Designed by Leonard L. Hunter, Second Ward High School opened in 1923 as the first public high school for Black students in segregated Charlotte. This institution "emerged as an anchor for the neighborhood of Brooklyn."1
In its early years, the school was referred to as Charlotte Colored High School. It served as both a junior and senior high school with curriculum emphasis placed on academic and vocational training.
"By 1966, Second Ward High School had an enrollment of over 1,500 students. Students were recognized for academic and vocational achievements and many became members of the National Honor Society. Second Ward was an accredited high school by the Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges."2
Due to urban renewal of the Brooklyn neighborhood, Second Ward's facility was demolished in 1969. All that remains today is the gymnasium, which opened in 1949.
"In Charlotte, as well as most cities in the South, integration meant all-Black schools were closed, torn down, or used for different purposes. A 1967 plan called for Second Ward to be renovated and renamed Metropolitan High. However, after two years of debate, Charlotte's school board voted to close Second Ward and six other Black schools. The students were bused to previously all-White schools to achieve racial integration. In the early '70s, the building was demolished."3
Before its destruction, another all-Black institution — Carver College — operated out of the basement of Second Ward High School, serving Black WWII veterans. It became known as Mecklenburg College in 1961. Two years later, the Central Industrial Education Center (CIEC), located within the halls of Central High School, merged with Mecklenburg College to form Central Piedmont Community College.
Today, while the facility no longer stands, the legacy of Second Ward High School and its alumni live on through the efforts of the Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation. The Foundation “is dedicated to keeping the school's memory alive and to be a resource in finding and sharing the community's African American Heritage. Since the organization of the Foundation in 1980, a primary mission has been to act as a resource to the community, partners and individuals looking to find people, stories, images and information."4
Built by Lockewood-Greene and Company (architects) and J. A. Jones Company (contractor), Central High School opened in 1923 at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and the former Cecil Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This institution was established after the original Charlotte High School could not hold the growing number of students enrolling each year. Due to the era of segregation, however, it only served an all-White student body for its first 30 years. Central High School would not be integrated until 1957, when Gus Roberts — one of the four African American students to integrate Charlotte’s schools — enrolled. He graduated from Central High School in 1959. Another noteworthy graduate of Central High School is former track olympian and North Carolina politician, Jim Beatty.
Central High was utilized as a high school from 1923 until 1959, at which point Garinger High School opened to house an even larger number of students in a post-World War II society. Charlotte College (known today as UNC-Charlotte) utilized Central High’s facility as the location for their night school from 1949-1960.
After Charlotte College’s relocation, the Central Industrial Education Center (CIEC) moved in and started occupying the space in 1961. This institution was part of the larger state-wide Industrial Education Center system which addressed the vocational education needs of adults throughout Charlotte and the state of North Carolina. Today, the Industrial Education Center System is known as the North Carolina Community College System.
Around this time, an all-Black institution known as Carver College operated out of the basement of Second Ward High School, serving Black WWII veterans. Carver College went on to become Mecklenburg College in 1961. Two years later, Mecklenburg and the CIEC merged to become Central Piedmont Community College, using the Central High building to house its earliest programs, including Dental Hygiene, Nursing, Automotive Trades, and Engineering.
The Central High Building continues to reside on the Central Campus of Central Piedmont Community College, and it is used in a variety of academic and administrative capacities.
1 Armus, T. "50 years later, alumni reunite to recall beloved, bulldozed high school." Charlotte Observer, The (NC), June 3, 2019: 1A. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/173D485ECD4ADCD0
2 Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation. (n.d.). School History. http://www.secondwardfoundation.org/tiger_historic_ happenings/school_history
3 Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. (1998). The African American Album: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Vol. 2. Charlotte Mecklenburg Story. https://www.cmstory.org/exhibits/african-american-album-volume-2/second-ward-high-school-0
4 Mecklenburg County Government. (n.d.). Second Ward Gym. https://www.mecknc.gov/ParkandRec/Aquatics/Pages/Second-Ward-Gym.aspx