The History of the M Street High School and the Perry Center


After 20 years of trying to establish a college-preparatory program for black students in the District of Columbia, M Street High School officially opens in Northwest.


The M Street High School is located on a site overlooking the busy thoroughfare of New York Avenue, just a few blocks west of North Capitol Street at 128 M Street, NW. Constructed 1890-91, the three-story brick building houses high school classes for African-American students under the dual system of public education that prevails in the city until 1954. Its function as a high school lasts only a quarter of a century.


The M Street High School building is the first high school for black students constructed from public funds. Other similar schools have already been established, but with private funding. Due to public support, M Street High School is able to offer teacher high and equal salaries, regardless of gender or race. As a result, the country’s best black educators are attracted to the position, and therefore, the school’s faculty is arguably superior to the white public schools, whose teachers are generally graduates of normal schools and teachers’ colleges. The M Street High School puts its emphasis on the academic and college-preparatory subjects, rather than focusing on vocational education for its black students.


M Street High School can no longer accommodate the demands of a growing student population, and Dunbar High School, a new prep academy for black students, is built a few blocks north.


M Street High School is used to house Cardozo High School students.


M Street High School is turned into Perry School, a junior high school.



The city’s schools are desegregated under the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. As one academic noted, “The Perry School recalls both the hardships occasioned by legislatively mandated racial segregation and the triumphs black students achieved in spite of tremendous odds.”



Urban renewal hits the community and much affordable housing and community buildings are destroyed. Community residents protest and fight for new housing. “The Northwest One Corridor” concept was created by the Urban Renewel Plan, which gave this area its name.


The Perry School serves as a shelter and food distribution center.


Community activists for affordable housing find allies in appointed Mayor Walter Washington, former director of the DC Housing Agency, and Fr. Horace McKenna, S.J., a noted social justice advocate.


The Perry School is closed. The Tyler House housing complex is built.

Marion Barry, future mayor of Washington, and civil rights activist Julius Hobson, emerge as leaders and become allies of the Northwest One Corridor.


DC contractors want to convert the Perry School into office space.

Alverta Munlyn and fellow community leaders develop a proposal for turning Perry School into a health and community service center. Seed money is provided to Sursum Codra, Inc., Center City Community Corporation (4Cs), and North Capitol Neighborhood Development (NCND).


Community members have M Street High School placed on the National Register of Historical Places.


A poverty study by DC’s Urban Institute finds Northwest 1 to be chronically poor, one of the few such areas in the city.  DC contractors want to convert the Perry School into office space.  Alverta Munlyn and fellow community leaders develop a proposal for turning Perry School into a health and community service center and to build 29 townhouses around the school.  Seed money is provided to Sursum Corda, Inc. Center City Community Corporation (4Cs), and North Capitol Neighborhood Development (NCND).


Community residents created Perry School Community Services, Inc. (PSCS). This community-initiated and controlled non-profit starts raising money to renovate the Perry School building. They will raise $5.6 million.

Perry Center, Inc. is incorporated as a 501 © (3) non-profit.


Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton helps community leaders put the financing package together for PSCS.

Children start “Pennies for Perry” campaign, raising $352.

An anonymous donor contributes $1 million to the Perry Center capital campaign.


Renovations of the Perry School begin.


PSCSC secures its first tenants: Providence Hospital Health Clinic, College Bound, and Bright Beginnings.  To further its mission, PSCS rents building space to other non-profit providers, making the Center the most comprehensive human services center in  DC.  Although each organization is automous, all collaborate in addressing problems of chronic poverty in the North Capitol area.


October 1999 Perry Community Services Center, Inc.  officially opened.



PSCSC’s co-founder, and former Board Chairwoman, Alverta Munlyn is honored with the Community Service Award at the DC Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Leadership Awards Luncheon.


The Perry School Community Services Center, Inc. addresses issues of chronic poverty in the North Capitol St. area of Washington, D.C. providing services in youth development, economic empowerment and social services.​

Perry serves as a facilitator and information center for all who share the mission of ending poverty and improving the quality of life in this service area.

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128 M Street NW, Washington DC, 20001


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