Learn about HISD’s African American namesake schools this Black History Month

HISD is celebrating Black History Month by exploring the many schools named for distinguished African Americans in the community. The district has more than 30 schools that recognize the contributions of African American leaders, ranging from renowned educators to legislators and community leaders.

The first week focused on HISD’s namesake high schools, alternative schools, and the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. The second week focused on HISD’s middle and combination schools. This week, learn more about HISD’s namesake early childhood centers and elementary schools. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Early Childhood Center – One of the first facilities built by HISD to serve pre-K students exclusively, this school opened in the fall of 2004. It is named for the revered civil-rights leader who advocated for nonviolent social protest in the pursuit of racial equality. King was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963, and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King was assassinated in April 1968.

Blackshear Elementary School – The son of two slaves from Montgomery, Ala., Edward Lavoisier Blackshear (1862-1919) served as the first principal of Emancipation Park School before becoming the principal of Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University). The school named after him was built in 1916 and expanded in 1960, 1965, and 1980.

Bruce Elementary School – Built in 1920, this school was named after Blanche Kelso Bruce, a distinguished former slave who founded a school for African Americans in Missouri during the Civil War. Bruce went on to hold a number of important political posts before becoming the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate (1875–1881). He subsequently served as registrar of the U.S. Treasury until his death in 1898. A replacement facility for Bruce Elementary was completed in 2007.

Burrus Elementary School – Originally opened in 1899 as Independent Heights County School, Burrus was renamed in 1924 after James Dallas Burrus (1846-1928), a former slave who became a successful African American educator. Born in Tennessee, he went on to become the first African American professor of mathematics at Fisk University in 1882.

Dogan Elementary School – Matthew Winfred Dogan (1863–1947) was the author of the pioneering study “The Progress of the Negro,” and for many years he was president of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. He held a PhD from New Orleans University and honorary degrees from Rust College, Walden College, and Howard University. The school named after him was built in 1949.

Elmore Elementary School – Bennie Carl Elmore was a highly regarded North Forest ISD principal and pioneer in African American education. The school opened as a high school in 1957, was converted to a middle school in 1972, and began serving elementary students in 2013.

Hines-Caldwell Elementary School – Jean Hines Caldwell grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward and graduated from Wheatley High School. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Prairie View A&M University, she began her career with HISD as an audiologist, working with elementary schools before returning to Wheatley as a teacher and counselor. She worked at Wheatley for 38 years before retiring.

Henderson Elementary School – Nathaniel “Nat” Q. Henderson (1866-1949), for whom this school is named in 1956, was one of the earliest graduates of Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University) and served as principal of Houston’s Bruce Elementary from 1909 to 1942. Known as the “Mayor of Fifth Ward,” Henderson helped establish the first African American library, nursery, and home for African American girls.

Hilliard Elementary School – Opened in 1963 in North Forest ISD, the school was named after lifelong educator Asa Grant Hilliard I, who was born in 1863 in Atlanta to slaves and later moved to Texas with his parents.

Lockhart Elementary School – In 1962, HISD named this facility after Lucian L. Lockhart (1868–1955), a long-time educator and leader of the African American business community. He was the father of Ruby Lockhart Thompson, after whom Thompson Elementary is named (see below).

Marshall Elementary School – Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African American justice on the Supreme Court who fought for desegregation of public schools. He successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education, a 1954 decision that ruled segregated public schools unconstitutional. Marshall Elementary began serving elementary students in the fall of 2013.

McGowen Elementary School – The school was renamed in 2013 in honor of the late Houston City Councilman Ernest McGowen Sr. (1925-2012), who served as a trustee on the HISD Board of Education. He was a lifelong champion of public education whose efforts helped establish the first vocational technical high school in HISD. He also secured the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a paid holiday and helped establish Houston’s minority- and women-owned business program, which is still active today. Formerly known as Houston Gardens Elementary, the school opened in 1935.

Osborne Elementary School – Built in 1960, this school is named after Dr. John G. Osborne, a Houston physician who contributed a great deal to the education of young people. Osborne taught at Booker T. Washington and later at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University), where he established the School of Nursing.

Paige Elementary School – Roderick Raynor Paige served on the HISD Board of Education from 1989 to 1994, at which time he became the district’s superintendent of schools. He left the district in 2001 to become the first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. Paige resigned in 2004.

Robinson Elementary School – This school honors the first African American City Councilman in Houston. Judson Robinson Jr. was elected 10 times to the council and served twice as mayor pro tempore. He worked toward better working conditions for employees in Solid Waste Management and fought for minority hiring by the Houston Police Department and the Houston Fire Department.

Thompson Elementary School – In 1980, the HISD Board of Education renamed Southland Elementary to honor Ruby Lockhart Thompson, who retired after 46 years of service to the district as a teacher and administrator. Thompson taught at Bruce Elementary, served as principal of George Turner and Twenty-Third Street elementary schools, and became the district’s first African American woman supervisor. She was the daughter of Lucian Lockhart, for whom Lockhart Elementary is named.

Wesley Elementary School – Mabel B. Wesley was Houston’s first African American woman principal and mother of Carter Wesley, publisher of the Houston newspaper “Houston Informer.” The firstborn child of slaves on a plantation in Montgomery County, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University in 1930.

Whidby Elementary School – Tina Whidby (1900-1945) was a prominent civil leader, teacher, and principal for 25 years. Whidby Elementary was built in 1960.

Young Elementary School – Originally known as Sunny Side, this school was renamed in June 1999 to honor Ethel Mosley Young, an HISD educator who began teaching there when it was just a two-room schoolhouse without electricity, heat, or indoor plumbing. Under Young’s leadership as principal, the school became a thriving facility serving close to 1,400 children. Young retired after 38 years of service, and the Sunnyside community petitioned the HISD Board of Education to rename the school in her honor.