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 school is nationally significant for its role in the U.S. Supreme Court case Bolling v. Sharpe, which was decided on 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.
Notable alumni include Frederick D. Gregory, the first Black astronaut to command a space shuttle mission.
DC Inventory: October 23, 2008
National Register and National Historic Landmark: August 7, 2001