Slater School

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Slater School
Slater School.jpg
Active 18881929
School type Public
District Birmingham City Schools
Grades K-6
Location 1331 5th Avenue North, (map)

Slater School was a Birmingham public school for Black students located on the northeast corner of Block 66, southwest of the intersection of 5th Avenue North and 14th Street, in the city's black business district. It was built for $9,000 and opened in 1888, absorbing students from the former 15th Street School.

Construction of the new school was supported by the New York-based John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen, and the school was named in honor of the fund's benefactor. The H-shaped wood-frame building was two stories tall with ten regular classrooms. Tall triple-hung windows on three sides of each classroom were protected by small wooden awnings.

A. H. Parker began his career in Birmingham City Schools as head of the 2nd grade at Slater School when it opened. In 1898 Superintendent John Phillips approved the creation of a lending library in the Slater School using funds raised by black educators to acquire reading and other resources for their use. In 1902 the school had an enrollment of 775 students. Assisting principal W. J. Echols were teachers Rachel Lester, Rosa Diffay, Willie Smith, Olivia Harris, Mary Sigman, W. T. Poole, Fannie White, Etta Deace, Orlean Kennedy and Florence Kennedy.

The Slater School Library was a precursor of the city's first public library branch for Black residents, which opened as the Booker T. Washington Library in 1918. In 1902 the school library held 1,500 volumes.

In 1920 a survey of public school facilities recommended that the Slater School, like most of the other black schools, should be replaced entirely due to its obsolete, dilapidated condition. The recommendation was not followed, and by 1922 there were more than 2,200 students enrolled at the school, filling the regular classrooms well beyond capacity and also occupying twenty-six temporary classrooms in nearby cottages leased to the school board. Even with the additional space, the average class size at Slater School exceeded 60 students.

Congestion at Slater School was slowly relieved in the late 1920s as other schools were constructed or remodeled. By 1925 there were just under 1,600 students, and the next year Slater School's student body was cut again by more than half. Slater School closed in 1929.

The site of the former school is now occupied by Jim Burke Subaru.