History of Adkin High School

The following brief look into the history of Adkin High School is intended to present to all viewers specific background information about this first Black pubic high school east of Raleigh, North Carolina, and especially to give all Adkin Pirates a sense of pride for having navigated the challenges of getting a high school education in a segregated secondary educational system in Kinston, North Carolina during the years of 1928-1970. The inferior conditions that were endured during this period are indicative of the lack of attention given to education for Blacks by the state of North Carolina and by local authorities. Nevertheless, regardless of the adversities and inferior facilities and supplies, Black students in Kinston excelled.

This document is dedicated to all of our Adkin High School teachers who did an outstanding job of teaching and guiding us students in spite of conditions that were less than desirable. Because of the faculty's abilities and efforts and their establishment of high standards, we were able to rise above the obstacles and soar to great heights. They were and are our heroes and heroines, dedicated visionaries who enabled us to succeed in all areas of life, such as business, music, the arts, education, science, sports, the military-- and to remain proud of ourselves, our school and one another. It is our desire that our children and their children and generations to come will read this document and be inspired to set higher goals with greater opportunities to achieve.

Part I. Overall History of the School
Prior to 1928, Black students in Kinston and surrounding areas attended Tower Hill School, where instruction included first through eleventh grades. During the fall of 1928, Adkin High School officially opened its doors. It was named for the Neuse River tributary (Adkin) along whose banks the first settlers in this area located. The original Adkin High School was a "Rosenwald School." Philanthropist Julius Rosenwald was responsible for the construction of the building. A wealthy president of Sears and Roebuck and Company (circa 1913), Rosenwald had a concern about the education of African-Americans in the South, and he matched funds raised by communities to build schools for African-Americans and in rural areas. For a number of years, the school building housed grades six through eleven and consisted of twelve classrooms, an auditorium, and a library.

Data from the 1928-1930 Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction Table of Colored High Schools stated Kinston had one high school (Adkin High), with none in Lenoir County. The school had a I-B classification; 36-week term; four grades (8-11); 6 full-time teachers (3 of each gender) and one part-time female teacher. 1928-1929 school year: 124 students enrolled; average daily attendance was 93 students. 1929-1930 school year: 154 students enrolled; average daily attendance was 126 students. Note: By 1952 the average daily attendance was 400 students--179 boys and 221 girls (NC Department of Public Instruction, 1952).

Grade twelve was added in 1942, and unfortunately in that year fire destroyed Tower Hill School which had served grades one through six. Consequently, accommodations had to be made. Adkin High School students were moved to the old Kinston College building and the elementary students were relocated to Adkin School. In 1948 the new J. H. Sampson Elementary School opened, so upper classmen were able to return to Adkin while grade schoolers went to the new school.

Until 1951 Adkin was the only high school for Blacks in Lenoir County. Students who lived in rural areas had to provide their own transportation to the school. Some students stayed with relatives or someone else during the week and returned home on weekends because daily commute was not feasible.

Like African-Americans all over the United States, Kinston's students endured many years of separate and unequal educational experiences. In October of 1951, members of the Adkin High School Senior Class of 1952 came up with a plan to call attention to the inequities in their school system. Some of the reasons for the decision that the time had come to stand up for their rights were: Adkin students had to pay $1.00 to take a typing class offered for free at other schools; Adkin students had to use books discarded by Grainger High School (the local high school for White students); at Grainger School each student in a science class had his/her own microscope to use, while at Adkin there was only one microscope for the entire science class; classrooms on the north side of Adkin had no blinds; broken windows had not been replaced. There were many other grievances, but perhaps the greatest was the refusal of the Board of Education to replace the burned down Adkin gymnasium. Without the building, the athletic teams were relegated to playing mostly away games or playing home games outside or in the community recreation building. The Board told the Adkin PTA that there was no money for their new gym, yet the body paid for a new gym for Grainger High School. And so the student body participated in a walk-out which resulted in the school authorities designating funds the following year for a new gym, locker rooms, two hygiene rooms, two home economics labs, and three vocational shops. (The "Student Body Walkout" will be detailed in the soon-to-be-included Part 4 of Dedication/History.)

Adkin High School students continued their bold stance against injustice. During the late 1960's some members of the Adkin student body asserted their rights at Standard Drug Store #2 and at the Paramount Theater, both located on Queen Street. Also, some alumni were a part of the nationally-acclaimed February 1, 1960 sit-in at F. W. Woolworth Department Store in Greensboro, NC.

School integration eventually resulted in the demise of Adkin High School. In the 1960's the "Freedom of Choice Plan" was implemented in North Carolina, and in 1963 a new Adkin High School was built on Rochelle Boulevard. It became Kinston's Black high school. Then in the 1969-70 school year, the Kinston City School System's secondary schools were integrated.

The last class graduated from Adkin High School in the spring of 1970. The name "Adkin High School" was changed to Kinston High School, Rochelle Boulevard, and the building housed all city 9th and 10th graders and all 11th and 12th graders went to Grainger High School. When the present Kinston High School was opened in 1979, Kinston High School on Rochelle Boulevard became Rochelle Middle School for sixth and seventh graders.

And so there is no longer an Adkin High School in the Lenoir County School System. Most of the original "Rosenwald School" was demolished. A project was constructed on the site, and a complex was erected. However, although the physical structure was changed, the love felt for their alma mater by Adkin High School students will last forever. The organization "Adkin Alumni and Friends" is dedicated to preserving the Adkin Complex and the history of the school. Read about the Walkout!

(Please be advised that more history of Adkin High School will be forthcoming. Soon to be added is information about the administration and faculty; extracurricular activities and awards; and details of the student walk-out and student involvement in other events.)

Acknowledgements: A special thank you to the family of the late Thelma Holmond Waters, author of Kinston-Lenoir County Schools for African Americans 1899-1192, for allowing us to use information from the copyrighted yearbook; and to Dr. Rita Joyner for permission to include details from her 2009 dissertation "Adkin High School and the Relationships of Segregated Education."

Adkin Historical Committee: Joan Bannerman, Rudolph Barbour, Robert Brown, Felix Coward, Mary Darden, Margaret Ledbetter, Bessie Maxwell, Delcia Ward, Dorothy McFalls, Joe Nobles, and Jesse Wiggins.

Consultants: Beulah Hussey, William A. Lawson, Sr., Dr. John Lucas, Sr.

Note: If you have pertinent information that you feel worthy of inclusion on this website, please contact Joan Bannerman at: Joan Bannerman - jbann1504@yahoo.com