Great Old Photos of Central High School

GoDCer Gail wrote in the other day about Cardozo High School (i.e., old Central High School) and wanted to know if we had some more photos of the school. We did dig up a few more, so here they are. Hope you enjoy them Gail!

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Central High School stadium in the 1910s
Central High School stadium in the 1910s
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Central High School in the 1910s
Central High School in the 1910s
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Central High School football game - May 5th, 1920
Central High School football game – May 5th, 1920
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Central High School pageant between 1915 and 1923
Central High School pageant between 1915 and 1923
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Central High School swimming pool around 1910
Central High School swimming pool around 1910
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Photograph shows young men practicing rowing on stationary machines in a gynmasium as others wait their turn to practice. Pictured rowing are: Stanley Durkee, Arthur Dorton, Ronald Collauday, Donald Kline, William Stewart and Elkin Hale. (1919)
Photograph shows young men practicing rowing on stationary machines in a gynmasium as others wait their turn to practice. Pictured rowing are: Stanley Durkee, Arthur Dorton, Ronald Collauday, Donald Kline, William Stewart and Elkin Hale. (1919)
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Central High School assembly around 1900 (Frances Benjamin Johnston)
Central High School assembly around 1900 (Frances Benjamin Johnston)

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Shocking: In the last photo of the assembly, front row, leftmost student (?) is in full Qing Dynasty Chinese dress, including the queue. How did he get there? Wasn’t Central racially segregated? Who is that man?

    • alexd

      Yes, at this time it was segregated (for more info see Carr v Corning, 182 F.2d 14 (1950), later @ the Supreme Court as Bolling v Sharpe, where the dissent details the school segregation and inequality. On your question, my guess: either he wasn’t a student (possibly a teacher?) or he had some exception because he was Asian, as opposed to Afr-Am.

      • I am still shocked to see him. The Chinese Exclusion Act was still in force; Chinese women were considered generally “undesireable” aliens by the Page Act–still in force in 1900. Gilded Age America was pretty focused on keeping the Chinese out as a threat to “good order” (read: white supremacy). The 1900 Census counted “Chinese” as a separate race, as well (as opposed to white, black, Japanese, [American] Indian).

        Given all that, it’s almost impossible for me to believe that in a highly-segregated Washington, a Chinese boy would “pass as white” enough to be sitting int he front row of an assembly at segregated Central High School. This is absolutely fascinating stuff.

        • bob B

          Apparently you don’t know what highly segregated is. My mother, who is ethnic Chinese, graduated from Central High School. There were so few Chinese in the South that they were generally classified as “honorary” whites and did not suffer as much discrimination as Asians in California. I was born in Louisiana where Asians were classified simply as white so although my mother’s birth certificate from DC listed her as “yellow”, my birth certificate lists her as “white”. One of my mother’s sisters had facial features similar to what I have seen on some “redbones” and she was furious once when a DC bus driver made her sit in the back of the bus but usually their family lived in the white community without any problems. When my parents lived in the deep south during the 1950’s, they said they were shocked at how mean the segregation in Alabama and Florida was compared to what they were used to in DC and Virginia.

          • bob B

            The Chinese student may be Sao-ke Alfred Sze, Central High 1897, Cornell 1902. He was reported to have tucked his queue inside his collar when in uniform as one of Central’s Cadet Corps. He later served as Chinese ambassador to the United States, Great Britain and the League of Nations. Of course, there could have been other students from the Chinese embassy in that time period but he is the only one I’ve seen named.

  • Gail

    Hi Ghost, In looking at this last image, I think it may be mislabeled as Central High. I don’t think there are any spaces in the school that have the type of column shown on the right side of the space or that have that type of vaulted ceiling. The window trim also doesn’t fit with the existing window trim in the building. This may be a Central High gathering held someplace else which may help to explain the gentleman in the Chinese dress.

    • I think it’s before the current building was built in the 1920s. That photo is 1900. Same high school … different building.