GoFundMe campaign aims to recognize important community landmark

Lincoln/R.T. Coles Alumni “Class of 1954" News Release

Contact: Contact: Ronald Walton, ronwall2926@sbcglobal.net
R.T. Coles Historical Memorial Marker Fund
P.O. Box 140592
Kansas City, MO 64111-8592

Remembering R. T. Coles School: Support effort underway to place a historical marker
at the site of important but forgotten community landmark

Kansas City, MO.--The combined classes of Lincoln/R.T. Coles Alumni “Class of 1954,” a local non-profit organization, has set a mission to place a historical marker at the site of the former school, telling the story of the long forgotten educational institution. A GoFundMe web site campaign is now launched to raise money for the project.

R.T. Coles Jr. High and Vocational School once occupied the northeast corner of 19th &Tracy in Kansas City, MO. The school was established at this location in 1906 as Lincoln High School. In 1936 a new Lincoln High School was completed at 22nd &Woodland. The Kansas City School Board would rename the older building after pioneering local educator Richard T. Coles.
Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Coles came to Kansas City in 1880 and taught at and led the Pleasant Green School (later named the Garrison School, the first public school for black students in Kansas City. Among his many accomplishments as school principal was the introduction of industrial training programs in an elementary school. He served the community for over 40 years until his passing in 1930.

From the mid-1930s through the 1950s, Coles Vocational and Junior High School was among the few schools available to African American students in the region. It offered several vocational/trade classes and certificate programs, such as machine woodworking and ceramics, metal work, beauty culture, institutional cookery, tailoring, auto mechanics, masonry and electricity. Students also enjoyed club activities for creative writing, photography, civics, and chorale. The school also served black students at nearby St. Monica’s Catholic School.

After federal school desegregation in 1954, the vocational curriculum was moved to Manual High School. Coles Junior High was closed in 1956. The building was sold in 1961 and demolished in 1965. Unfortunately, there is nothing to publicly indicate that this institution ever existed. 

“This school served the educational and vocational needs of the black community for many years,” states Ronald Walton, member of the Class of 1954. “To do away with such an important structure without an onsite marker is unforgivable. We hope this can be corrected.”

The goal for the marker project is $10,000.00. Donations are tax deductible. Contributors can donate online at https://www.gofundme.com/rt-coles-historical-school-marker. Here, major credit cards and PayPal will be accepted. Donors can also support the project by mail with a check to: R.T. Coles Historical Memorial Marker Fund, P.O. Box 140592, Kansas City, MO. 64111-8592.

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