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Stanton College Preparatory School – 1868

Old Stanton High School in LaVilla. Photo by Kyriaki Karalis

“New Stanton” in Durkeeville.

Jacksonville’s oldest school was founded during the Reconstruction era as Florida’s first ever school for African-Americans. It is named for Edward M. Stanton, the U.S. Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. It is the first of Jacksonville’s schools to be named for a Civil War figure, in this case a Union leader, and predates the Confederate-named schools by over 50 years. Stanton led the push to allow blacks to serve in the Union Army, and was a promoter of civil rights and Reconstruction after the war.

In the 1890s, the Stanton School’s principal James Weldon Johnson succeeded in adding the high school grades, making Stanton the first African-American high school in the state. In the 1940s it became a high school only, and in 1953 it moved from the historic “Old Stanton” building in LaVilla to its present, larger location in Durkeeville. In 1981, to aid desegregation efforts, it was made a magnet high school, attracting students from across the county.

Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts – 1872 (public school in 1923)

Darnell-Cookman has a complex history. The original institution was founded Downtown to serve African-American students by Methodist Episcopal minister S.B. Darnell. It was originally named the Cookman Institute after Darnell’s friend and fellow minister, Alfred Cookman. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901 and moved to its current Springfield location; Alfred Cookman helped fund the new building. In 1923, the Cookman Institute merged with the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, becoming what is now Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona. The Duval County School Board purchased the old Cookman Institute property for an African-American public school.

At the suggestion of philanthropist Eartha White, the school board named the school Darnell-Cookman to honor both ministers. The school underwent several transitions over the years. In 1991 it was made a middle school and in 1993 a magnet program was established. Starting in 2007 it transitioned into its current status as a medical magnet school serving both middle and high school students from across Duval County.

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts – 1922

The school was founded as South Jacksonville School #107 in what was then the city of South Jacksonville (present-day San Marco and St. Nicholas). Douglas Anderson and W.R. Thorpe, leaders in the local black community, led the campaign to establish a school for African-American students in grades 1-9. When it opened, it was the only black public school in Duval County south and east of the St. Johns River.

Anderson, a graduate of the Tuskeegee Institute, founded the school’s bus service and served as president of the first Parent-Teacher Association. In 1945, nine years after Anderson’s death, the school was renamed in his honor, and in 1955 it added the high school grades, finally giving black highschoolers on the Southside their own school. In 1968 it became one of the local schools closed in the move to desegregate the school system, and the school board put the buildings to other uses; it once housed classes for Florida Junior College (now Florida State College at Jacksonville) and a seventh grade center. In 1985, Douglas Anderson reopened as an arts magnet school.

Andrew Jackson High School – 1927

Jackson was one of three new high schools established in the late 1920s to replace Duval County’s increasingly overcrowded white high school, Duval High School. Located in Brentwood and serving white students from the Northside, it was soon followed by Robert E. Lee High School in Riverside and Julia M. Landon High School (now Landon Middle School) in what’s now San Marco.

The school commemorates Jacksonville’s namesake, Andrew Jackson. Jackson had led the U.S. forces in the First Seminole War in 1818, and became Florida’s first American military governor. He was seen as a hero by many Anglo-American settlers, and Jacksonville’s founders named the newly platted town after him in June 1822. Jackson, President from 1829 to 1837, has been widely recognized across the city named for him, but has been an increasingly controversial figure since the later 20th century in large part due to his Indian removal policy.

Robert E. Lee High School – 1928

Lee High School opened in 1928 as one of three new white high schools, along with Andrew Jackson and Julia Landon, to serve Duval County’s growing population in the 1920s. It is located in Riverside and served white students from Jacksonville’s Westside. It was named after Robert E. Lee, the leading Confederate general in the Civil War. It was Jacksonville’s second school to be named for a Confederate figure; Edmund Kirby-Smith Junior High, named for the St. Augustine-born general, opened in 1923. Lee was followed by several other Confederate-named schools in the 1950s and 60s. Lee had no local connection, but he was widely revered by white Southerners and a major source of Confederate nostalgia and the “Lost Cause” myth. The school’s name has been the cause of controversy since the late 20th century.

Baldwin Middle-Senior High School – 1929

Founded in 1929 and rebuilt in 1949, Baldwin provides middle and high school education for the town of the same name, one of the four municipalities in Duval County outside the Jacksonville city limits. Previously known as Thigpen, the town was renamed Baldwin in 1860 after Abel Seymour Baldwin, a former member of the Florida Legislature and president of the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad, the main driver of the town’s growth in the 19th century.

Duncan U. Fletcher High School – 1937

The first public high school in the Jacksonville Beaches, Fletcher is named for Jacksonville politician Senator Duncan U. Fletcher. Fletcher had two stints as Mayor of Jacksonville, from 1893–1895 and 1901–1903; during the latter term he led the rebuilding of Downtown Jacksonville after the Great Fire of 1901. He was also a member of the Florida House of Representatives and served four terms in the U.S. Senate from 1909–1936. Among his activities in the Senate, he served as chairman of the Banking Committee and led the Pecora Commission’s investigation of the 1929 stock market crash, which led to new reforms in the U.S. financial sector.

Locally, Fletcher secured the federal grant to build a junior-senior high school for the Beaches communities. When Fletcher died in 1936, the school board elected to name the school for him. The school served white students in grades 7-12, and was originally located on the current grounds of Fletcher Middle School on 3rd Street in Jacksonville Beach. In 1965 the high school was split off into its present building at the corner of 5th Street and Seagate Avenue in Neptune Beach.

Next page: More Duval County high schools

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