Cover of the 1962 Johnston County Training School yearbook.
Beginning in the early 1900s, North Carolina citizens segregated their schools. African American and Native American children were forced to attend separate schools from their white counterparts. Sometimes within the students’ own towns, sometimes a county away, these segregated schools often operated with fewer resources and poor infrastructure.
We help cultural heritage institutions scan high school yearbooks. To date we’ve added over 8,200 to DigitalNC. Less than 5% come from African American high schools*. There are a lot of reasons for this – sometimes African American schools couldn’t afford to create a yearbook, or few members of their student population could purchase one. There were a lot fewer African American schools compared to white schools, too. Many cultural heritage institutions, due to implicit or explicit bias, haven’t collected them over the years. In addition, families may be less likely to give them up to a predominantly white collecting institution. We’re always so glad to see them come through our doors, with an awareness of the fact that they represent vibrant communities flourishing within a repressive social structure.
To highlight the rarity of these yearbooks and to possibly help locate more, we’ve created a list of the names and locations of all of the public African American high schools compiled from the North Carolina Educational Directory around the time that the schools were desegregated.
You can see from the image above that the list includes
- the school’s name along with any variants we’ve uncovered,
- whether or not we have any yearbooks on DigitalNC.org,
- a link to a known alumni association’s website, and
- links to the Educational Directories where the school’s name was located.
The Educational Directory series was compiled and produced by the State Department of Public Instruction. These directories are incredibly useful for researching public school history. They list the names of schools along with locations and statistics. In the years leading up to 1964, “negro” schools were listed separately from white schools for each county, as shown in the excerpt below.
This excerpt comes from page 95 of the 1963 North Carolina Educational Directory. It notes the White and “Negro” schools of Rocky Mount, NC.
Beginning in the 1964-1965 Educational Directory – a full 10 years after the federal abolition of school segregation – schools were no longer designated as “negro” or white. Full integration in North Carolina took even longer, only completing in 1971.
In addition to the list of schools, we’ve created a North Carolina African American High Schools exhibit page through which you can more easily browse or search the African American high school yearbooks currently available on DigitalNC.
We hope that both the exhibit page and the list are useful for those who may not know the name of the African American high school that used to exist in their county or community, or who may be looking for yearbooks from a particular school or area of the state. Both will be updated if our partners are able to locate more yearbooks for digitization. If you have questions, check our Yearbook Digitization page for more information or contact us.
* During segregation Native Americans were a significantly smaller portion of the population compared to African Americans. Native American children were not allowed to attend white schools. In a few cases they had their own schools; in many they were sent to the “negro” schools. We use the term “African American high schools” for brevity, acknowledging that these institutions educated students with many identities.