Welcome to the website of the Official Howard High Alumni Association!
Celebrating over 150 years of the Howard School educating the community in Delaware!
To provide a Repository for the acquisition, preservation, protection, and presentation of the history, memorabilia, and artifacts, associated with the life, culture, and legacy of the students and faculty of the historic Howard High School and its successors.
To embrace, acquire, exhibit and present, information and historical artifacts about the rich heritage, culture, legacy, and memorabilia related to the students, faculty and buildings associated with the historic Howard High School and its successors;
To preserve and protect the integrity, history, rich heritage, culture, legacy, memorabilia, and relevance of the students, faculty, and buildings associated with the historic Howard High School and its successors;
To promote the dissemination of information about the history, artifacts, memorabilia, rich heritage, legacy, culture, integrity, and relevance of the students, faculty and buildings associated with the historic Howard High School and its successors;
To provide financial assistance to Howard High School graduating seniors who pursue post high school educations;
To bridge the gap between all generations of the students, faculty, and buildings associated with historic Howard High School and its successors;
To provide a location to present educational material about the history, memorabilia, integrity, culture, legacy, and relevance of the students, faculty, and buildings associated with the historic Howard High School and its successors in the city of Wilmington, New Castle County, the State of Delaware, the nation and the world;
To develop and implement activities which manifest, present and enhance all of the above.
History of Howard High
Education at the End of Slavery
After the end of the Civil War in 1865, African Americans were no longer bound by American slavery. At this time, education for most American men ended at eighth grade, and most of the schools were private and/or led by churches. The very few European American, white, families that could afford it would send their sons to a private school that included a college education in New England or in Europe. Delaware was no exception to these conditions except that Delaware had a degree offering college of its own since 1843, which would later become the University of Delaware. Additionally, Delaware would not create a school tax to fund a public school system until 1875. However, this funding was not adequate for the building and maintenance of schools and teachers’ salaries.
African American Schools in Delaware
African Americans were educated in small schools, usually churches. There were seven schools that taught African American students in what were then primary and grammar schools across the state in 1866. These schools were mostly built and supported by African American Methodists and Quakers. Even after the Civil War, Delaware’s legislature was opposed to increasing support of public education for African Americans. There was thinking it would lead to “Negro Domination”. This was the same reason this legislature was refusing to ratify the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Due to the strong opposition, funding for African American education mostly relied on European American philanthropy, donations from churches, and local fundraising. The Delaware Association for the Moral Improvement and Education of Colored People (The Delaware Association) was established to oversee these activities and provide funding to African American communities requesting schools. The Freedman’s Bureau, created to assist recently freed African Americans with mostly education and employment, provided building materials for many African American schools as they saw African Americans in Delaware faced the same issues as African Americans in the south.
Start of Howard High School
In 1866, General Oliver Otis Howard, leader of the Freedman’s Bureau, came to Wilmington and placed the cornerstone for the future Howard School. This occurred at the school’s original location of 12th and Orange. In 1867, there were three African American schools in Wilmington, including an all girls school. These schools didn’t have names and instead were distinguished by numbers. The Howard School would become number 16. Working to continue the progress of The Delaware Association, William Howard Day, Superintendent of African American schools in Delaware and the Eastern Shore, was an early African American leader in education. Although he only had the position for a few years, he made an impact. William Howard Day led pressure on the city council and Wilmington’s school board for financial support to provide a better school for African Americans. This funding, along with matched funds from the Freedmen’s Bureau would lead to the building of the original Howard School. On September 20, 1869, construction of the Howard School was complete.
The Howard School initially had classrooms for primary school and grammar school with a student capacity of 304. Howard’s first principal’s name has been lost to history, but its second principal was Sallie A. Miller. She became the principal in 1876 and would continue in that role until 1883, when she was transferred to another school. Edwina B. Kruse was then promoted from assistant principal to principal, and she would remain Howard’s principal for over 30 years.
The Howard School had its first graduation ceremony in June 30, 1885 with three African American girls completing its grammar school program. These girls were Louise Parm, Rhoda Robinson, and Lizzie Williams, the first African Americans to graduate from a school in Delaware. Howard started offering a high school curriculum in 1887. There would be challenges in teaching the high school curriculum as well as retaining students that could complete it, but in 1893 Howard High had its first high school graduates. It graduated six students in that year. One of the last additions to Howard High School was Kindergarten, which started being offered around 1895. Howard High School would remain the only high school for African Americans in the entire state until Delaware State College, now Delaware State University, opened a high school in the 1920’s.
The Howard Trio
Edwina B. Kruse was from Puerto Rico. She was the daughter of a German father and a Cuban mother. Edwina received education in Massachusetts and at Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. Edwina was a teacher recruited by The Delaware Association first to start schools in lower Delaware. After a start in lower Delaware, Edwina would become a teacher at the Howard School then assistant principal, and its third principal in 1883. Edwina would hold this position for over 30 years. Edwina was greatly responsible for the great curriculum at Howard that included arts and trades. She was also responsible for recruiting other high-quality teachers, which all helped to set Howard apart from other schools. Many early Howard High graduates would go on to graduate from Ivy League colleges. Howard would also teach many future African American teachers. In 1899, there were just four African American schools in Wilmington, which had 28 African American teachers. 15 of those 28 teachers had graduated from Howard High School.
Arguably one of Edwina’s greatest recruits was Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Alice Dunbar-Nelson would become a great educator, writer, and activist throughout her life. Alice Dunbar was originally from Louisiana, and she moved near Delaware after separating from her famous husband, Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Edwina was able to bring Alice into the Howard staff as the leader of the English Department along with being an English teacher. While teaching at Howard High School, Alice also taught at Delaware State College. Alice and Edwina were very close, and it is believed they, at some point, became more than friends. While in Delaware, Alice helped house another important Howard student, her niece, Pauline A. Young.
Pauline A. Young is responsible for the preservation and knowledge of the early days of Howard. Pauline was a great educator, activist, writer, and historian. Pauline A. Young moved to Delaware with her family at an early age, and she would attend Howard High School from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Pauline graduated from the University of Pennsylvania then returned to Howard as a teacher. Pauline used this time to gather information, books and other primary documents pertaining to African American history and Howard’s history. While still teaching, Pauline was asked to organize the library at Howard High, and she started doing such a great job that she was convinced to become a librarian. Pauline would return to college, study Library Science then return to Howard High as the librarian where she continued to cultivate and organize the history contained in Howard’s library. The library in the 1927 building bears her name today.
Howard High Moved
A nationwide survey was conducted on the condition of schools in every state. Delaware was in the bottom half of the country, and this was considered unacceptable by P.S. du Pont. He would donate funds, which would lead to 100 new schools built for African Americans. P.S. du Pont would provide the funding for the 1927 building. The 1927 building built for Howard High was at the time considered to be one of the best school buildings in the entire state. The school had up to date classrooms, a soundproof music room, and six rooms for shops. P.S. du Pont’s funding would also allow for Howard High to buy new textbooks for the students, which often had to use old textbooks from the European American schools. Renovation of the 1927 building was completed in 2018 bringing the building back to its grandeur while still adding today’s technology in its classrooms.
Howard staff and faculty, especially in its early days, were teamed with individuals that fought for many causes including but not limited to: improving educational opportunities for African Americans, women’s suffrage, ad ending segregation in public places. Staff and faculty would conduct studies on the conditions of African Americans and would be vocal in their findings with many publications sharing what needed to be changed. The works of the staff and faculty of Howard caught the attention of national activists, like a visit from W.E.B. Dubois and a speech from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A great example was when Alice Dunbar Nelson worked to stop the screening of the movie Birth of a Nation (1915) at The Playhouse Theatre. Birth of A Nation was about the rise of the KKK, and it would become the country’s first blockbuster hit. Alice Dunbar Nelson wrote to W.E.B. Dubois for help on how to stop the screening, and he offered assistance by sending people to help organize their efforts. They successfully and non-violently stopped Birth of A Nation from being screened in Wilmington, Delaware. This was a great victory for the NAACP, and Wilmington’s own local chapter where Alice Dunbar-Nelson served as a secretary for many years. Pauline A. Young would also hold this position years later.
Howard High Name Changes
Howard’s full name had become Howard Comprehensive High School, but in 1975 it would formally become a vocational school and change its name to Howard Career Center. This vocational change led to many internal changes in the occupancy of Howard. The 1927 building housed the shops, and a new building was opened next to the old building, which housed the educational classrooms in the winter of 1976. Howard would continue to build on the number of shops that it held over the year as it attracted more students to the school, especially from the suburbs. Howard would join the New Castle County Vocational School District in 1978. In the late ’80s, Howard would get its current name, Howard High School of Technology. It’s important to note that these name changes do not reflect a break in lineage as all students, staff, faculty, and friends over the years are a part of the Howard family and its rich history.
Due to the COVID-19 virus, all Howard High Alumni Association events have been postponed until further notice. The safety of the community is of the utmost importance. Please be sure to practice social distancing and other rules of your state or local government. Stay safe!
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WALL OF FAME
Howard Alumni Association’s Wall of Fame Inductees
Yvonne T. Jenson
Dr. Charles F. Whitten
Louis L. Redding
Edward Loper, Sr.
Colonel William DeShields
Dr. Richard Allen Williams
Leonard “Joe” Young, Sr.
Marietta “Peaches” Whalen
Stephanie T. Bolden
Joseph E. Johnson
Bishop Aretha Morton
Senator Herman Holloway. Sr.
Judge Leonard L. Williams
John J. Jackson
Dr. Bruce Hart
Beatrice Patton Dixon
Stephanie T. Bolden
Kenyon L. Camper
John J. Jackson