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Living and Learning at Ligon High School

Background Information: An Historically Black High School

Ligon GT Magnet Middle School, an inner city school in downtown Raleigh, NC, has a rich heritage that dates back to its beginnings as an Historically Black High School. J.W. Ligon High School (LHS) was built in 1953 to serve all the Blacks in the Raleigh City School System. In 1971 the school was integrated as a junior high school, and in 1982 took on its current status as a magnet middle school in the consolidated Wake County Public School System. For years a very active alumni association in the African American community has fought to keep memories of J.W. Ligon High School alive. Most of the school's current teachers and students were unaware of its history until recently.

Change often resurrects tradition. Change in this case came as a $3 million renovation project. As students rode away on buses the last day of school in June of 1998, bulldozers unceremoniously unearthed two sixty foot willow oak trees. Horrified at the loss, teachers and students started to ask questions about the future of the school and its past. This prompted a discussion that soon spread throughout the school community. If these old trees could "talk" what would they have said? Can we learn from the past to guide the school into the future? Thus, teachers in the middle school were inspired to record the history of the school. GIS has provided a framework upon which the tapestry of this history can be woven. Alumni, Ligon Middle School students and their teachers, university professors, graduate students, preservice teachers, and community partners are recording this history with the expectation that it will guide the future of the school as a vital educational institution in a resurgent community.

Ligon GT Magnet Middle School is located in southeast Raleigh, NC, in the traditionally African American neighborhood that was home to two Historically Black Colleges. Shaw University was founded in 1865 as the oldest HBC in the South. St. Augustine's College, was founded in 1867 by the Episcopal Church under the leadership of Bishop Henry Beard Delaney, father of the famed Delaney sisters. Opened in 1953-4 as Raleigh's newest, premiere (Historically) Black High School, Ligon attracted the city's best and brightest Black teachers, many of whom had been trained in the nearby Historically Black Colleges. The teachers provided an excellent education for all the Black students in the Raleigh City School System. The school was the center of the community and parents and teachers worked closely to assure success for the students. The school was recognized statewide as a model of achievement throughout the Black community.

When the Civil Rights Era brought about changes in the Jim Crow laws of the south, Ligon's high school students were dispersed among Wake County's high schools to comply with the Civil Rights Act. As was so across the country, the African American community's children became part of a new Diaspora, sent out of their traditional neighborhoods and across town.

Today, Ligon GT Magnet Middle attracts students from all over Wake County for its special "Gifted & Talented" programs that emphasize the arts and programs for the academically gifted. Students from the immediate neighborhood known as the "base population" also attend Ligon as one of the choices in a panoply of middle school options.

Return to Exploring the Past to Influence the Future
School Connecting to the Alumni | School Connecting with the Community
Background on the Collaboration | Community Connecting with the School | Connecting Students with Community Partners
Role of GIS in the Project | Sharing the Project Products | How did students benefit from the project?
...To Guide the Future