• Old North St. Louis

ONSL African-American Education History

Updated: Jul 16

African-Americans have a long established presence in Old North St. Louis. Prior to the Civil War, wealthy residents owned slaves, and there were almost fifty free black households in northern St. Louis, such as the large family of James Farrar.


In 1865 free African American families lived amid European immigrants in this part of the neighborhood. As the population grew there arose a need to educate African American children. Schools for St. Louis blacks predated the Civil War, although they were illegal.

They became legal after the Civil War ended, and in 1866 Colored School Number Two was established to accommodate one hundred fifty students in the Chambers Street Colored Church located at Tenth and Chambers Streets.


In 1871, the School Board found a permanent location for the School when it purchased the former home of lumber merchant, Henry Dobyns. The school enrolled over three hundred students during the first year at 1745 N. Hadley Street. African American parents in St. Louis waged a Successful Campaign

to persuade the School Board to recruit black teachers and to rename their schools after important black historical figures. In 1890, Colored School Number Two was renamed

to honor General Jean Jacquest Dessalines, who was born in West Africa in 1758 and brought to the French colony of St. Domingue as a slave. After becoming a military officer under General Toussaint L'Ouverture, he became emperor of Haiti.

The school closed in 1974.


Information from Rectenwald, M.R. and Hurley, A. (2004). From Village to Neighborhood, A History of Old North St. Louis. Missouri Historical Society Press. ONSL residents partnered on and contributed significantly to this book.

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