• 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.

Colored Special School

  • Beginning in September 1916, a one-room ungraded school was conducted for both boys and girls at the Detention Home. The purpose of the school was to "adjust pupils who failed to comply with the public school rules."

    Only boys were admitted in the 1919-20 session; they ranged in age from 11 to 17. The next year, girl students were enrolled once again.

    The name of the school was changed in 1953, to honor its former teacher, Kate J. Cooke.

    Colored Special School was housed at several different locations:

    1916-1926 Colored Detention Home - 408 East Leigh Street
    1926-1950 Juvenile Court Detention Home - 418 North 12th Street (penthouse on 12th Street side)
    1950-1952 Elba School - 1000 West Marshall Street
    1952-1954 Monroe Building - 121 West Leigh Street


    1930-1931 - 55
    1952-1953 - 25
    Head Teachers:
    Lillian L. Moore
    Kate J. Cooke*
    Harry Rufus W. Gadsden
    *In the 1935-36 Annual Report, Assistant Superintendent Norris wrote that Miss Cooke was "one of our most faithful and conscientious teachers, and a very exceptional one. This teacher meets and overcomes difficulties which would overwhelm most people. In spite of the handicaps, unusual results are achieved."

    Kate J. Cooke School