Booker T. Washington School

Booker T. Washington School

Image Credit:
Left: LocalWiki.org │ Right: Experience Champaign-Urbana (Marcus Flinn)

606 E. Grove St., Champaign, IL

Booker T. Washington Elementary School was built to replace Lawhead School and opened in 1952. Designed by Berger-Kelley Associates, it was a K-6 building serving Black children in the neighborhood. Odelia Wesley, formerly a first grade teacher at Lawhead, was principal and led an all-Black staff. She remained at the school as principal from 1952–1972. In 1968, Booker T. Washington School was established as a magnet program in partnership with the University of Illinois, as a part of Unit #4’s desegregation plans to promote voluntary integration. While Black families would have to bus their children to southwest Champaign to integrate the schools there, white families could voluntarily choose to send their children to Washington School to access “innovative” instructional programs. Following the retirement of Mrs. Wesley, Mrs. Hester Suggs assumed the principalship (1972–1993) and developed an award-winning arts and humanities-based program which continued under the leadership of Dr. Arnetta Rodgers (1993–2000).

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In 2010-2011 as a part of the schools of choice initiative mandated for Unit 4, the school was re-imagined as the Booker T. Washington STEM Academy.  A new school building, designed by Chicago architects OWP&P, was constructed with an instructional program focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Decade:

1950-1959

People:

  • Arnetta Rodgers
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Hester Suggs
  • Odelia Wesley

Location(s):

  • Champaign, Illinois

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