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Booker T. Washington High School
Booker T. Washington High School

Booker T. Washington High School Warrior Band in the Southern Heritage Classic Parade 2012

Memphis’ Booker T. Washington High School began its life in the late nineteenth century as Kortrecht High School in the former Peabody School building in South Memphis between two rail yards (the current Peabody School in Cooper-Young was built to replace the one which became Kortrecht). The principal of Kortrecht was Green Polonius Hamilton, for whom Hamilton High School is named. Hamilton was one of a number of African-Americans in Memphis calling for a new and better school building, as Kortrecht’s location in the rail yards led to considerable noise and smoke. Memphis eventually agreed to build a new school, but the city’s intent to name it the Memphis Negro Industrial High School led to city-wide complaints. Black citizens asked that the school be named for G.P. Hamilton, but the city cited a policy that forbid schools from being named for living people. Ultimately the school was named for Booker T. Washington, a Black educator who met with the approval of Southern whites for advocating industrial and agricultural education, and for counseling African-Americans in the South to refrain from attempting to vote or to agitate for equal rights. The new Booker T. Washington High School opened in 1927, and notably chose the same school colors (green and gold) and mascot (Warriors) as the white Central High School. Like Manassas, BTW produced a number of great musicians over the years (most of the original Bar-Kays were alumni). Here the BTW band and drumline march down Park Avenue in Orange Mound during the Southern Heritage Classic Parade, 9/8/12

MIAA Football: Westwood at BTW, Memphis

Memphis’ Booker T. Washington Stadium is arguably the second-oldest in the city after Crump Stadium, behind Central High School, although the latter has had a complete renovation in recent years. Much has changed in the surrounding neighborhood, including the demolition of Cleaborn Homes and Foote Homes, but crowds still turn out to support the Booker T. Washington Warriors, the oldest Black high school in Memphis. This year, BTW seems to have a decent marching band, with a first-rate drumline. Westwood, on the other hand, is a pathetic shadow of its former life, when, in the 80’s and early 90’s, it used to march over a hundred band members. Open enrollment, and outmigration from the neighborhood have devastated it. Still, the Longhorns have a small marching band that seems well-trained and which might become the foundation of a rebuilding. Only time will tell.