David T. Howard High School

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Name: David T. Howard Highschool

Address: 551 John Wesley Dobbs Ave, Atlanta, GA 30312

Anyone passing through the  Old Fourth Ward area of Atlanta couldn’t help but notice the large, brick building occupying a large plot of land on John Wesley Dobbs Avenue (formerly known as Houston Street). Not to long ago, this building served as Atlanta Public School’s archives and museum. However, today it remains fenced in and abandoned awaiting demolition or renovation.

The building itself appears to be in decent shape from the outside. I recall entering this building as a child and remarking at how large the building was, but also saddened by the peeling paint and rusty, dripping pipes overhead. The APC museum and archives have since moved, leaving the old high school without an owner. In typical Atlanta fashion, developers have thought of renovating the old high school and convert it into lofts. Similarly to Bass Lofts in Midtown or various other abandoned school turned loft projects throughout the city.

But what is the history behind the David T. Howard building and its name? Built in 1923, the David T. Howard building was initially utilized as an elementary school before converting into a high school sometime in the 1940’s. With famous alumni such as Martin Luther King Jr., Titus Turner, Lonnie King, and Herman J. Russell, you’d think the enormous brick structure would be designated as a historic landmark or at least marked by a historical marker. Alas, such is not the case.

The story of behind the school’s namesake is equally interesting. David T. Howard was named after David T. Howard, a former slave who amassed massive wealth. He became one of the few Negro millionaires in Atlanta, acquiring his wealth from being a successful undertaker. Not only was David T. Howard wealthy, he was also a philanthropist, devoting a large portion of his fortunes to the advancement of the African-American community in Atlanta; thus the David T. Howard building was created.

 

David T. Howard school dedication 10-25-1923
The Atlanta Constitution article on the dedication of the newly opened David T. Howard school. October 25, 1923

 

David T. Howard’s hard work and dedication to the community was recognized by the African-American newspaper named the Christian Recorder, January 3, 1878. The Christian Reporter newspaper, stationed in Philadelphia, listed David T. Howard as one of its illustrious laborer’s (Vol. XVI; No. 1), awarding him with 25 copies of the newspaper, possibly for distribution to the local Columbus, GA community. The Christian Reporter was an African-American newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, dedicated to providing the African-American community with religious and secular news pertaining to African – American’s.

David T. Howard Christian Reporter Newspaper

As the surrounding neighborhood grew more crime-ridden and dangerous, and  with the addition of desegregation of Atlanta PublicSchools, David T. Howard’s enrollment (now a high school) sharply declined in the 1970’s causing Atlanta Public School’s to shutter its doors in 1976. Fast forward to the 21st century, David T. Howard is encased in a black metal fence, forever shut out from the public. Currently, the surrounding fields are utilized by local soccer teams, however, the building itself remains unused.

Further Reading:

  1. http://www.clatl.com/news/article/13074894/save-the-david-t-howard-school
  2. http://www.myajc.com/lifestyles/david-howard-from-georgia-slave-atlanta-philanthropist/BlsNK0GcM6WPKVGIf43SBK/
  3. http://www.clatl.com/news/article/13082077/history-lesson

Sources:

  1. DAVID HOWARD SCHOOL DEDICATION FRIDAY. 1923. The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Oct 25. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/499005610?accountid=11226.

 


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