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Second Ward High School

Second Ward High School Site Marker

In 1923, the city opened two new high schools, Central High School on Elizabeth Ave. for white students and Second Ward High School on Alexander St. for black students.

Second Ward was the first public high school for blacks in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Before the school was built, blacks had to move to other cities to get a high school diploma or attend Johnson C. Smith University.

Image #1 - 1920s Diploma

Ellindor Belton’s 1925 diploma from Charlotte Colored High School. Second Ward was known as Charlotte Colored High School during its first few years.

Image #2 - 1929 Drama

High school production in the Second Ward High School auditorium. Pictured here from left to right are: Robert Ballard, Charles Turner, Virginia Gullier, Willie Flemming, Edward Cornelius, Fausing Ellis, Justine Turt, Louis Alexander, James Perkins, Margaret Newald, and Roger McGill.

Image #3 - 1938 Athletic letter certificate

John C. Smith’s Letter Award Certificate for football for the 1937-38 season.

John C. Smith in 1939

Image #4 - 1939 Class Memories

1939 graduates at Pearl Street Park, one of the few parks for blacks.

1939 graduates in the yard at Second Ward High School

Image #5 - 1940s Basketball Team

A Second Ward High School basketball team from the 1940s.

Image #6 - 1940s Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders in the 1940s. First row: Corine Funderburke, Eloise Smith, Sadie Broomfield, and Klara Davis. Second row: John Richberg, Lorene Pitts, Billie Tolbert, Willie Alexander, and James Payne.

Image #7 - 1940s Stage Band

Second Ward High Stage Band on the front steps of the school.

Image #8 - 1940s Female Athletes

Second Ward had intramural sports teams for both men and women.

Left to right: Dora Ramsey, Carolla Carr, and Nancy Pethel.

Image #9 - 1944 Coach Diamond and team

Coach Diamond and 1944 team.

From left to right, front row: Robert Lee, Samuel Clinton, Herbert Thompson, Edward Roper, Venton Caldwell, James Johnson, Archiblad Moseley.

Second row: William Gilliard, trainer; B Haynes, Noman Shropshire, James Wright, Horace Maxwell, Earl Johnson, Harvey Thompson, and Coach Kenneth Diamond.

Image #10 - 1946 Second Ward Tigers

The Second Ward Tigers had a winning season. The team played other all-black schools from across the state.

Image #11 - 1948 Student Council

Student Council 1947-48

Zelma Caldwell (in the middle of the last row) was the student council advisor.

Image #12 - 1948 First Miss Queen City Classic

The first Miss Queen City Classic, Vermelle Diamond, with principals Jefferson Grigsby of Second Ward and Clinton Blake of West Charlotte.

The Queen City Classic began in 1947. The Classic pitted long-standing football rivals the West Charlotte Lions and the Second Ward Tigers against each other.

The annual event boasted its own parade, and in 1948 the first Miss Queen City Classic was crowned.

Image #13 - 1948 Quiz Kids Teacher Award

Image #14 - 1949 Carver College

In 1949, Charlotte College opened a branch at Second Ward High. Carver College, as it was known, offered night classes for black veterans of World War II.

Image #15 - 1950s Homecoming

Homecoming in the late 1950s.

Left to right: Willie Oliphant, Jessie Roseboro, Vic O. Grant, Homecoming Queen Johnsie Yongue, and Thomas Byrd.

Image #16 - 1950s Mrs. Flagg’s Dolls

Second Ward teacher, Dorothy Flagg, planned a display of dolls from around the world to pique students interest in other cultures. Pictured here at the school’s library are Mrs. Flagg (center) with students and school counselor Rosena Gaines.

“We didn’t have much of material value then, but we tried to pass along our values – to work hard, be respectful, and to get a good education.” – Dorothy Flagg

Image #17 - 1950s Senior Day Trip

Second Ward High School seniors take a Senior Day Trip to what was then A&T College in Greensboro.

Image #18 - 1976 Queen City Classic

The crowd cheers at the 1976 Queens City Classic game at Memorial Stadium.

Image #19 - 1969 Student Assembly

Student assembly in 1969, one year after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated.

Image #20 - 1969 Scenes from the Last Year

Scenes from the 1969 school year – the last year for Second Ward High School.

Image #21 - 1970s Demolition of Second Ward High

Students watch as Second War High School is demolished.

In Charlotte, as well as most cities in the South, integration meant all-black schools were closed, torn down, or used for different purposes. A 1967 plan called for Second Ward to be renovated and renamed Metropolitan High. However, after two years of debate, Charlotte’s school board voted to close Second Ward and six other black schools. The students would be bused to previously all-white schools to achieve racial integration. In the early ‘70s, the building was demolished.

Image #22 Faculty and Staff

Top Row: Counselor Rosena Gaines, Assistant Principal Robert Wood, Elbert Waddell, the last principal.

Bottom Row: Librarian Dorothy Crawford, J.E. Grigsby, principal for 26 years, with queen Shirley Ashcraft, Frederick Lucius Wiley

Second Ward High School Principals:

Mr. William H. Stinson 1923-1931. William Stinson was the first principal of Second Ward High School. In spite of limited funds and resources, he established both academic and vocational curricula. Many students credited him with helping them become successful young men and women. In the school newspaper, The Herald, students wrote, “Prof. Stinson seems more like a father . . . “

Mr. Jefferson E. Grigsby 1931-1957. For longer than anyone else, Mr. Jefferson E. Grigsby was principal at Second Ward. Under his leadership the number of students and faculty doubled. Attendance figures rose. As the World War II years came to a close, Second Ward opened at night to provide education for veterans returning home. The veterans’ school would later become Carver College.

Dr. Spencer E. Durante 1957-1963. As America moved toward a time of tremendous racial and social upheaval, Dr. Durante focused on improving the school. He brought guidance counselors to the staff, worked to implement an expanded curriculum, and encouraged student achievement.

Dr. Elbert E. Waddell 1963-1969. Dr. Elbert E. Waddell led Second Ward High School until its last class graduated in 1969. Just four years before, two white teachers had come to instruct students at the black school. Plans for integrating Second Ward High School had been discussed, but when it was decided that the entire neighborhood would be torn down, the school could not be saved.

Image #24 - Site Marker Today

All that remains of Second Ward High School is the gymnasium, which is now part of Metro Center. This marker was put up by the Second Ward Alumni Foundation and the City of Charlotte in 1983.

Image #25 Class Reunions

Classmates at the 20th reunion of the Class of 1967.

From left to right: Bruce Wright, James Miller, Isaac Miller, John Pettis, James Jones, and W.L. “Pop” Woodard.

Image #26 Second Ward Alumni Association

The Second Ward Alumni House/Museum at 1905 Beatties Ford Road

Second War School alumni Julia Sumpter, Eugene Williams, Gerson and Daisy Stroud, and Shirley Manigo

Their motto is “Still Alive!” The Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation, Inc., helps citizens remember the importance of the schools, families, churches, and businesses that are part of Charlotte’s African American heritage. The Foundation’s Alumni House, on Beatties Ford Road, houses a vast collection of artifacts from Second Ward. Visitors to the Alumni House can see sports trophies and photographic exhibits, read yearbooks, and news clippings, and learn more about an important aspect of Charlotte’s history. The Foundation also supports literacy, child care, and scholarship programs in the community.


The African American Album: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Vol. 2. Charlotte, NC: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1998. Computer optical disc, 4 3/4 in.