High School is a public secondary school located in Washington, D.C., United States. The school is located in the Truxton Circle neighborhood of Northwest Washington, two blocks from the intersection of New Jersey and New York Avenues. Dunbar, which serves grades 9 through 12, is a part of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Coordinates: 38°54′31″N 77°00′51″W / 38.9087°N 77.0142°W / 38.9087; -77.0142



Originally named Preparatory High School for Colored Youth and later known as M Street High School, the name was changed in honor of poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Founded as an educational mission at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Dunbar was America's first high school for black students. It was later the academic high school, with other schools related to vocational or technical training goals. It was known for its excellent academics, enough so that some black parents moved to Washington specifically so their children could attend it. Its faculty was paid well by the standards of the time, earning parity pay to Washington's white school teachers because they were federal employees. It also boasted a remarkably high number of graduates who went on to higher education, and a generally successful student body.

It is similar to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland and Fort Worth, Texas, as all three schools have a majority African American student body and are of a major importance to the local African American community. All three schools are also highly regarded for their athletic programs within their respective school district in the sports of Football, Basketball, and Track. There is also a Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky.

Since its inception, the school has graduated many well-known figures of the 20th century, including Sterling Brown, H. Naylor Fitzhugh, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Charles R. Drew, Charles Hamilton Houston, Robert H. Terrell, and Robert C. Weaver. Its illustrious faculty included Anna Julia Cooper, Kelly Miller, Mary Church Terrell, and Carter G. Woodson. Among its principals were Anna J. Cooper, Richard Greener, Mary Jane Patterson, and Robert H. Terrell. An unusual number of teachers and principals held Ph.D. degrees, including Carter G. Woodson, father of Black history Month and the second African American to earn a Phd. from Harvard (after W. E. B. Du Bois). This was the result of the entrenched white supremacy that pervaded the nation's professions and served to exclude the majority of African-American women and men from faculty positions at predominantly white institutions of higher learning. As a consequence, however, Dunbar High School was considered the nation's best high school for African Americans during the first half of the 20th century. It helped make Washington, DC, an educational and cultural capital.

Following desegregation and demolition of the original facility, the school's prestige dropped notably. As of 2006, the campus is situated in a newer, but, to some, far less architecturally appealing, facility in Northwest Washington. In 2007, the school board transferred management of Dunbar to Friends of Bedford, a private New York-based company. It in turn, removed Stephen Jackson as principal at the end of the spring 2010 semester. However, conditions at the school deteriorated, along with political motivation and on December 8, 2010, the Friends of Bedford contract was terminated, and Jackson reinstated as principal.[1]

Extracurricular activities


Dunbar competes in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association, and its football team historically has been strong. Some of Dunbar's recent graduates have gone on to play in NCAA football and the NFL. Joshua Cribbs, who graduated in 2001, was the starting quarterback for four years at Kent State University. He is a member of the Cleveland Browns. Vernon Davis, who graduated in 2003, was the number six pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. He is now a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers.

Recently, some Dunbar graduates play football at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Dunbar graduates wide receiver Arrelious Benn of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defensive back and Vernon Davis' brother Vontae Davis of the Miami Dolphins and defensive back Nate Bussey have all played for Ron Zook. The other outstanding wide receiver that played alongside Benn, Isiah Thomas attends Hampton University.

Student body

During the 2004-2005 school year, Dunbar had 1500 students [1].

Approximately 46% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch.

Feeder patterns

Feeder elementary schools include:

  • J. F. Cook
  • Emery
  • Langdon
  • Marshall
  • Terrel
  • Webb
  • Wheatley
  • Young

Feeder middle schools include:

  • Browne

Feeder K-8 schools include:

  • Walker-Jones Education Center

Notable alumni

Notable graduates include:

Scholars and artists



Business, religion and professionals


  1. ^ Turque, Bill (December 9, 2010). "Dunbar High's private operator is dropped". Washington Post: p. B1. 
  2. ^ Shinhoster Lamb, Yvonne (2005-01-23). "Arts Administrator, Playwright Vantile Whitfield Dies". Washington Post (Washington, DC). "Vantile Whitfield, known as "Motojicho," an influential playwright, director of stage and screen and founding director of the Expansion Arts program at the National Endowment of the Arts, died Jan. 9 at the Washington Home of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 74 and was considered a dean of black theater." 
  3. ^ a b c d Risen, Clay. "The Lightning Rod", The Atlantic, November 2008. 2.

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