Located on the corner of M and 17th Streets NW, the Charles Sumner School was built in 1872. Named after a senator, Sumner was a leading figure in the fight against slavery and the establishment of equal rights for black Americans. The Sumner School was one of the first public school buildings erected in Washington for the education of the city's black community. Charles Sumner was not only a strict abolitionist, he was also instrumental in creating a Freedman's Bureau, obtaining pay for black soldiers that was equal to white soldiers, and fighting for the rights of African Americans to ride street cars in the District. He was, in other words, a leader ahead of his country who believed in equal rights for everyone--regardless of skin color.
For nearly a century, the school educated blacks, but eventually it fell into disrepair. In the 1980s, the building was meticulously and beautifully restored. Today, the Sumner School houses a museum on education in the District of Columbia, as well as conference rooms.
The building was designed and built by German immigrant and architect Adolf Cluss. Cluss is also the designer and builder of numerous other well-known and long standing buildings of historical significance and contemporary use in Washington, D.C., including Calvary Baptist Church, the Arts & Industries Building, the Eastern Market, and the Masonic Temple at 9th and F Streets NW, among many others.
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential (Janet M. Kincaid, 08/07)