Dunbar (Paul Lawrence) High School

Dunbar (Paul Lawrence) High School - a segregated city school, located at 545 North Upper Street.  Named after Paul Lawrence Dunbar, a famous 19th century black poet.  The school was built in 1922 and opened in 1923.  The school had three different principals: W. H. Fouse (1923-1938), P. L. Guthrie (1938-1966) and Clara Wendell Stitt, (1966-1967).  In 1931, Dunbar was one of eight schools in the south to receive the “A” grade from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the first segregated school in Kentucky.

Preserved entrance to Dunbar High School, 2010   <Ambrose>

In June 1941, construction began on a two-story, seven-room addition and in 1953 four additional classrooms.  The 1941 addition cost $30,000.[i]  From 1942 to 1965, Stanford T. Roach was the head basketball coach of the Bearcats.  He led to school to a 512 to 142 record.  In 1954, Douglas High School won the Kentucky Basketball Championship for segregated schools and in 1956 was the runner-up.  The high school was closed in 1967, after the merger with the county schools.  The last year enrollment totaled 1,300 pupils.  Dunbar became the first black high school in Kentucky to be admitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

During 1967-68, the school was converted into a junior high school, with 650 students.  In 1968-69, five elementary classes from the overcrowded Booker T. Washington were housed in unused parts of the school.  In 1969-70, two elementary classes from Russell School were located in the school.  The school was finally closed in 1972.  Francis Baker served as the junior high principal from 1967 to 1972.  Today, portions of the old building were converted into a community center and offices for the Lexington Parks and Recreation Department.[ii]


[i] Lexington Herald-Leader, June 22, 1941, page 40, column 8 and July 30, 1941, page 13, column 8.

[ii] Lexington Herald-Leader, November 5, 1972, page 5, columns 3-5.


William M. Ambrose, Bluegrass Schools, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2012.