Built in 1930, Theodore Roosevelt High School—more commonly known as Gary Roosevelt—was one of only three high schools in Indiana constructed exclusively for African Americans. At its peak, the impressive Colonial Revival structure housed more than 3,000 students, making it one of the largest African American high schools in the Midwest.
African American education was not a high priority for most American cities in the early twentieth century. Even in non-segregated schools, Black students were largely excluded from enriching opportunities, including college prep classes and extracurricular activities.
In Gary, superintendent William Wirt’s solution was construction of a school intended to offer “separate but equal” instruction.
The school building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in December 2012.
"In the city of Gary, there’s a lot of abandoned school buildings," said Brad Miller, director of Indiana Landmarks' Northwest Field Office. "When they do become abandoned, their road to deterioration is very quick and we don’t want to see another building become an eyesore, or a public safety hazard like Horace Mann or Emerson. (Roosevelt) is extremely significant to the city."
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