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Garnet High School, an African-American high school in Charleston, was founded in 1900 when a class of 12 Black pupils in Kanawha County passed entrance examinations for high school work. The school was named for Henry Highland Garnet, an ex-slave born in Maryland who became U.S. consul to Liberia. From 1900 until Garnet closed in 1956, 2,438 students graduated from the school.

In 1927, Garnet High School moved from its original location in the 500 block of Jacob Street to the corner of Shrewsbury and Lewis streets in Charleston’s former African-American neighborhood known locally as “The Block,” part of the Triangle District. The new building included an auditorium; gymnasium; study hall; library; cafeteria; rooms for sewing, mechanical drawing, domestic science, and printing; laboratories for chemistry, physics, and biology; and other classrooms. By 1937, Garnet was classified as a first-class high school, with a faculty of 20 and a gross student population of about 400.

Four principals served during the existence of the school: Charles Wesley Boyd, J. F. J. Clark, Scott M. Brown, and Henry E. Dennis. Garnet graduates included the Reverend Leon Sullivan, class of 1939, originator of the Sullivan Principles which contributed to the ending of racial apartheid in South Africa. Tony Brown, class of 1951, was the host of nationally syndicated television programs. Other graduates included artist and educator Della Brown Taylor Hardman; pioneering cardiac physician John C. Norman Jr.; playwright, teacher, and actress Ann Kathryn Flagg; and funeral director and civil rights activist Elizabeth Harden Gilmore.

After integration of the public school system, Garnet High School became Garnet Career Center, an adult training program. It remained in use until summer 2022, when Kanawha County Schools combined its programs with those of the Ben Franklin Career Center. On June 16, 2022, the Kanawha County Board of Education sold the building to the nonprofit Garnet High School Alumni Association for $10. The group intends to develop it as a venue for multicultural gatherings and to honor the school’s legacy.

Garnet High School was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Read the National Register nomination.

This Article was written by Hazel P. Wooster

Last Revised on July 13, 2023

Related Articles


Bickley, Ancella R. History of the West Virginia State Teachers' Association. Washington: National Education Association, 1979.

Harper, Mary. The Effects of Integration on Garnet High School and the African-American Community in Charleston, West Virginia. Carter Woodson Project, N.d..

Randall, James. "The Way We Were." Charleston Garnet High School, 1978.

Cite This Article

Wooster, Hazel P. "Garnet High School." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 July 2023. Web. 28 May 2024.


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