The other day I was looking through my family history files and came across some pages I had copied from the Washington DC’s Dunbar High 1951 yearbook. I had found the yearbook at my uncle’s house a few years ago. It belonged to his brother and my uncle, Harlan. Harlan Woodfork was second to the youngest child of my grandparents Sylvester and Ethel Woodfork. I never met Uncle Harlan; he died when he was 19 from congestive heart failure. He was about to start his sophomore year at Hamilton College in New York.
From the yearbook I learned Uncle Harlan was a member of the football team, the Rex Club (Senior Boys’ Choir), captain in the Dunbar High School Cadet Corps and aspired to be a lawyer. The yearbook contained a brief history of the school’s Cadet Corps along with several pictures, as well as, an article about the armory that was written by my uncle.
After reading the information I became interested in the Washington High School Cadet Corps and decided to do a little research….
The Cadets Corps – a precursor of the Junior ROTC – consisted of male high school students. The purpose of the corps was to teach them disciple and leadership. Like most of America at that time, the Cadets Corps were segregated. In 1882, two companies of High School Cadets where organized for white high schools. The first competitive drill for white students was held in 1888. The first colored high school cadets were organized in 1888 at M Street High (which would later become Dunbar High School) by Christian Fleetwood.
Cadet Corps were a great source of school and community pride. They marched in parades, including presidential inaugural parades, escorted dignitaries and participated in drills. Being in the high school Cadet Corp was a family tradition for many households. One of the highest honors was to be commissioned as an officer as a senior. In addition to being in command, an officer wore a saber (instead of carrying a heavy rifle) and enjoyed increased popularity.
The annual drill competition at Griffith stadium was a major event for the entire community. Every cadet company participated in the drill. The cadet corps was removed from the high school curriculum in the late 1960’s
Courtesy: Midwestern Femm