The Charles Sumner School housed elementary and secondary school classes for African American students. The first high school graduation for African American students in the United States was held here in 1877. The site now serves as the home of the official museum and archives of Washington, DC Public Schools.
April 16th is Emancipation Day in Washington, DC. The National Archives (as the depository of our national permanent records) holds the original act passed by Congress and signed by Abraham Lincoln that granted slaves in the nation’s capital freedom eight months before the more well-known Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863. The Act has been transcribed here.
Senator Charles Sumner (MA) did not fully support the Act because it endorsed compensated emancipation. Sumner felt that if the government allowed slave owners to be monetarily compensated for freed slaves, it would further the notion of enslaved persons as property and not human individuals. After the DC Emancipation Act was passed, Sumner continued his efforts in trying to secure civil rights for African Americans, mainly by chipping away at repressive Black Codes.
This excellent online exhibition tells the story of the segregated schools in DC and people involved in the history of African-American’s public education. Includes modern day photos of historic Washington school sites.