Thaddeus Stevens School

Thaddeus Stevens School was the first public school building in the District to provide facilities for African Americans considered comparable to those provided for white students.

Built in 1868, enlarged in 1885 and partially rebuilt and enlarged between 1895 and 1896, Stevens School is one of the oldest surviving elementary school buildings in the District of Columbia. Named after Pennsylvania Congressman and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, it was built originally for African American students as part of a racially segregated public school system.

Stevens School exemplifies the struggle for equal educational opportunities for African Americans in DC after emancipation. It originally served a diverse West End community composed of both recently arrived freedmen and African Americans who had been free for generations. When office towers replaced much of the residential neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s, Stevens preserved its traditional role through an innovative extended day care program for the children of its new office-worker neighborhood. Stevens’ alumni have distinguished themselves both nationally and in their communities, including historian Rayford Whittingham Logan, Colonel Campbell C. Johnson, singer Roberta Flack, radio and TV personality Ralph “Petey” Greene, and actor Robert Hooks.

Students from all wards of the city attend Stevens today, many of them the descendants of earlier Stevens students whose parents are preserving a family tradition of educational excellence in an historic setting. Stevens is located only a few blocks from the White House, and President Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy attended Stevens while her father was in office.

The design of the building reflects its evolutionary process and has not varied in any significant manner since 1896, aside from an expansion of the playground in 1931 and 1932. Although the original architect is unknown, the plans for the building and all subsequent alterations were completed under the supervision of Edward Clark, who served as Architect of the Capitol from 1865 until 1902. The alterations of 1885 and 1895-1896 were designed and carried out by the Office of the Building Inspector under Thomas B. Entwhistle.

The Stevens School was recently renovated and re-opened as the Stevens Early Learning Center. The Learning Center focuses on educating our youngest and at-risk learners, from new borns to five years old.  

DC Inventory: June 20, 1972 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
National Register: July 12, 2001



1050 21st Street, NW