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Richmond's African American Heritage
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Maggie L. Walker High School

Maggie Walker High School

Maggie L. Walker High School
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development


Maggie L. Walker High School has played an important role in the African American community and in secondary education in Richmond. Partially funded by Roosevelt’s Administration of Public Works, Maggie Walker was the first vocational high school built for the city’s black youth, the only high school named for a Richmonder, and the first school in Richmond to have an African American principal and faculty. The school is also a significant work of architecture.

Throughout much of the period of segregated public education, Richmond had only one high school to serve African Americans, Armstrong High School. The 1920s and 1930s were a period of rapid growth for the city’s population, and the Richmond Public School System responded by building new school facilities. One of these was the Maggie L. Walker High School.

A series of events in the 1930s prompted the creation of the new high school. In 1931, Hartshorn College, an institution of higher learning for African American women, merged with Virginia Union University. A marker on the school grounds notes this early history. The relocation of Hartshorn’s students and faculty made the 6½-acre campus available for purchase by the Richmond Public School System. In 1934, the great Richmond African American leader Maggie Lena Walker died. The school system, seeking to provide a badly needed second high school for African Americans and a memorial for Walker, purchased the Hartshorn campus in 1937.

The School Board commissioned the prominent Richmond firm of Carneal, Johnston, and Wright to design the new Art Deco style high school. Much of the funding for the school came from the Federal Administration of Public Works. In 1938, the city completed construction and opened the new school, which offered vocational training for Richmond’s black youth. Despite the fact that Maggie Walker was a segregated school for African Americans built during the “Jim Crow” era, it was a very well designed facility.

historic Maggie Walker High School

Maggie Walker High School
Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

The school is three stories with projecting wings, monumentally located on Lombardy Street. The original footprint of the building consisted of two Y’s joined at the base. The gymnasium and auditorium are on the west side of the building. Carneal and Johnston designed the three-story symmetrical wings at the north and south ends of the building and one story additions on either side of the auditorium that were part of a 1963 expansion of the high school.

Adorned with stylish Art Deco ornamentation, the building has a facing of dark red brick, dark green tile inlays, and exposed concrete. The central bays of the entry façade, the parapet of the building, and many of the windowsills are of limestone. The structure of the building is made of poured concrete, and the fenestration consists of groupings of steel windows.

Maggie L. Walker High School was an exclusively African American school until the Civil Rights era. It continued as a high school after the desegregation of public education in Richmond in 1964. Because of the slow pace of integration and the school’s location in a neighborhood of African Americans, most of its students continued to be African American until 1979, when it ceased operating as a comprehensive high school. In 2002, after a major renovation, the building became the home of the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, a regional school for gifted children.

Plan your visit
Maggie L. Walker High School is located at 1000 N. Lombardy St. The school has restricted access.  To arrange a visit, call 804-354-6800.  For information about the school, see the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies website.
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