The historic Monroe Street School site in Salisbury, currently named the S.E. Duncan Education Center, has been vacant for approximately 15 years. Part of a new grant awarded to Livingstone College will repurpose the building. Photo courtesy of Livingstone College

Livingstone College has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service to preserve its historic Monroe Street School property in Salisbury. 

The award is part of $14 million in African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund grants to preserve sites and history related to the African-American struggle for equality in the 20th century. The National Park Service will administer the grants that will finance 51 projects across 20 states and the District of Columbia.

Livingstone’s grant will be used to stabilize deterioration, preserve the structure and repurpose the building, says Carolyn Duncan, the school’s director of grants, student scholarships and special projects. In 2003, the property met the historic designation for both education and ethnic heritage and was designated a historical site by the National Park Service.

Monroe Street School was built in 1923 across from Livingstone College and served as Salisbury’s first public high school for Black students. According to the National Register of Historic Places, it was originally named J. C. Price High School in honor of the college’s first president. The name was changed to Monroe Street School in 1931. 

A larger facility built on Bank Street became J.C. Price High School and the former school on Monroe Street served as a public school in some capacity until the 1980s when it was sold to Livingstone. The building, last used as the West End Head Start Center and Livingstone’s education department, has been vacant for nearly 15 years due to unabated asbestos.

Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins Sr. said preserving the Monroe Street School is the next logical step for the historic property.

“The significance of the history of the building, the architectural design, and the physical location in the West End community is a visual reminder of the history and the progress of the city in race relations and the cultural significance of the African-American contributions to the city,” he said. 

Other Carolina grantees include:

  • Johnson C. Smith University for “A Virtual Sense of Place: Critical Black Urbanism in Charlotte, NC” ($35,000)
  • NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources for a research study about the untold stories of the struggle for civil rights in northeastern North Carolina ($50,000) and rehabilitation of the Benbury-Frinks House ($241,940)
  • National Mary Potter Club, Inc. for the rehabilitation of the Mary Potter School shop building 76-C ($500,000)
  • Allen University for its project about John Henry McCray and the role of Black press in the Civil Rights Movement ($43,897)
  • Benedict College for its Starks Center rehabilitation project ($500,000)
  • University of South Carolina for the preservation of the Booker T. Washington High School auditorium ($500,000)

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  1. This is the best possible ever news that I have heard this week as the world conttinues to struggle with war and COVID 19. My mom the late Jimmie L. Tabor Steele along with Dr. Bill Tabor and so many other family members of mine on both sides of my family/heritage in both Georgia and NC attended LC as well as myself. As a retired educator I am more than pleased at this outcome. I did my student teaching at SE Duncan School and my mom did hers at Paul Lawrence High School in East Spencer,NC. Like my mom I have always valued education,healthcare and history. She would have been very pleased wih this as well.

    And finally my dad who was the late AR Steele graduated from JC Price High School in 1942,attended and was drafted in the Army to serve in WWII along with many alumni from both the origional Monroe Street school (JC Price HS was constructed during the early days of the Great Depression and Great Migration in the South i.e. people of color seeking better opportunities along with better housing options) would have been quietly pleased as well.

    They both had a sucessful life with a business(Steele’s EXXON) and also my mom’s career as a educator/school librarian in rural Davie County,NC. We still have too many historical structures to save but this grant is a blessing to West Monroe Street,Livingstone College and the communities of color in Salisbury/ Rowan. LJ Steele,MA Retired Educator