Taylor High School

Segregated Education in Jeffersonville, 1872-1954

You are standing near an old red brick building. This is what remains of Taylor High School, a remnant of the age of racial segregation in Clark County. According to the paper “Taylor High: A History Lost but Not Forgotten” in 1872, Jeffersonville, Indiana, established its first school for students of color in an abandoned building that had housed an all-white school. In 1876, four Black students entered high school, attending a fenced off section of City High School. Reportedly, when one of these students, Robert Taylor, secured the highest grade point average in his class, officials moved the students of color to a separate facility. Years later, Dr. Robert Taylor returned to the school, serving as its principal from 1886 until his death in 1926. The school was renamed for the beloved educator, many of whose family members attended the school and went on to become community leaders as well.

While many attendees loved the school and the sense of community fostered there, many reports note the hardships that segregation and racism brought to Taylor High's students and staff. According to a 1954 article in the New York Times, Taylor High School had very little to offer students: it lacked the facilities and amenities of the nearby white high school, and city officials made no pretense at treating the schools equally. Taylor graduate Flora Clipper notes that the school even lacked indoor plumbing.

Noting that students in the newly integrated Jeffersonville High School seemed to coexist peacefully, The New York Times article held the integration of Jeffersonville High School up as a model for Southern States beginning to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, effectively ruling for integration in all U.S. schools.

The editor of the local newspaper, Jeffersonville's Evening News indicated to New York Times reporters that she was opposed to school desegregation "on principle" but conceded that, in her opinion, "kids" had "made it work."

Across Indiana, African American graduation rates remained low even after integration. This was likely due to the lower wages and limited credit and insurance options offered to African American Hoosiers. According to historian Carl E. Kramer, discriminatory practices brought another economic ill to Jeffersonville's African American population as a direct result of desegregation. Rather than find positions for Taylor's African American instructors, the local schools laid them off. While the students benefited from Jeffersonville High School's better facilities, the teachers were left without employment in the wake of desegregation.