On Monday, September 18, 1913, classes began at Dunbar School, Tucson's first school of children of African descent. Mr. Cicero Simmons, a graduate of Booker T. Washington's school at Tuskegee, Alabama was hired as Dunbar's first principal earning a salary of $90 per month. Mr. Morgan Maxwell, Sr., replaced Mr. Simmons in 1940. During the course of the thirty-eight years of the school's history it underwent three name changes. It was know as the "Colored School" in 1913, Dunbar Junior High in 1917, and after segregation of Arizona schools was ended in 1951, it was renamed John A. Spring.
The African American History Internship Project, jointly sponsored by Pima College and the Arizona Historical Society, presents this exhibit. History intern Baiza Muhammad and teaching assistant Annie Sykes utilized photographs borrowed from community members and research collections at the Arizona Historical Society Library. Harry Lawson, PhD, was the project advisor in spring of 1988.
A collection of oral histories titled "Dunbar School: Shared Memories of a Special Past" is also available.
Text of proclamation
City of Tucson,
Office of the Mayor
WHEREAS, in a day when Tucson was younger and immature, there was a school that would become a symbol of an unfortunate past in our community; and
WHEREAS, DUNBAR SCHOOL was a segregated experience that gave prejudice an undeserved foothold in this otherwise favorable place, where the rich tapestry of a multicultural community would eventually be woven; and
WHEREAS, despite the injustice of its being, DUNBAR provided a solid education for hundreds of black youngsters, with student bodies that produced outstanding achievers in all disciplines and adult leadership for all manner of human endeavor; and
WHEREAS, in 1951, the DUNBAR reality was ended by community conscience, but the happy memories of those who attended DUNBAR were left for them to keep and to later share; and
WHEREAS, a time to remember with a DUNBAR SCHOOL homecoming has been scheduled, with an estimated 270 former students expected to take part,
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Lew Murphy, Mayor of the City of Tucson, Arizona, in order to call community attention to this event, do hereby proclaim Saturday, the 28th day of November 1987, to be
DUNBAR SCHOOL REUNION DAY
in this community, and urge that all citizens take this occasion to reflect that good memories can take wing even when denied the full flight of fancy due them.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the City of Tucson to be affixed this 27th day of November 1987.
Lew Murphy, Mayor
Donald L. De Ment, City Clerk