What Will Happen to Historic Sumner High School?

13, December 2009

Sumner High School Sumner High School opened in St. Louis in 1875, earning the distinction of being the first public high school for African Americans west of the Mississippi River. Over the decades, the school could boast of teaching many future prominent educators, as well as its share of famous alumni. More recently, however, spates of violence, decreasing enrollment, and ever-increasing dropout rates have brought the school under scrutiny. Its future was coming down to three possible outcomes: reform the school, close it and reopen it next spring as a magnet school, or shut it down. According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as St. Louis Public School superintendent Kelvin Adams mulled those options he also met with students and parents about the issues at the school. This month, Adams recommended that Sumner stay open as long as efforts are made to improve conditions. For example, he suggested having Sumner alumni mentor current students, transferring troublesome students to other schools, and setting goals that must be met this school year. Now the onus will be on the school—its students, staff, and alumni—to work together to meet the goals and save its place in history. Like so many others in St. Louis, the Missouri History Museum is anxious to see what will happen to this historic institution.

Tina Turner's (Ann Bullock) senior photo from 1958Tina Turner's (Ann Bullock) senior photo from 1958

Here’s to you, Sumner alums!Margaret Bush Wilson—civil right activist, NAACP leader • Chuck Berry—rock pioneer • Freeman Bosley Sr.—St. Louis alderman • Dick Gregory—comedian and activist • Grace Bumbry—Opera singer • Tina Turner—singer and actress • Arthur Ashe—tennis legend

Sumner High School Tennis Team. Arthur Ashe 4th from left. From Maroon and White, 1961. p. 103Sumner High School Tennis Team. Arthur Ashe 4th from left. From Maroon and White, 1961. p. 103