Various photographs from the Douglass display case, outside of the main office, depict what life and education really was like at Douglass High School. The yearbook cover depicts Herbert S. Davis (front row center) and Douglass High School’s first graduating class. Photos from Douglass display
Douglass High School was among the only black high schools in the St. Louis and Jefferson County area. Established in 1926, the school closed in 1956 following integration.
The school was located in North Webster, an area that was predominantly occupied by African Americans. Because the school was one of the only black high schools, black students from all over the county attended Douglass.
“Culturally, the school meant a lot to me. I was with people of my color. I was able to interact with people like me. The teachers were very influential helping us to learn as much as they could. Not just educationally but culturally,” Douglass alumni Florida Cargill said.
Despite the belief that many all-black schools at the time had fewer educational opportunities and fewer resources due to lack of funding from the state, Douglass had thriving academics and extracurriculars. The school’s band program won several awards and would even go to competitions against white schools.
Sports and community was another large aspect at Douglass High. Its basketball team was incredibly successful, and its games were always a huge event for the students.
The school community would also host something called “Teen Town,” which was an event that took place every Tuesday night at the Y.M.C.A. They would play games and have dances.
Douglass’s homecoming dance was another event that was wildly popular. Like most schools, it would elect a homecoming court, but the day following it would have a large parade for homecoming that the queen would be a part of and march all throughout North Webster.
Schools were not integrated until 1956, and following this, Douglass High School closed. When this happened, all the students had to attend the high school that corresponded with their neighborhood.
Not all the Douglass attending students were happy with this, as it meant having to leave their friends if they were not from that county.
Upon arrival to Webster, in an effort to keep from outcries similar to that of Little Rock, Webster administration assigned a white student to every new black student to take them class to class. Despite segregation technically being over, racism was still felt within the halls for the new students, much of it coming from staff.
“The choir teacher didn’t really want dark skin blacks in her choir. She’d allow more light skin singers in. We had two very (light) girls in my class. They were allowed to sing in the choir, but they had to be behind a curtain,” Cargill reminisced.
Inclusion was something that weighed heavily on these former Douglass students, many of them not even attending the lockin after graduation, but none of this deterred them from continuing in their education.
This is Jaden Fields’ first year on with Echo publications, but she took journalism the year prior. She’s very excited for what the year will bring.
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