John Philip Sousa Junior High School

John Philip Sousa Junior High (now Middle) School, built in 1950, stands as a symbol of the lengthy conflict over the desegregation of public schools and the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.

The John Philip Sousa Junior High School is located on the northwest corner of Ely Place and Ridge Road in a residential section of southeast Washington, D.C. Built into a low slope, the brick and glass building sets a few feet back from Ely Place and faces south to the tree-lined Fort Dupont Park. Chain link fence surrounds the L-shaped building and basketball courts extend along the entire rear side of the building. A few pine trees tower above the front and west sides of the school. Varying in height from one to five stories, the building features two distinct sections: a moderne influenced section on the east side of the building and a basic rectangular-shaped section on the west side of the building.

The school is nationally significant for its role in the U.S. Supreme Court case Bolling v. Sharpe, which was decided the same day as the four public school desegregation cases combined in Brown v. Board of Education. The case originated in September 1950, when in a move orchestrated by civil rights lawyers, Spottswood Bolling and other black children were denied enrollment in the new all-white school. While the Court’s ruling in Brown established that the states could not maintain segregated public schools, its simultaneous ruling in Bolling made such schools also unconstitutional if maintained by the federal government. Drawing moral authority from the heart of the nation’s capital, the ruling reinforced the absolute magnitude of the decisions striking down the “separate but equal” doctrine. Merrel A. Coe, architect.

Notable alumni includes Frederick D. Gregory, the first black astronaut to command a space shuttle mission.

National Register and National Historic Landmark: August 7, 2001
DC Inventory: October 23, 2008



3650 Ely Place, SE