Around 1912, respected attorney and civic leader J. Thomas Newsome led African-American citizens of Newport News in petitioning for a black high school. Throughout the South and Virginia in particular, quality education for African Americans did not come easily. The struggle for an African-American high school continued for many years in Newport News before city officials finally considered this request.
In 1919, the city designated a classroom for high school education within the all black John Marshall Elementary School. African-American students came from Newport News, Warwick County, and the surrounding areas to attend these classes. The school was named Dunbar High School in honor of writer Paul Laurence Dunbar. Eventually the city moved the school to its own building, a four-room frame structure called the Joseph Parker School.
The high school was renamed Huntington High School in 1920 in honor of Collis Potter Huntington, a northern railroad tycoon who founded the Newport News Shipyard. Huntington High School graduated its first class in 1923. Lutrelle F. Palmer became principal of the new school in 1920. The school board later dismissed Palmer from this position when he advocated for equal pay for African-American teachers. Palmer went on to teach at the former Hampton Institute and served as President of the State Teachers' Association of Virginia.
The school grew as the city's population increased, and in 1936 a new three-story brick building was constructed on Orcutt Avenue at 34th Street. This building served Newport News' African-American high school students until 1971, when the 48th and final class graduated from Huntington High School.
The building that housed Huntington High School is today Huntington Middle School, accommodating nearly 1000 middle school students in grades 6-8. Additions were made to the building in 1945, 1947, and 1949, with a 1.5 million dollar addition completed in 1964.
Geographical and Contact Information
3401 Orcutt Avenue
Newport News, Virginia