From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

African American Schools in Paducah and McCracken County, KY

One of the early colored schools supported by the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was Runkle Institute, located in Paducah, KY; it was established between 1866 and 1870 [see NKAA entry Freemen Schools]. The act to establish public schools for African American children in McCracken County was approved by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1873. An annual tax was instituted to support the schools: 20 cents on each $100 of property owned by persons of color as well as a poll tax or per capita tax of $1 for each Colored male resident over the age of 18.

In 1880, the colored teachers were Charles Brooks, William Clark, Matilda Fletcher, Columbus Holland, James Owens, George Owens, and Samuel Reed [source: U.S. Federal Census]. In 1893, there were 13 colored school districts with 13 school houses in McCracken County: six log buildings, one frame building, and six brick buildings [source: History of Education in McCracken County, Kentucky, by Francis M. Irwin, pp. 63-66]. There were 13 teachers, seven males and six females, who taught an average of 340 students each day during the eight-month school term.

In 1925, Lincoln High School in Paducah was a Class 1A school with Mrs. M. R. Phillips as principal [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1925-1926, p. 40]. The high school had six teachers and an enrollment of 127 students. There were nine elementary schools with nine teachers in the county school system meant to serve 1,741 students; in Paducah, there were 18 elementary teachers and seven teachers at Lincoln High School, all meant to serve 1,166 students [pp. 68-69]. 

Sixteen years earlier, in 1909, Dennis Anderson began building West Kentucky Industrial College. The school offered secondary education (high school) and junior college for the training of teachers. In 1928, the school had 11 faculty members with the following annual salaries: D. H. Anderson, President, $3,000; H. S. Osborne, Dean, $2,000; W. W. Maddox, $1,233; Mrs. M. J. Egester, $1,080; J. A. Walker, $1,110.78; Mrs. A. H. Anderson, $1,008; Mrs. M. V. McGill, $900; R. W. Daevson, Manual Training, $1,008; Mrs. S. E. Poston, Domestic Science, $810 (second wife of Ephraim Poston); Miss M. A. Robison, Matron and Teacher, $540; and Mrs. B. A. Dawson, $945 [source: History of Education in McCracken County, Kentucky, by Francis M. Irwin, pp. 110-112].

West Kentucky Industrial College had an average attendance of 343 students. It offered extra-curricular activities such as football, tennis, croquet, basketball, and volleyball.

Lincoln High School opened in 1908, and in 1926, there were four teachers, all graduates of a four-year college [source: History of Education in McCracken County, Kentucky]. In 1916, Paducah Public High School (Lincoln) was listed in the Bureau of Education Bulletin on Negro Education. J. B. F. Prather was principal of the four-year high school and the eight elementary grades that were also within the school. There were 39 students in the high school taught by four teachers. There had been a public high school for African Americans in Paducah since the 1890s.

By the 1940s,Paducah had seven public schools for Colored children; the schools were listed in Caron's Paducah, KY City Directory, 1941 and 1942: Dunbar School at 2510 Yeiser Street (Lexie B. Mays was the teacher); Garfield School on Harris and the southeast corner of Ninth Street, (Mattye O. Strauss, principal); Lincoln School on the west side of Eighth Street and Lincoln Jr. High and Lincoln High School, both at 1715 S. Eighth Street (E. W. Whiteside was the principal of all three schools); Rowlandtown School at 1400 Thompson Avenue (Henrietta Brogwell was the teacher); and Sanders School on the east side of Levin Avenue, north of 32nd Street (Kate O. Smith was the teacher).

In total, there were at least 68 Negro teachers in McCracken County in 1940 [source: U.S. Federal Census]. The West Kentucky Vocational School was the first to be listed as having both "white & colored" students [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1955-56, p. 224]. The following year, the schools listed as integrated were Clark, Jefferson Jr. High, Longfellow, and Paducah Tilghman, on p. 441 in the Kentucky Public School Directory, 1956-57

For more see Chapter 998, pp. 509-510, Acts Passed at the ... Session of the General Assembly for the Commonwealth, 1873 [available full-text at Google Books]; and Paducah Public High School on p. 280 in Negro Education, Bulletin, 1916, No. 39, vol. 2, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education. See a photocopy image of Union Station School in McCracken County on p. 31 at Rosenwald schools in Kentucky, 1917-1932 [.pdf].

  • Runkle Institute 
  • Colored Schools (13) 
  • Dunbar School 
  • Garfield School 
  • Lincoln School 
  • Northside School [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 879] 
  • Paducah Public High School (1890s) 
  • Rosemary School [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 879] 
  • Rowlandtown School 
  • Sanders School 
  • Southside School [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 879] 
  • Union Station School 
  • West Kentucky Industrial College  
  • West Paducah School
  • Woodland School

Kentucky County & Region

Read about McCracken County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Paducah, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about West Paducah, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Woodland, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Union Station, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“African American Schools in Paducah and McCracken County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-09-11 16:28:18