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Athens High and Industrial School was a first in the state of GA. It was the first African American Public School to offer a four-year program. The school had a full curriculum of classes usually reserved for whites when it was opened in 1916-17. The school also taught adults industrial style classes in the evening which was also progressive. Over the years, the school would undergo changes but would ultimately leave a lasting effect in the community it served.

  • Unveiling of the Marker
  • The marker itself.

Athens High and Industrial School was the first school in Georgia to offer African Americans a four-year program. The school was originally known as Reese Street School which was founded three years earlier in 1914. The name and structure change came in 1916-17 under the direction of Samuel F. Harris. The structure was quite modern for its time, as it included steam heating.


The school offered a full range of classes that were usually reserved for whites. These included literature, Latin, Greek, Chemistry, History, and Physics. The facility functioned as a high school during the day and would teach industrial classes during the evening for adults. The school would be moved in 1933 to the former site of the Knox Institute. The Know Institute was constructed in 1868 under the Freedman’s Bureau to educate freed slaves.


The school’s credit belongs to Samuel F. Harris who was the principal of AHIS from 1917 until his death in 1935. Harris would first start trying to set up an adult educational facility much earlier. When he was a professor of West Broad Street School in 1904, he tried to set up the same sort of training that would be offered at AHIS. The program failed due to lack of funds.


When Principal Harris fell ill, his Assistant Principal A.H. Burney would take his place. Mrs. Burney would leave her mark in various ways. She would continue to push Harris’s vision and cultivate students. These two would leave such a mark that later students and alumni would petition to have the school's name changed to Burney-Harris High School. This would occur after the school would move again to Dearing Extension.


The former Knox Institute building would be torn down in the 1960’s and this is the site of the marker. The school was at this site for the longest before being moved to Dearing Extension and later fully integrated in 1970. For the marker to be constructed, the Alumni spent years researching the school before submitting the application for the marker to the Georgia Historical Society.

Thomas, Frances. Koch, Mary. A Portrait of Historic Athens and Clarke County. Edition Second Edition. Wormsloe Foundation Publication Series. Athens, GA. University of Georgia Press, 2009.

Thurmond, Michael L. A Story Untold: Black Men and Women in Athens History. Edition Second. GA. Green Berry Press, 2001.

Aued, Blake. Old School Left its Mark on Many. Online Athens. August 15, 2010. Accessed October 14, 2017.