• Note: Much of the history of the Richmond Public Schools was recorded in the context of a segregated society, and the reader should readily discern between pre- and post-desegregation observations. The terms "black," "colored," "Negro," and "white" in this booklet should not be considered offensive as they have been used according to the custom of the particular period. Since 1962, the division has omitted such racial designations from its reports and publications.

Armstrong High School

  • 21 East Leigh Street (1909-1923) 119 West Leigh Street (1923-52) 1611 North 31st Street (1952-2004) 2300 Cool Lane (2004-Present)
    After the Normal School's building at 12th& Leigh Streets was condemned for school purposes in the 1908-09 session, the high and normal programs were relocated to the former Leigh School at the corner of First & Leigh Streets. At this time (1909 ), the name of Richmond's first colored high school was changed to Armstrong to honor General Samuel D. Armstrong (1839-93), the noted educator and founder of Hampton Institute.

    Several annual reports include this statement about Armstrong: "The first class graduated at the close of the session 1972-1 973. Up to September, 1908, there has been 821 graduates." Many of the early commencements were held at First Baptist Church at the corner of College & Broad Streets; later, these exercises took place at the city Auditorium on West Cary Street.

    In 1915, the all-white faculty was replaced with colored teachers, reportedly five men and ten women. One Armstrong historian has written: "In 1917, the high and normal schools were separated in name as well as in course of study. From 1915 to 1920, the school grew so rapidly that it was impossible to house the children who were applying for admittance. In 1912, Armstrong became an accredited high school." The July 1920 annual report states: "A five-room annex will be completed this summer." This was used for shop work, domestic science, and sewing classes.

    In 1923, Armstrong High School moved to a new, all-above-ground, three-story building at the corner of Prentis & Leigh Streets. It was described as modern, sanitary, and well equipped with 21 classrooms, three laboratories, a library, a 930-seat auditorium, and the first lunchroom in a colored school. The 1922-23 annual report included a picture and floor plan of Armstrong by school architect Charles M. Robinson. (The school on East Leigh Street was then reopened as Booker T. Washington.)

    The new building was immediately crowded. Additional land was purchased in 1925-26 and again in 1929-30. By the 1926-27 session, Armstrong had outgrown its new building, necessitating part-time classes. This situation was relieved in 1928 by the completion of a 21-room addition at the rear which housed domestic science, art, wood, shop, and other classes. The auto mechanics shop was enlarged in 1935-36, partially funded by a P.W.A. grant.

    In 1936, it was reported that Armstrong was on double shift for the fifth year. The facilities continued to be taxed, even after the City opened a second color ed high school in 1938 (Maggie L. Walker). For 41 years, the Armstrong-Walker Football Classic was an annual event on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

    After 1940, Armstrong also used Monroe Center, across Leigh Street, and (following World War II) the Monroe gymnasium.

    In September 1952, Armstrong High School moved to its present location on Church Hill, adjacent to Oakwood Cemetery. The new building (42 classrooms, shops, homemaking and commercial education rooms, auditorium, gymnasium, cafeteria, and library) made it possible to offer an expanded and more comprehensive curriculum to the students in grades 7-12. (Graves Junior High School was then organized at the West Leigh Street site.)

    Once again, Armstrong's new quarters were immediately crowded, subsequently leading to the use of modular classrooms and a system of staggered openings/closings. Therefore elementary schools were soon forced to retain the seventh grade, and the eighth grade was diverted to the East End building when it became available.

    Renovations in 1966 enlarged Armstrong's kitchen and cafeteria; a two-phase air conditioning program was carried out in 1969 and 1982.

    In October 1980, the School Board granted the request of the East End Think Action Committee to name the Armstrong gymnasium for an Armstrong graduate and long-time coach, the late Maxie Cleveland Robinson.

    Under "Plan G" (1979), Armstrong-Kennedy comprised one of three high school complexes with a coordinating principal (Fred cooper in 1979-80; Joe Louis Simmons, 1980-86). "Plan G" was dismantled in 1986 with the returned to a system of comprehensive high schools.

    Franklin Military School has been housed at Armstrong since 1989-2004.

    As one of the high school magnet programs initiated in 1991, Armstrong adopted the theme of "professional development teacher academy."

    In Summer 2004, the school board issued a consolidation work plan for East-End area schools. Armstrong was one of the schools included in this consolidation. Armstrong High School has been combined with John F. Kennedy High School, located on 2300 Cool Lane, and now goes by New Armstrong.

    Enrollment:
    1909-1910 370 (included Normal School)
    1926-1927 2,486 + 75 Normal School
    1952-1953 1.428

    Architect:
    1952 Carneal & Johnston
    1966 Carneal & Johnston
    1969/1982 Macllroy & Parris

    Cost:
    1952 $1,921,000
    1966 163,183
    1969/1982 1,800,807

    Principals:
    Prior to 1909 Richmond Colored High & Normal School
    1909-1917 Samuel D. Turner*
    1917-1925 William M. Adams
    1925-1947 Wortley Warren Townsend
    1947-1974 George Peterson. Jr.**
    1974-1980 Lucille Murray Brown (Superintendent 1991-
    1980-1984 Fred Adolphus cooper
    1984-1988 William H. Joyner
    1988-1989 Jonathan L. Lewis
    1990-1999 George William Bowser
    2000-2003 Howard H. Hopkins
    2003-Current Carl Vaughan

    *Upon his death in 1917, Assistant Superintendent Hill wrote: "Mr. Turner put his heart and soul into the work, and he was enabled to see the good results himself. this taking-away is a great loss to the school. He fully measured up to all that we expected of him, and the pupils, patrons and teachers appreciated the many sacrifices that he made to bring the school up to the highest standard possible."

    **Armstrong's first colored principal.

    See:
    Graves Middle School, Monroe School, Richmond Colored (High &) Normal School, Booker T. Washington School, Armstrong High School Today