Allen School Receives Historic Status

Founded in 1887 to educate Asheville’s Black community.

Mary Othella Burnette (Allenite, 1949), Jamie Butcher, Mary Standaert, and Ann Woodford (Allenite, 1965), invite you to save the date.

The unveiling of the NC Historic Site marker for the Allen School takes place Saturday, October 21, 2023 at 2 p.m. in front of the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office, 205 College Street in Asheville. A reception will follow at the site of the Allen School, 27 College Place, from 2-4:30 p.m. The event is hosted by Explore Asheville, located in the Allen School buildings of the 1950s.

The Allen School opened October 31, 1887.
The Allen School opened October 31, 1887.

The Allen School was founded in 1887 by Presbyterians, Quakers, and Methodists, both Black and white, to educate Asheville’s Black community.

The first class opened with three generations enrolled in its elementary school curriculum. By 1897, its mission was to provide a boarding and day school for African American females.

The Allen School was located just east of Charlotte Street at the foot of Beaucatcher Mountain, now the site of the Literacy Council and Explore Asheville. The school is little recognized, despite its historic role in educating young Black girls during the early 20th century, a time that was an educational desert for young women and, especially, Black girls.

Black, Female, College-Bound

Accredited in 1924, the integrated staff emphasized demanding college preparatory courses, professionalism, and leadership. The school closed fifty years later in 1974, just as the remnants of codified segregation were fading. During its 87 years in operation, more than 1,100 young Black women passed through its doors. Many went on to college, graduate, and professional schools.

Allen School alumnae included Black Mountain’s Mary Othella Burnette, author of Lige of the Black Walnut Tree; Tryon’s Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known to the world as the singer Nina Simone; Dr. Christine Mann Darden of Monroe, NC, a mathematician, member of NASA, and central figure of the acclaimed film Hidden Figures; and Ann Woodford, award-winning artist and author from Andrews. Johnnie Grant, publisher of The Urban News, also attended the school in the 1960s.