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Black West Side Schools

Many historic Black locations are being lost, but the effort to memorialize them in various ways has increased. Historical markers have been created in the city to commemorate the Black community. More recently, the San Antonio African American Community Archives and Museum (SAAACAM) is renovating the old Kress Building for their new location that will include the archives of many San Antonio historical figures, including Rev. Claude Black, G.J. Sutton, Charles Bellinger, Mario Salas, and many others. Additionally, there is an online San Antonio Black History Facts group and bus tours conducted by Baba Andar and Born Logic. A West Side Group has also been organized, headed up by Earl Bulloch and others who went to Black West Side public schools. The West Side of San Antonio, a testament to the resilience of the Black community, once flourished with vibrant educational, social, and cultural institutions during the era of Jim Crow segregation. These institutions, serving as a safety net, stood strong when Black people were exploited and marginalized by white supremacist policies. They were beacons of hope, like the Key Hole Club, where renowned musical entertainers would uplift an oppressed community. The area was also home to numerous Black churches and several Black schools. It was a community that thrived, despite the challenges, on the streets of Zarzamora, Lombrano, Delgado, Hamilton, Poplar, Lyons, Rivas, Elmendorf, Micklejohn, W. Laurel, Albert, Henry, Menchaca, and many others, including Kentucky Street to the north of Culebra.   The area close to this West Side Black …

Many historic Black locations are being lost, but the effort to memorialize them in various ways has increased. Historical markers have been created in the city to commemorate the Black community. More recently, the San Antonio African American Community Archives and Museum (SAAACAM) is renovating the old Kress Building for their new location that will include the archives of many San Antonio historical figures, including Rev. Claude Black, G.J. Sutton, Charles Bellinger, Mario Salas, and many others. Additionally, there is an online San Antonio Black History Facts group and bus tours conducted by Baba Andar and Born Logic. A West Side Group has also been organized, headed up by Earl Bulloch and others who went to Black West Side public schools.

The West Side of San Antonio, a testament to the resilience of the Black community, once flourished with vibrant educational, social, and cultural institutions during the era of Jim Crow segregation. These institutions, serving as a safety net, stood strong when Black people were exploited and marginalized by white supremacist policies. They were beacons of hope, like the Key Hole Club, where renowned musical entertainers would uplift an oppressed community. The area was also home to numerous Black churches and several Black schools. It was a community that thrived, despite the challenges, on the streets of Zarzamora, Lombrano, Delgado, Hamilton, Poplar, Lyons, Rivas, Elmendorf, Micklejohn, W. Laurel, Albert, Henry, Menchaca, and many others, including Kentucky Street to the north of Culebra.  

The area close to this West Side Black neighborhood was once referred to as Newcombville, named after James Newcomb, a white supremacist who rented and sold property to Black people near San Antonio College and West of it. In fact, the San Pedro Creek was the line between white and Black neighborhoods, which was another line of segregation that developed after the San Antonio River became the first line of segregation in the 1700s. As white residents began to move North and West, the West Side Black community was pushed further West of San Pedro Creek. Interestingly, when Black schools were forced to close because of integration, some say a “colossal scheme” was hatched to integrate Black students with Mexican American students to avoid the integration of white and Black students.

According to the members of the newly formed West Side group, originally known as the Grant-Dunbar Historical Preservation Interest Group, “Grant Elementary and Dunbar Jr. High Schools educated predominantly African American students on San Antonio’s Westside, along with the support services of outstanding administrators, counselors, teachers, clerical, cafeteria, and custodial staff. These institutions and personnel made significant contributions to the Westside community for over 117 plus years. Both campuses were closed. Grant Elementary was demolished in the early 70s. Where Grant Elementary once stood, there is a football field which was part of the relocated Irving Middle School originally located on Morales Street. The main building which housed Dunbar Jr. High is still in existence. The entire complex is now the site of Irving Elementary Dual Language Academy. In January of 2024, the building formerly known as Dunbar Jr. High was demolished. SAISD school bond will erect a new building (gym).”

Why is this important? The group pointed out that “Prior to the desegregation of schools, Blacks on San Antonio’s Westside were exposed to quality education at both Grant Elementary and Dunbar Jr. high schools. The teachers and administrators were devoted and loyal to establishing a strong educational background for its young students. The educators had the support of parents and guardians in providing workable survival skills for Black students. Oftentimes, Black students were given outdated textbooks with pages torn out of them from predominantly white schools. This included 2nd hand band instruments as well. In spite of these obstacles, many Black students excelled and became outstanding citizens who have made significant contributions to not only our city but our nation and beyond. The history of these two schools should not go unnoticed and should be remembered for future generations to come.”

Many of those still living, and whose collective memories reveal a sense of preserving history, see the importance of creating a historical narrative to keep Black history from being erased. According to the group, “The former students are requesting that our schools’ history not be erased but recognized by placing historical markers to give credence to both the legacies of both schools. Inspired by the vision of Earl J. Bullock Jr., a Facebook interest group was created to find some way to remember both Grant and Dunbar. As the interest group grew, a committee of volunteers was created to promote the possibility of a marker being placed at Irving Dual Language Academy. Committee members Earl Bullock Jr., Mario Salas, John Sanders, Carol Adams Means, Greg Jackson, Ethel Garret and Lelia Lockett worked together. The committee connected with the Office of Historic Preservation through the City of San Antonio local marker program, and under the guidance of Senior Historic Preservation Specialist Jessica Anderson, the committee moved forward with the nomination and historical acknowledgment of Grant Elementary and Dunbar Jr. High School.” 

The SAISD Board of Trustees approved the project, and the group noted that “The Grant Elementary- Dunbar Jr. High History Here Marker was designed and completed March 28, 2024. The committee then sought permission from SAISD (owners of the property) to place the marker at Irving Dual Language Academy. The Construction and Development Services of SAISD, led by Mr. Kamal Elhabr, helped with getting us on the May 13 school board meeting agenda. SAISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the placement of the Grant Elementary-Dunbar Jr. High School History Here Marker.” 

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