On September 24, 1902 Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) delivered the keynote speech for the dedication ceremony of Armstrong Manual Training School. The school was one of two high schools in the District of Columbia authorized by Congress for vocational education. Armstrong school was built for African Americans and McKinley for white students.
The school was named for Samuel C. Armstrong (1839-1893), a white commander of an African American Civil War regiment and founder of Hampton Institute, now University. Designed by local architect Waddy B. Woody, the Renaissance Revival building provided carpentry, machine, foundry, and blacksmith workshops. In addition, courses in bookkeeping, domestic arts, chemistry, and physics were offered. The historic school has been described as, “an important institution and symbol for the African American community in Washington, D.C. . .”
Much of the success for the school in the formative years is attributed to Dr. Wilson Bruce Evans, the founding principal and father of concert artist, Madame Lillian Evanti. In a 1904 article from the Colored American Magazine, Dr. Evans states, “although only two classes have been graduated, we find almost all of them employed in a variety of remunerative situations.” He goes on to say, “. . . two are student assistants in the United States Department of Agriculture, four are teaching in the rural schools of Maryland. . .”
Armstrong graduates also gained local, national, and in some cases international acclaimed in their chosen field. Duke Ellington, William “Billy” Eckstein, Lillian Evans Tibbs, John Malachi, and Jimmy Cobb are among a host of prominent alumni.
In 1996 Armstrong was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now serves the local community as the Armstrong Adult Education Center. However, you can help us make a fragile Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook from 1902-1903 in our collection more accessible and searchable by transcribing it at the Smithsonian Transcription Center!