In 1891, Blackshear Elementary School opened to provide free education to African American children in the area then known as Gregory Town. It was originally named School No. 3, then Gregory Town School and Gregory School. It was named after Edward Blackshear (1862-1919) in 1936. Blackshear was a nineteenth-century teacher and principal. He left Austin in 1895 to serve as head of Prairie View College.
Blackshear moved from its original location on Olive Street to 11th Street when it was renamed in 1936. Before this move, news publications of the time reported terrible conditions at the school. A 1933 story in the Austin American reported that conditions were "deplorable," writing, "For that 450-pupil school...there are only 11 teachers and a principal. [They] seem capable and willing, but cannot accomplish their best with the equipment they have at their disposal." Continuing, the campus "is obviously a firetrap, and nothing has been done about it."
The campus went through a series of improvements when it moved in 1936. Ivy League-educated Friendly R. Rice started working as assistant principal at Blackshear in 1931 and was a leader at the school until 1972. He was widely regarded as a progressive educator and was given the freedom to implement his innovative ideas. He collaborated with social service agencies to build a library and provide hot lunches for students, which was at the time an unusual feature eventually implemented throughout the district. The library was the first at a black school in the Southwest.
In 2014, Blackshear began offering expansive fine arts programming. It is the first elementary school in Austin to do so. The fine arts program includes instruction about the works of Shakespeare, including creating full-length stage productions, music instruction, and instruction in visual art and storytelling.
"About the School." Blackshear Fine Arts Academy. Accessed October 22, 2015. http://www.blackshearyellowjackets.org/?PageName=%27AboutTheSchool%27.
"Blackshear Elementary School." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed October 22, 2015. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=25776.
Clark-Madison, Mike. "Loving and Fighting
After a century of struggle, will Blackshear Elementary ever beat the odds?" Austin Chronicle. June 28, 2002. http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2002-06-28/95746.
Taboada, Melissa. "Blackshear Elementary nominated for national award." January 29, 2015. http://www.statesman.com/news/news/blackshear-elementary-nominated-for-national-award/njzJj/