The Charles Sumner School in Washington, D.C., named after U.S. Senator Charles Sumner, dates back to 1872. It was designed by Adolph Cluss, a German-born architect who was also known for his work on other significant schools and museums in the city. The school was one of the first to accommodate the Black community in the nation—and it was the first of its kind in D.C. However, it ultimately was to be a place where all who sought an education were welcome.

Massachusetts-born Senator Charles Sumner was a leader in fighting slavery and a contributor to the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau. As a member of the Radical Republicans group at the time, he strongly supported equal treatment of black citizens and freedmen and wanted to greatly reduce Confederate power. Expectedly so, he was met with strong opposition as well; he was not afraid to express his ideas, being a great orator, and he was once nearly beaten to death by a Democrat Congressman, Preston Brooks, in retaliation.

The Charles Sumner School hosted both elementary school and high school classes at the time; the high school eventually separated to become Dunbar High School, one of the most esteemed high schools for African Americans in D.C. Unfortunately, by the 1980s, the school had begun to deteriorate. Richard Hurlbut, a historian who worked for the Board of Education, sought support and managed to raise $5 million to restore the building.

Today, the school is a museum—called the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives—of which Hurlbut was a curator until his death. Along with the museum are reading and meeting rooms and the District of Columbia Public School Archives.