Carlisle Public Schools: Segregation to Integration

Students of the Colored Select School at Saint Patricks
Prof. Charles E. Johnson, James G. Young, Clara Johnson, and Alice B. Butcher

Top: Students of the Colored Select School at Saint Patricks;

Bottom: Taken from the 1910 Directory teachers Prof. Charles E. Johnson, James G. Young, Clara Johnson, and Alice B. Butcher.4

A pamphlet entitled “Milestones of Carlisle Schools 1836-1986” was issued for the sesquicentennial of the school district's founding. It includes the following information:

  • 1836—First schools opened with about 800 pupils in 15 schools
  • 1865—Night school for blacks over 14 years of age opened
  • 1879-80—High school for black students opened. First two students graduated June, 1882
  • 1919-20—Carlisle High and Carlisle Colored High Schools integrated
  • 1948-49—Racial segregation of elementary school pupils ended

Charitable groups provided educational opportunities for African Americans even before public schools were formed. The Ladies Benevolent Society began classes for African American students in the basement of Bethel AME Church on East Pomfret Street with Miss Sarah Bell as their teacher. In the early years, she taught students to read and to sew. She also gave instruction in the Westminster Catechism. When classes were moved, she continued to teach in the segregated public schools for nearly 20 years.1

In 1906, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament began teaching at the “Colored Select School” at St. Patrick's Church across the street from Bethel AME. Religious instruction was not part of the curriculum; the Sisters focused on elementary and secondary education with a sewing class for African American adults on Saturdays.2

Alice B. Butcher's life story reflects the history of education in Carlisle and the importance of education to many African American families. Born in Carlisle, she was the daughter of John J. and Charlotte Roy Butcher. Her parents had been enslaved in the Winchester, Virginia area before gaining their freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation. They settled in Carlisle in late 1863. On the 1880 Federal Census, they are both listed as unable to read or write, but they stressed the value of education for all fourteen of their children. Alice Butcher was a graduate of Carlisle High School and of the Dickinson College Preparatory School. She taught for 43 years in Carlisle's elementary schools so she had experience as a student in the segregated schools and as a teacher in both the segregated and the integrated elementary school system.3

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References (Sources Available at CCHS in bold)

1 Annie B. Hantch, “History of the Public Schools of Carlisle”, a paper read before the Hamilton Library Historical Association, February 19, 1909.

2 “A Saint in the Making”, Central PA Magazine, May, 2000.

3 Obituaries in The Evening Sentinel, Carlisle, PA: John J. Butcher, March 13, 1919, Charlotte Butcher, September 8, 1941 and Alice Butcher, October 2, 1963.

4 Professor Charles E. Johnson was the principal of the black school in Carlisle. He was a graduate of Shippensburg High School and the Cumberland Valley Normal School. In 1910, he had had two years of practical work and was giving splendid satisfaction.

James G. Young was a native of Carlisle and a graduate of the Carlisle High School and the Shippensburg Normal School; he was teaching in Carlisle in 1910. In 1905, he was the first African American to play football at Cumberland Valley Normal School (Shippensburg University).

Clara M. Johnson was a graduate of the Shippensburg Normal School and a teacher in Carlisle in 1910.

Alice B. Butcher was a graduate of Carlisle High School and Dickinson Preparatory School and taught in Carlisle in 1910.

5 Additional Resources used in the talk "From Slavery to Integration" a presentation by Sandy Mader avaliable to watch at:

Alosi, John, “Slavery in Post-Revolutionary Cumberland County, 1780-1810”, A Thesis Submitted to the Shippensburg University History Department, 1994.

Bell, Janet, “Corporal Jesse G. Thompson G.A.R. Post 440” Cumberland County History, Volume Thirty, 2013.

Bell, Janet, Lincoln Cemetery: The Story Down Under 1884-1905.

Bland, John P., “Select Brotherhoods: The Shippensburg Black and White Freemasons, 1858-1919”, Cumberland County History, 21:2 (Winter, 2004).

Burg, Steven B., “Shippensburg's Locust Grove Cemetery: A Window on Two Centuries of Cumberland County's African-American History”, Cumberland County History, Volume Twenty-six, 2009.

Burg, Steven B., editor, Black History of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: 1860-1936, Shippensburg University Press, 2005.

Cress, Joseph, “Bridging communities”, The Sentinel, Carlisle, PA, February 24, 2014.

Dahlen, Richard L., “Harrisburg's Civil War Patriot and Union: Its Conciliatory Viewpoint Collapses”, Cumberland County History, 15:2 (Winter, 1998).

Garrett, Peggy, “Forty-three Baltimore Street”, Cumberland County History, 13:2 (Winter, 1996).

Garrett, Margaret D., “The Public and Private in Writing History”, Cumberland County History, 16:2 (Winter, 1999).

Hantch, Annie B., “History of the Public Schools of Carlisle”, a paper read before the Hamilton Library Historical Association, February 19, 1909.

Hodge, Ruth, “Guide to African American Resources at the Pennsylvania State Archives”, 2000.

Houpt-Varner, Lindsay, “Cumberland County Slave Cases”, Cumberland County History, Volume Twenty-seven, 2010.

Huffman, Peggy, “Slaves and Slaveholders in Cumberland County: A Study of Original Documents at CCHS, 2006.

Jirard, Stephanie, “U.S. Colored Troops from Cumberland County Buried in Union Cemetery, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Cumberland County History, Volume Twenty-eight, 2011.

Meehan, Susan, “An Introduction of Thompson-McGowan Collection”, Cumberland County History, 21:2 (Winter, 2004).

Miller, Dan, “Blacks have long local history”, The Sentinel, Carlisle, PA, March 19, 2001.

Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory, Jas. H. W. Howard & Son, Publishers, Harrisburg, PA., 1910.

Rhoads, Elizabeth, “The Odd Fellows in Carlisle”, Cumberland County History, 12:1&2 (Summer/Winter, 2005).

Slotten, Martha C., “The McClintock Slave Riot of 1847”, Cumberland County History, 17:1, (Summer, 2000).

Slotten, Martha, From St. James Square to Tannery Row (Friends of the Bosler Free Library, 1982).

Smith, David L., “Frederick Douglass in Carlisle”, Cumberland County History, 12:1&2 (Summer/Winter, 2005).

Strausbaugh, David, “Mary E. Brown vs. Carlisle School Board: A Study of Colored Education in the Carlisle School District”, a paper written for the History Department of Dickinson College, 1985.

Taylor, Janet, African Americans in Perry County 1820-1925, The Perry Historians, 2011.

Trotter, Joe W. and Eric Ledell Smith, editors, African Americans in Pennsylvania: Shifting Historical Perspectives, Penn State University Press, 1997.

Vale, Thomas E., The Public Schools of Carlisle, Pa.: A Century of Progress, Hamilton Library Association, 1935.

Williams, Rachel L. Jones, “Reviving—and Revisiting—the Reputation of Ralph Elwood Brock”, Pennsylvania Heritage, Fall, 2007.