The Charles Sumner School was built in 1872 and was named in honor of Senator Charles Sumner, an influential political figure who fought for the abolition of slavery and who supported equal political and economic rights for former slaves. The school was one of the most significant educational facilities to be built for the area’s African American community during the era of Reconstruction. The school now holds the harles Sumner Museum and Archives which preserve and share the history of the school and the larger history of educational achievement for African Americans following the Civil War. The building also houses the District of Columbia Public School Archives.
The Charles Sumner School was built on the site of a previous educational building that had been constructed in 1866. After the school’s dedication in 72’, it grew in stature as an African American institution for the District of Columbia. It stands as one of few physical markers that signify the African American history in the area. A large renovation project in the 1980s brought the structure back to working order thanks to the efforts of Richard L. Hurlbut and other supporters.
The Charles Sumner School provided education for many African Americans who had recently settled in the area with their families following the conclusion of the Civil War. The school was the center of black education during many years of segregated education in the D.C. area. The school only began to decline after the integration of D.C. schools in the 1950s.
Now the Charles Sumner Museum and Archives, the building still stands where it has since 1872, and houses displays and information about the school’s development and operation. Within the museum are many displays with information about the school’s operation and the influence it had on the African Americans in D.C. The building also houses the District of Columbia Public School Archives and other associated reading rooms.