During the early to mid- 20th century, North Carolina children attended public schools based on their race. According to state-published educational directories, by the early 1960s between 260-270 public African American high schools operated in 92* of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From those sources, we’ve compiled a working list of public North Carolina African American high schools and their town and county locations.
Despite segregation’s “separate but equal” mantra, the schools for African American and Native American children were frequently under resourced, with less money for buildings, textbooks, staff salaries, and extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, these schools were vibrant and close-knit communities of learning and many of their alumni maintain ties to this day.
In 1954, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that states could no longer segregate schools according to race, but it would take North Carolina 17 years to completely dismantle the system upholding separate but “equal” schools. Head over to NCpedia for more information on school desegregation and the practice of segregation in North Carolina.
NCDHC is actively digitizing African American high school yearbooks up through their closure or integration. This exhibit page features those yearbooks along with other memorabilia from those high schools. If you have an African American high school yearbook that you are interested in adding to DigitalNC, contact us.
* Counties which we believe did not have their own African American high schools, but whose African American children were sent to segregated schools in other counties, were in the western part of the state where the African American population may have been too low to support a high school in each county: Alleghany, Clay, Graham, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Yancey.