St Mark's School

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St Mark's School in a 1909 publication
St Mark's School in a 1923 publication

St Mark's School (originally St Mark's Industrial and Academic School for Colored Girls and later St Mark's Academic and Industrial School was a private school founded in 1891 by the Protestant Episcopal St Mark's Episcopal Church. It was the first institution in Birmingham to offer secondary education to black students. It was established with financial support from Episcopal Church of the Advent deacon James Van Hoose and under the authority of Bishop L. H. Wilmer.

The parish began teaching a small group of eight students in 1891 with two female teachers, both white, who came to Birmingham from New York and Michigan. The school's large four-story brick building, completed in 1892, was located at 18th Street and Avenue C on Southside. The faculty was expanded, notably with the addition of lay-reader C. V. Augustine.

In 1899 Charles W. Brooks came to Birmingham from Baltimore, Maryland to serve as rector of St Mark's Episcopal Church and as principal of the school. High school grades were added under his leadership, and the school awarded its first high school diploma in 1900.

Although it charged a modest tuition, the school was funded primarily by the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, the Episcopal Board of Missions and the American Church Institute for Negroes. St Mark's originally only accepted female students, many of whom boarded at the school.

The "industrial" department focused on teaching homemaking skills such as cooking, sewing and laundering, anticipating that female graduates seeking employment would normally find it as domestic servants. The school also taught religion classes, and its academic curriculum advanced to the high school level, including "the reading of two or more books of Caesar." It also offered instrumental and vocal music programs with an opportunity to participate in a glee club. Graduates of the high school often went on to Tuskegee Institute or other colleges.

The school's three-story brick building was damaged by fire in 1905, but was rebuilt, except for the attic floor. By 1911 enrollment had grown to 358 students (of which 300 were girls) and eight teachers. All but 8 of the boys and 62 of the girls were in the elementary grades. By 1914 enrollment was reduced to 192, of which 171 were in the elementary grades, and the staff was seven strong.

St Mark's School closed in 1940 following the establishment of Birmingham's public Industrial High School.

Notable graduates

References

  • Devigne, Sadie E. Beach (1907) "St. Mark's School, Birmingham, Alabama" The Colored American. Vol. 12-13
  • United States Bureau of Education (1912) Report of the Commissioner of Education Made to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year Ended June 30, 1911. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office.
  • Owen, Thomas McAdory and Marie Bankhead Owen (1921) History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. 4 volumes. Chicago, Illinois: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
  • Smith, Barbara (1976) St Mark's Academic and Industrial School, 1892-1940. Birmingham. privately printed.
  • Fallin, Wilson (1997) The African American Church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1815-1963: A Shelter in the Storm. Taylor & Francis ISBN 9780815328834
  • Schnorrenberg, Barbara Brandon (December 2002) "The Best School for Blacks in the State" St. Mark's Academic and Industrial School Birmingham, Alabama 1892-1940" Anglican and Episcopal History Vol. 71, No. 4, pp. 519-549