First Black public high school still standing tall

Historymakers like Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington and John H. Johnson share much more than an iconic place in the legacy of Black music and the world of media. They are all alums of the oldest predominately Black public high school in the city: Wendell P

Historymakers like Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington and John H. Johnson share much more than an iconic place in the legacy of Black music and the world of media. They are all alums of the oldest predominately Black public high school in the city: Wendell Phillips.

The school was named after an abolitionist who was a leading figure in the American anti-slavery movement and who criticized President Abraham Lincoln for not moving fast enough in emancipating the slaves.

Other alumni include legendary educator Neil F. Simeon, who was once the highest paid Black employee at the Chicago Board of Education and former U.S. Representative Augustus “Gus” Savage.

Wendell Phillips Academy High School, 244 E. Pershing Road, was founded in 1904 as a predominately white high school. “When the new building was opened at 39th Street and Prairie Avenue, it served the children of the wealthy members of the community and a few African American children of their servants,” according to the school’s Web site.

By 1907, there were 90 African American students enrolled, and alumnus and former teacher Dr. Anabelle S. Prescott noted that there were only four Black students in her graduating class in 1912.

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