Dunbar High School

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Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (originally Bessemer Colored High School) was a public high school for African American students which opened in 1923 in Bessemer.

When the school opened, it served students in all grades. The first graduating class of seven students accepted their diplomas in 1927. At the suggestion of English teacher Pearl Blevins, the school was renamed for Ohio-born African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1928.

In addition to its academic curriculum, the school offered vocational training in auto repair, cosmetology, shoe repair, tailoring, sewing, upholstery, printing, cooking, typing and other fields. Polymath Arthur Shores taught physics, chemistry, geometry, history, civics and literature before becoming principal in 1934.

Dunbar High's "Blue Devils" began competing in football in 1931 with Mule Knox as its head coach. Willie Jones Smith and Ben Adams headed the music department, along with band director N. Judge King.

J. S. Abrams High School, named for Dunbar's longest-serving principal, who died in 1959, opened in 1960 and served high school grades while Dunbar remained open for two decades more as an elementary and middle school. It closed in 1980 after the integration of Bessemer City Schools left Abrams as an elementary school feeding Jess Lanier High School.

In 1987 the school building was purchased by the Dunbar-Abrams Alumni Association, which raised funds and developed plans for a multi-phase renovation to transform the building into the Dunbar-Abrams Community Center, serving Bessemer residents.

The former school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

Alma mater

Dunbar, Dunbar, dear old Dunbar,
How we love our school;
We will not forget thy teachings,
Nor the golden rule;
Hours of toil and hours of pleasure,
Spent at Dunbar High,
Weave a golden chair of friendship,
Strong as earth and sky.
Dunbar, Dunbar, we salute thee,
Through each toilful hour;
Bring but joy to loyal subjects.
Filled with friendship’s power.
We thy loyal sons and daughters,
To thee we’ll be true;
Praise we sing to thee, dear Dunbar,
Love for the white and blue.


Notable alumni


  • Abrams, J. S. (1947) "A Study of the Graduates of the Dunbar High School, Bessemer, Alabama, from 1939-1944." Alabama State University

External links