Sunday, May 1, 2011

Douglas High School

Douglas High School was located on Madison Street (photo by Briana Tyson, April 2011)
Former site of Douglas High School (photo by Briana Tyson, April 2011)
Maricopa County Downtown Justice Center (photo by Briana Tyson, April 2011)

[address pending] 
Douglas High School which is sometimes also called Douglas Elementary School was a school for colored students.  It has been proposed that Douglas High School was located on 520 E. Madison Street in Phoenix Arizona.  Like many states in the country Arizona practiced segregation although many parts of Arizona dis not establish segregated schools.  The Phoenix school board however, decided to enact the “separate but equal doctrine” (Wheeler-Cronin, 10).  The enactment of the separate but equal doctrine helped establish Douglas High School as the first segregated high school in Phoenix Arizona in 1910. The first principal was J.T. Williams, and the first teacher was Lucy B. Craig (Dean, 25).  During this time there were only 328 African Americans in the area many of them traveling long distances from the East and the West to attend school. Douglas High School eventually moved its location to 1201 E. Jefferson St. and changed its name to Booker T. Washington Elementary School (Dean, 25).
            In September of 1910 sixteen black students traveled two miles to attend Douglas High School. This act caused them and a small group of white people who supported them to want to take steps to counter segregation which made them second class citizens (Whitaker, 116).  In 1910 Samuel F. Bayless, a local black merchant, filed suit against the segregation of African American children in Douglas High School.  Bayless won the injunction that allowed African American children in grades one through four to attend their neighborhood schools, but this injunction was overturned in 1912 (Whitaker, 116).  This structure continued until 1926 when there were enough African American students to justify creating Phoenix Union Colored High School (Wheeler-Cronin, 10).  In 1945 students began to stage sit-ins in protest of segregation and in 1951 legislation passed giving school an option of desegregating schools.  While many schools in Arizona began to desegregate, Phoenix resisted.  The students and other Civil Rights groups continued to protest and in 1953, in a landmark decision, Superior Court Judge Fred C. Struckmeyer handed down the first legal opinion in the United States declaring school segregation unconstitutional (Whitaker, 121). This was a victory for African American Students because it desegregated the schools in Arizona.
            The events that occurred at Douglass High School demonstrate how the hegemonic group, or the group who establishes rule (Omi and Winant, 61), are able to make the rules and divide people based on race.  By dividing people based on race it makes minorities’ second class citizens.  That is exactly what occurred at Douglas High School when segregation was implemented; it was used to make them into second class citizens (Whitaker, 118).  Even Lincoln Ragsdale, a major Civil Rights activist in Phoenix, Arizona, stated “Arizona’s educational system and Phoenix’s decision to remain segregated were designed to humiliate black children and teach them that they were inferior” (Whitaker, 120).  This follows what Nicholas De Genova  discussed about white supremacy when he mentioned “white supremacy has always been premised on racial blackness and keeping blacks at the bottom, which was the U.S. social order” (De Genova, 2).  Douglas High School and the segregation movement in Phoenix, Arizona represent not only a power struggle but a struggle over space as well.  It is through this struggle that race was able to be transformed in Arizona.
            Today Douglas High School no longer exists.  The school was closed down in 1984 and in that space are parking lots and the Maricopa County Justice center.  Also noted at this location is a plethora of homeless people sleeping on the streets with trash along the ground with most of the homeless people being African Americans.

- Lysandra Whitlow, Briana Tyson, and Brian Simpson 

Works Cited
De, Genova Nicholas. Racial Transformations Latinos and Asians Remaking the United States. Durham, NC [u.a.: Duke Univ., 2006. Print.
Dean, David R., and Jean A. Reynolds. "African American History Survey." City of Phoenix. Public History Group, Oct. 2004. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <>.
Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States: from the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.
Wheeler-Cronin, Dee. "State of Black Arizona: Housing and Education." State of Black Arizona 2: 1-15. Print.
Whitaker, Matthew C. Race Work: the Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2005. Print.

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