Photo Courtesy of Dr. Lisa Herring

“I am humbled and honored to be the superindaint of Atlanta Public Schools; I am grateful to be  in this role stewarding a 150 year old legacy . Standing on the shoulders of global leaders that are Atlanta Public School alumni shows the global impact of  Atlanta Public Schools. The Powerful legacy of APS can be seen across political lines, entertainment industry,  education, and businesses throughout our city. We are celebrating 150 years of excellence throughout the school year with commemoration events for 0alumni, staff, current students, and parents.” 

Dr. Lisa Herring, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent

The Atlanta Public School system was established in 1872 under Atlanta City Council. Upon opening in January 1872, Atlanta Public Schools consisted of five white-only schools–three grammar schools: Crew Street School, Ivy Street School, Walker Street School, and two high schools, Boys High and Girls High. APS also included two 1866 Freeman’s Bureau African-American grammar schools- The Summerhill School and Storr’s School. During the 1872-1873 school year, three other grammar schools for white and one other grammar school for Black students, Markham Street School, were instituted to meet demand. This first year saw 2,842 students served by the schools. By 1896 there were a total of twenty-two schools, fifteen grammar schools for white students, five grammar schools for black students, and two high schools for white students. In 1926, local Black Atlanta leaders came together to demand a high school for African American students. In September 1926, The City of Atlanta and the State of Georgia opened its first African-American High School-Booker T. Washington High School. 

“My favorite school is The Booker T. Washington because it set the stage for ALL schools in APS especially those for African American students. There would be no South Atlanta without the historic BTW.

Photo Courtesy of Atlanta Public School Board

Tilnisha P. Rosser, ℅ 1996 Booker T. Washington,APS Special Education

Thirty-seven years later, on  August 30, 1961, Thomas Franklin Welch, Madelyn Patricia Nix, Willie Jean Black, Donita Gaines, Arthur Simmons, Lawrence Jefferson, Mary James McMullen, Martha Ann Holmes, and Rosalyn Walton – became the first African American students to desegregate Atlanta Public Schools. 

Now,150 years later since the first school doors opened, Atlanta Public School and Atlanta Board of Education will welcome 54,956 students, attending a total of 103 school sites: 50 elementary schools (three of which operate on a year-round calendar), 15 middle schools, 21 high schools, four single-gender academies, and 13 charter schools. The school system also supports two alternative schools for middle and/or high school students, two community schools, and an adult learning center.

“In the next fifty years, I believe with Dr. Herring leading us, this school district will revive the faith we all once had in education. The time where educators were top priority and well respected. The time where students’ interest in learning stemmed from home and poured over into school pride and achievements. The time where leaders could customize strategies for their specific schools. The time where we pursued unity with each other and in our work environments.”

Lekeshia Walton, Crawford W. Long Middle School Staff, ℅ 2002 South Atlanta High School

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Notable Atlanta Public School Alumni 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Civil Rights Leader)

Truett Kathy (Founder of Chick-Fil-A)

Maynard Jackson (First African-American Mayor of Atlanta)

Judge Glenda Hatchett (Television Personality)

Charlayne Hunter-Gault (Civil Rights Leader and Journalist)

Johnny Isakson (United States Senator)

Louis Johnson (Tuskegee Airman)

Harrison Jones (Former President of Coca-Cola Co.)

John Portman (Prominent Architect)

Herman Russell (Construction Mogul)

Lena Horne (Dancer, Actress, Singer, and Civil rights activist)

Evander Holifeid (Former Professional Boxer)

Johnny Isakson (Former Georgia Senator)

Gladys Knight (Grammy Award-winner singer and actress)

Shanti Das (Music industry executive)

Jasmine Guy (Actress, Director, Singer and Dancer.

Cynthia Mckenny (Former Georgia State Representative)

Micheal Hollis (Founder, Atlanta Air) 

Andre Dickens (61st Mayor of Atlanta)

Killer Mike (Entertainer and Political Activist) 

Kwanza Hall ( Politician) 

CeeLo Green (Entertainer)

Odie Donald II (Chief of Staff, City of Atlanta) 

Goodie Mobb (Entertainers)

Jamal Lewis (NFL Athlete) 

Lil John (Entertainer) 

Keisha Lance Bottom (60th Mayor of Atlanta) 

Bem Joiner (Community Curator)  

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“Global Icons have walked through the halls of  Atlanta Public Schools.” Odie Donald II, Chief of Staff to Mayor Andre Dicken 

Photo Courtesy of Atlanta Public School Board

Additional Quotes:

 “Being an Alumnus of APS is without question the reason I am in my current seat- in my profession as the Chief of Staff to Mayor Andre Dickens. It is the standard for my moral compass on how I manage people , places and things in my personal life. Being a part of that rich legacy has prepared me for life. It’s a proud moment when you see 150 years for APS. To know all of the people that have matriculated through APS, are some of the most prepared people to go out into the world and do great things. Atlanta Public School is arguably the most impactful school system in the country. APS has graduated Civil Rights Leaders, lawyers, doctors, community activists, professional athletes, and multi mayors. Global Icons have walked through the halls of  Atlanta Public Schools.” Odie Donald II, Chief of Staff to Mayor Andre Dickens  

“I attended school in APS from K-12th grade and after college I decided to come back to teach in the district that taught and nurtured me for 13 years as a child and now in  my 27th year as an adult. This district recruits and retains great educators that want to make a difference in the lives of children every day.” –Dr. Yolanda K. Windham, Peyton Forest Elementary ℅ 1989 Benjamin E. Mays High School 

“Hutchinson E.S. is my all time favorite because this is the school where I started my journey as an educator.” Tamaya Jones,℅ 2018 South Atlanta H.S., Hutchinson E.S. Teacher 

“My favorite ASP school is Finch Elementary because this is where I work and Carver High School because that is where I graduated from.”Jasavior White, ℅ 2011 Carver High, Finch Elementary Staff

“The level of commitment to the communities we serve has always been great, is what makes Atlanta Public Schools and Atlanta Board of Education so special.” –Toni Ingram, ℅ 1983 Booker T. Washington High School Fickett Elementary Staff  

“ My favorite APS School is DM THERRELL HIGH SCHOOL. We were a family. The parents worked together. They helped each other out financially and academically. That is, if one parent could not make it to PTA, one from the community covered for her by going to that student’s classroom to see how he/she was progressing. We weren’t ashamed and our parents were genuinely concerned and supported. I know this first hand because my mom and my friend’s mom did just that.”Deborah Sumlin, Humphries Elementary staff, ℅ 1977 DM Therrell High School 

“ I think APS will continue to provide an enriching, balanced education to many students through all walks of life for another 100 years!”Princess Thorpe, ℅ 2001 South Atlanta High  Deerwood Staff 


This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.