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Sumner School Museum and Archives, 1201 17th Street NW

Another one of the earliest surviving African-American public elementary schools in D.C., the Sumner School was built in 1872 and named for U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (1811-1874), a white abolitionist from Massachusetts.  Along with Lincoln Elementary and Stevens Elementary, it is one of three post-Civil War public schools built specifically for African-American students. 

From 1872 to 1877, this building also housed the precursor to M Street High School (then called the Preparatory School for Colored Youth), the first African-American public high school in the nation.  In 1875, Principal Emma V. Brown wrote to a friend, "You will pardon my egotism if I inform you that this school is a success.  I glory in it.  It is just the field I like—wide enough for my ambition."

Senator Charles Sumner and Congressman Thaddeus Stevens introduced legislation to ban segregation in education in 1872 (the same year as the school's completion), declaring, "the separate school is not equivalent."  The defeat of Sumner's efforts resulted in the dual school system that operated in D.C. for the next 82 years, until 1954.

Restored in 1986, this elegant building, designed by Adolph Cluss, now serves as the D.C. Public School Archives and a museum.