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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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"In 1905, a school named Manual Training High School was started in Kansas City, Kansas. The name, Manual Training High School, did not satisfy members of the Black community so much so that a meeting of ministers, attorneys, teachers and members of the Board of Education was held in the home of Corrvine Patterson.  It was in this meeting that the name of Manual Training High School was dropped and a more appropriate name of Sumner High School was selected by the group.  The name of Sumner was chosen to honor Charles Sumner (1811-1884) who was a member of the United States Senate from 1851 to 1874.  Charles Sumner was a very strong abolitionist who fought for the rights of the Black people.  Students, who first attended Sumner High School in 1905, came from the old KCKs High School and the old Central High School in KCKs.

These eighty (80) Black students began attending Sumner High School after racial trouble grew out of a fight between two youths, one was a Black youth and the other was a White youth.  The fight occurred in one of the city parks.  The White youth was killed by the Black youth who incidentally was not a member of any school.  This gave further impetus to an already growing dissatisfaction with having Black students and White students in the same school at the same time.  [Annotation:  The enrollment at Sumner Academy Arts & Science for the 2002-03 school year was 1137 students.]

The State Legislature of 1905 was asked by the people of KCKs to pass a special law for KCKs only, which would permit the separation of the races in all the public schools.  This was promptly done by a "rush" legislation and the Kansas Supreme Court passed on the constitutionality of the new law in February, 1905.

The Legacy: Sumner High School
Johanna Sundblom

Early in 1906, a house and lot were purchased at the corner of Ninth Street and Washington Boulevard.  The frame house was moved to the opposite corner to its original location.  The old frame house was used as an orphan home for Black children.  This same frame building, owned by Dr. A. Porter Davis (deceased), can still be seen adjacent to the Davis property.  The Sumner High School was constructed during the school year 1905-1906.  It was ready for occupancy in September, 1906.  There was still some minor carpentry work which was completed while teaching in the building was going on.

During the school year of 1908-1909, the north wing was added to the main building.  The north wing contained four rooms and a basement for manual training.  In 1923-24, the building housed the junior high school while the Northeast Junior High School was being constructed.  The junior high students went to school in the afternoon.  It was necessary in 1924, to convert the auditorium into classrooms.  The Sumner gymnasium was constructed late in 1924 and it was ready to occupied in September, 1925.  About this same time it was necessary to use some of the Douglass School annex and remove the classes that were in the attic of the school which were unsafe, due to the construction of the building.

Two outstanding men, who served as principal of Sumner High School, contributed greatly to improve the northeast community.  Mr. John A. Hodge was principal for 35 years from 1916 to 1951.  Mr. Hodge would never permit young people to become inadequate.  He believed that there was a great potential in all Black youth, and he did everything within his power to see to it that his students were successful in school and successful in their daily lives after graduating from high school.  He was regarded as one of the most brilliant educators of his time.  His achievements were many, and he was an individual who was respected by all people in KCKs.  He was well known throughout the nation for his contributions to the field of education.  Mr. Hodge retired as principal in 1951.

The second outstanding individual was the third principal of Sumner High School.  Mr. Solomon H. Thompson, Jr., served the community and Sumner for a period of 21 years from 1951 to 1972.  He succeeded Mr. Hodge as principal.  Like the previous principal, Mr. Thompson exhibited great capabilities as the principal of Sumner High School.  The school continued to be a strong outstanding institution just as it was during the past 35 years.  The Black community was very fortunate to have two strong leaders as head of the high school.  After the 21 years of his untiring dedication, Mr. "Sol" Thompson retired as principal of Sumner High School in 1972.

In 1924, the Sumner High School Division of the KCKs Junior College began.  Classes were held mainly in the annexed building.  Mr. John A. Hodge was appointed the Assistant Dean of the junior college division.  Part of the Sumner High School faculty, G. B. Buster, Scottie P. Davis, George Green, Edna Hoffman, Harry Thornton, and G. A. Curry taught in the junior college unit.

Construction on the Sumner High School athletic field began in the summer of 1931.  After the field was completed, a dedication of the field was held on October 28, 1932.  In addition to purchasing the land for the stadium, the Bd of Education decided to purchase the plot of land on the n.w. corner of Eighth and Oakland Avenue to Eighth Street and New Jersey Avenue.  Construction of the new Sumner High School began in the summer of 1938.  By 1940, the construction of the new building was completed.  Classes in this beautiful landmark began on January 2, 1940.  On January 9, 1940, the new Sumner High School was dedicated.   Dignitaries from all over the State of Kansas and from the State of Missouri attended this dedication, since this school was considered one of the most modern high schools to be built in the mid-west region.  Moving from the old building was done by students, teachers, and members of the Board of Education shops in December, 1939.  Only the latest equipment was brought over from the old building to the new building.

By the time the new building was occupied, Sumner High School had grown large enough to have 26 teachers on the faculty.  Throughout the years of existence of this famous high school, the names of many of the outstanding faculty members will be remembered by the community and the students in KCKs, such names as:  G. B. Buster, G. A. Curry, George Mowbray, A. T. Edwards, James Thatcher, Eugene Banks, Beatrice Penman, Rebecca Bloodworth, Scottie P. Davis, Edna Hoffman, Vera Reynolds, Clarence Thornton, Roberta Jeltz, Grace Stevens, George Green, S. H. Thompson, Jr., Paul Mobiley, Christine Sears, Rostell Mansfield, E. A. Taylor, William W. Boone, Clarence Turpin, Rosemary Daniels, E. A. Charlton, Edward Beasley, T. H. Reynolds, Oyarma Tate, Robert N. Clark, John Henderson, Charles Terry, James Harris, Doris Moxley, William J. Smith, and above all, the most honored principal of Sumner High School, John A. Hodge.

Sumner High School produced many outstanding Black citizens during its years of existence.  The Sumner High School song was a school song that was known and sung by Blacks throughout the entire nation.  The song carries great historical significance and reverence for the school it represents.  The words of this song will always be remembered.

THE SUMNER SONG

In the northeast part of old Wyandotte,
Stands a building that's tall and wide,
It received its name from the famous man,
This building is Sumner High.

Sumner was a man despised in the land,
For his kindness towards the Blacks,
And for this same cause without fear or laws,
He, while unarmed, was attacked.

Oh dear Sumner HIgh; Dear old Sumner High!
How we love the name of Sumner High!
We will always sing as the birds in spring,
Praises to our dear old Sumner High.

And we must gain fame to add to our name
of Sumner which we love:

Men will sing its worth throughout the earth
The name of Sumner, dear old Sumner,
Sing the name of Sumner High.

Words by T. H. Reynolds - Carrye Whittenhill

The new Sumner High School is a building that is considered to be a fire proof structure of modern architectural design.  The exterior walls of the entire building are of mat-faced brick in various shades of cream and tan.  The corridors have asphalt tile floors, glazed tile wainscots and acoustical plaster ceilings.  The woodwork in the drama room is cut from natural redwood trees from the farm that once was owned by a member of the Bd of Education.  The heating plant is in a separate unit.  The building is heated by steam boilers mechanically fired with coal (presently, the coal heaters have been converted into natural gas heaters).  The ventilating system provides for air circulation throughout the building.

The building contains twelve classrooms, four science laboratories, three commercial rooms, five home living rooms, five industrial arts shops, two music rooms, one dramatic arts room, two study halls, one gymnasium with two dressing rooms, a swimming pool, a library, an auditorium with a seating capacity pf 1,100 people, a cafeteria that accommodated 380 people, one health suite, restrooms, and administrative offices.  The entire building has a working capacity of 1,250 students.  The Federal Works Agency, Public Works Administration made a grant of $378,000 for the building and equipment for Sumner High School.

In the spring of 1978, Sumner High School ceased to exist as one of the greatest high schools for Black students.  It was closed by the Courts as part of the mandate to integrate the public schools in KCKs, USD #500.  This court order enraged the Black people of this community.  They made a gallant effort to keep the existence of Sumner High School, but the Courts would not yield to their demands.

The school was reopened in the fall of 1978 under the name of Sumner Academy Arts and Science.  The building has been remodeled with additional classrooms, library, cafeteria, and gymnasium.  Both Black and White students, who are academically talented, now at the Sumner Academy of Arts and Science.

The supportive staff in any organization is always important.  The efficiency of an organization is dependent on how this staff serves the organization.  The same is true in the public schools.  Without the services of these important persons, schools could not operate effectively.  The supportive staff renders many unheralded deeds for teachers and students.  Many times their assistance is taken for granted.  Recognition of their service is one way to express an appreciation to these devoted persons.  The assistance of teachers and students by Norma Jean Waton, Bessie Isaacs, Geraldine Roberson, Mary Bedford, Hazel Wright, Clinton Malone, Charles Askew, Edward Jones, Edward Perry, Simon Fouse, Henry Block, Noah Mansfield, Sam Betts, Geraldine Coverson, Anna Barber, Lloyd Raymond, Ben Clark, John Holly, Eugene Wilson, and Marion Caruthers are well remembered."

A History of Black Education in Kansas City, Kansas, Readin', 'Riting, 'Rithmetic by William W. Boone, March 1986 (Copy located in the KCKs Public Library, 625 Minnesota Ave, KCKs, 913-551-3280).  The school district is sincerely grateful to Mr. William W. Boone, Ms. Josephine C. Vandiver, and Mr. Jackson C. Van Trece for their research and preparation of this material.   (Check the Biographies Index on the site map to view bios on these three people.)

This represents an excerpt from the manuscript/book as it was presented, including terminology used at the time of the writing.  All attempts have been made to reproduce the spelling, capitalization and layout of the original manuscript/book as much as possible.

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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