Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives

1201 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C., DC 20036 - United States





Free Everyday

This historic site was one of the first public schools in the nation for African American children. Sumner Museum houses records and artifacts related to DC Public School history dating back to 1804 and serves as a cultural venue, hosting programs, events, and exhibitions.


The Charles Sumner School was constructed in 1872 and designed by Washington architect Adolph Cluss. Named for US Senator Charles Sumner, a major figure in the fight for abolition of slavery and the establishment of equal rights for African Americans, it was one of the first public school buildings erected for the education of Washington’s black community. Charles Sumner opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the return of fugitive slaves by Union troops. He also fought for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the creation of a Freedman’s Bureau, the admission of testimony from African Americans in the proceedings of the US Supreme Court, pay for black soldiers equal to that of whites, and the right of African Americans to use streetcars in the District of Columbia.

The Sumner School was built on the site of an earlier school constructed in 1866 under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Since its dedication in 1872, the School’s history encompasses the growing educational opportunities available for the District of Columbia’s African Americans. Sumner School stands as one of the few physical reminders of the presence and history of African Americans in one of the most historic areas of the city.


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