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

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, KY)

The following information comes from Julian Jackson, Jr., Historian of the (old) Dunbar Alumni Association.

The original building was a wooden structure named Russell High School. In 1921, William H. Fouse was instrumental in convincing the city of Lexington and the Education Board to build a new school for Negro children; two years later the school was completed at 545 North Upper Street, with W. H. Fouse as the principal. The school was named after poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose mother Matilda and father Joshua were from Kentucky.

The funding for the school was unusual because it came from taxes on both African Americans and whites. (In 1921, Lexington tax dollars for education were still somewhat segregated.)

The school was the first African-American high school accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of eight such schools in the South. Fouse helped create the first school bank and the first insurance program within Dunbar. He also helped develop regional literacy and art competitions, and the school had a championship debate team, sponsored by alumnus Cecil Posey. Dunbar students also participated in two interracial debate competitions: The Thrift Competition, supported by the Thrift Service Company of New York, which offered $75 in prize money; and the Bible Study Contest, sponsored by the YMCA and the YWCA. The Dunbar boys' team won $61 in prize money and took first place in the statewide interracial debate competition in which the girls' team placed second.

Dunbar served the African American community for 44 years with three different principals: W. M. Fouse, 1923-1938; P. L. Guthrie, 1938-1966; and Clara Wendell Stitt, 1966-1967. Students who attended Dunbar received a well-rounded, quality education, the majority graduated on time, and many went on to college.

Former students with additional information may contact Julian Jackson, Jr. at (859) 255-6328 or

For more see R. Bailey, "Lexington's Black community found magic at Dunbar," Lexington Herald-Leader, 2/16/1986, p. B1; and Dunbar High School (1923-1967) on the Lexington Public Library website. See also the NKAA entry African American Schools in Lexington and Fayette County, KY; and  the three files labeled "Fouse Papers (W. H. Fouse)" in the Fayette County section of Box 7 of the Kentucky Education Collection, Series I.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Fouse, William Henry
NKAA Source: Lexington herald-leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Kentucky Education Collection, Series 1 (archives)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-08-11 17:07:57