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Allen High School records

Identifier: AC-278

Scope and Contents

The Allen High School Records covers the social and education experiences of Allen High School and its alumni since the 1920s. Its emphasis is the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 1960s because the oral history interviewees and donors primarily had school ties during these decades. It provides the perspective of the principal, teachers, former students, and parents.

Materials derive from multiple sources. School-generated materials include brochures, yearbooks, music programs, and school newspapers, primarily dated in the 1950s and 1960s although a few come from 1930-1931. Newspaper and magazine articles dating from the 1930s to 2005 provide primary sources and historical overviews about Allen High.

Oral histories conducted in 2004-2006 by the Center for Appalachian Studies staff showcase the memories of Allen High School educators, parents, and alumnae, discussing their education and career at Allen High. Informants discuss the 1956 KKK cross-burning on Allen High School property after a white student began attending, school rules, dating practices, students, favorite teachers, the choir's activities, coursework, segregation and desegregation. Some also discuss their family and community histories at length. Most of the oral histories have accompanying typed transcripts. A few histories are restricted at the request of the interviewees.

Former teachers and students have also donated their personal photographs of Allen High School.


  • 1899-2008, undated


All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

No Interlibrary loan.

Access Restrictions

Some materials are restricted from public use due to confidential materials and/or at the request of the author, such as the audiovisual oral history of Winifred Wrisley of May 11, 2004, which is restricted until 2054.

The remainder of materials are open for use in the Dougherty Reading Room. An appointment for research is recommended. The Dougherty Reading Room is located on the 4th floor of Belk Library in Special Collections. The color photographs and slides in Cold Storage will require a 24-hour prior notification for items to acclimate to room temperature.

Historical Note

Upon retirement to southwestern North Carolina, Dr. and Mrs. L.M. Pease of New York established Asheville Home and Industrial School for underprivileged mountain girls in 1875. Unable to continue their plans, in 1887 the couple gave some of their property to the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to establish an elementary school for African-Americans. The school maintained its connection to the Methodist Church and in 1941, was under the supervision of the Women's Division of Christian Service of the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Teachers were employees of the Women's Division, and many were hired as US2s, which were U.S. missionaries with a two-year contract. Later it fell under the direction of the Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

The first superintendent was Alsie B. Dole, who reopened the school educating both boys and girls in a grammar school, with an industrial department for girls and women. Children attended during the day and adults attended at night. Dole helped found Berry Temple Church, which met in the school's chapel until its own building was built.

In 1888 a high school curriculum was added. When a new graded public school opened in Asheville in 1892, the school was revisioned to act as a boarding school for girls. In 1924 it became a four-year North Carolina accredited high school, and in 1940 it became a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. It was one of two high schools for black students in the 17 counties of western North Carolina to be accredited by the SACSC. Boys continued to attend until 1941 when the name was officially changed to Allen High School. By 1947, the enrollment was 135 boarding and day students. The campus consisted of three buildings with 16 college-educated staff members.

Because of its high academic standard, Allen High School sent over 50% of its graduates to colleges such as Wellesley, Vassar, and other fine institutions. Its curriculum included religion classes, foreign languages, business courses, and music. Allen High's choir had a very good reputation and traveled to several states throughout the East Coast. The choir director was Miss Winifred Wrisley, who began teaching choir and piano at Allen High in 1953.

Several Allen High graduates attained state and national recognition. In Fall 1955, Judith Genier, a white girl from Moriah Center, attended Allen High School to experience segrated education. Her presence led to a cross burning on the school grounds. In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson presented a Presidential Scholar medallion to Andrea Williams, an Allen High School graduate. Nina Simone, the famous jazz singer, and Yvonne Mims Evans, 26th District Court judge, were both graduates of Allen High School.

About one third of Allen's students originated from the Asheville area, while another third came from communities in western North Carolina. The remaining third traveled from other states and foreign countries to attend Allen.

In 1974, Allen High School closed its doors due to a decreased enrollment resulting from desegration and from the lack of funds. In all, it had graduated 1,177 students. The site became the Allen Center in the 1970s, and by 1978 the Allen (Home) High School Alumni Association was established. The association meets regularly and produces new printed materials such as programs and alumnae lists.

Chronology of Allen High School Administrators:

Superintendents: 1887-1920: Alsie B. Dole 1920-1921: Edith Mitchell 1921-1937: Louisa A. Bell 1937-1938: Clara Sykes 1938-1941: Carmen Lowry 1941-1945: Julia Titus 1945-1957: Claire Lennon 1957-1974: Ruth Walther

Principals: 1887-1920: Alsie B. Dole 1920-1921: Edith Mitchell 1921-1924: Louisa A. Bell 1924-1930: Veda Stryker 1930-1938: Carmen Lowry 1938-1967: Julia Titus 1967-1974: Ruth Walther


12 Linear Feet (19 boxes)


The Allen High School, originally named the Allen Industrial Training School, was a girls' private boarding school located in Asheville, North Carolina, which served the African-American population from 1887 to 1974. The collection includes photographs, annuals, brochures, letters, correspondence, and other miscellaneous materials relating to the Allen School and Winifred Wrisley's relationship to the school as Music Teacher and to the United Methodist Church.


The Allen High School Records consist of seven series: Series 1: Financial Records of Allen High School; Series II: Memorabilia, Photographs and Slides; Series III: School Activities; Series IV: Student Records and Alumni News; Series V: Winifred Wrisley Papers; Series VI: Restricted Items; and Series VII: Audiovisual Materials. Materials within folders are arranged chronologically as much as possible. Color photographs and slides are housed separately in Cold Storage.

Missing Title

  1. Allen Industrial Training School
  2. Allen High School
  3. Asheville (N.C.)
  4. United Methodist Church

Acquisitions Information

Winifred M. Wrisley donated this collection to the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection on June 19, 2004. The accession number is AC.2004.017. The collection was opened to the public on 2006.

Separated Materials note

Separated from this collection is a hardback book, "Six Decades of Service, 1880-1970, Ruth Esther Meeker", printed 1969. It was cataloged and placed into Special Collections stacks.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Kathryn Staley; Revised processing by Anita Elliott, September 2013. This collection was reprocessed as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The grant funded extensive processing of the backlog within the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection between 2012 and 2014.

AC.278: Allen High School Records, 1899-2008, undated
Processed by: Kathryn Staley; machine-readable finding aid created by: Kathryn Staley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository