Historic Markers Across Alabama

Sheffield Colored School/Sterling High School

Marker ID: AHA 
Location: E. 19th Street, Sheffield, AL
County: Colbert
Coordinates: N 34° 45.209    W 087° 41.58
  34.75348333    -87.693
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: None


Side 1
Public education for Sheffield's black children began in 1889 in a frame building at E. 20th St. and S. Atlanta Ave. with Henry Hopkins as teacher. Professor Benjamin J. Sterling (1847-1941), a former slave, became principal in 1896 and continued to teach until 1936. Sheffield Colored High School began in 1920 with 13 students. Grammar and high school classes were taught in the frame building and in several churches. In 1921, P.B. Swoopes and Marion C. McDaniel became the first high school graduates. By then the old building was dilapidated and overcrowded. Supporters of the school donated land on E. 19th St. and the Sheffield Board of Education erected a modern brick building in 1923 at a cost of $20,227.50 to house all 12 grades. The architect was D.L. Sigmon and the contractor was the Florence Lumber Co.

Side 2
Sheffield Colored School was renamed Sterling High School in 1942 in memory of the late Benjamin Sterling. The Board of Trustees worked diligently with school officials to obtain equipment and qualified teachers to make Sterling an accredited school. Land for an athletic field and playground was acquired in 1946. A gymnasium and dining room were added in 1950, and the entire building was renovated when grades 1-6 moved to a new school in 1959. Rev. Richard A. Stewart served as principal, 1944-1968. The Sterling band greeted President John F. Kennedy as he arrived at TVA in 1963. Sterling closed in 1968 under federal court orders and its 225 pupils and 12 teachers were absorbed into Sheffield Junior and Senior High Schools. The vacant building was razed in 1978 and 19th St. was renamed Sterling Blvd.

Sponsored by City of Sheffield, Sterling Alumni,
and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation

End of Sheffield Colored School/Sterling High School