Armstrong High School

Historical Significance

Founded in the 1870s by the federal Freedman's Bureau, the Richmond Colored High and Normal School became part of the city's public school system in 1876. In 1909, a successor school, Armstrong High School, was founded as the first public high school for African Americans in Richmond.

When the school's original building was condemned in 1909, the school moved to the site of the former all-white Leigh School, at First and Leigh Streets, and was named Armstrong High School after General Samuel D. Armstrong, the white commander of an African-American regiment during the Civil War and founder of the Hampton Institute.

Armstrong High School was relocated in 1922 to a new facility at Prentis and Leigh Streets, and a twenty-one room addition was constructed in 1928. Despite this addition, the school suffered severe overcrowding as the only black high school in Richmond and had to run on double shifts. With the construction of the Maggie L. Walker High School in 1938, all pupils who had completed seventh grade went on to Walker for eighth grade, while all Armstrong students in the last half of their first year transferred to Walker. After one year at Walker, students who planned to attend college would return to Armstrong, while those planning to pursue vocational careers remained at Walker. 

In 1952, Armstrong High School moved to a new site, 1611 North 31st Street, in the East End. This new school was constructed just prior to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that struck down racial segregation in public schools, the school was a so-called "equalization school," intended by racial segregationists to forestall integration by offering modern amenities approximately equal to those of whites-only elementary schools in Lynchburg at the time.

In compliance with desegregation laws, Armstrong was finally integrated in 1971.

In 1979, Armstrong High School and John F. Kennedy High School were combined to form the Armstrong-Kennedy High School complex. The schools merged In 2004, retaining the name Armstrong, in a new location at 2300 Cool Lane.

Physical Description

The Arrmstrong School building is a vernacular interpretation of the Art Moderne  style, reflecting school design trends typical of the era. The  building retains intact exterior and  interior architectural features and offers a high degree of historic integrity for its setting,  materials, and workmanship.

Geographical and Contact Information

2300 Cool Lane
Richmond, Virginia
23223
Phone: 804-780-4449
Fax: 804-780-4485

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Armstrong High School,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed November 18, 2017, http://www.aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/25.

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