2120 Gordon Street
Site of Leevy School
Located where C.A. Johnson High School stands today, Leevy Grammar School was constructed in 1927 for African Americans. The first such school built in northeastern Columbia, Leevy School was established after Waverly Grammar School was incorporated into the white Columbia education system, leaving some two hundred African American children with no school to attend. The new grammar school was partially funded by the Rosenwald Fund, a foundation established by Julius Rosenwald, the Chairman of the Board of Sears Roebuck and a philanthropist committed to improving education for African American children attending school in a segregated system. Rosenwald’s fund aided the construction of over 5,000 African American schools across the South during the 1920s and 1930s. Leevy School exemplified the typical Rosenwald school design, one or one-and-a-half story tall, featuring white or unpainted weatherboard siding, a front gable, and banks of large, closely set windows. (1)
The Leevy School was named for I.S. Leevy, a prominent African-American businessman in Columbia during the early and mid-twentieth century. Leevy moved to the city of Columbia in 1907 under the persuasion of the celebrated Reverend Richard Carroll, and immediately began a long career of successful entrepreneurship and civic engagement. Among some of his accomplishments were the founding of the Columbia branch of the NAACP, Booker T. Washington High School, the graduate school of South Carolina State College, and his namesake grammar school in Barhamville. Mr. Leevy was also politically active, running frequently as a candidate for Columbia City Council, the state legislature, and U.S. Congress; after initially running on the Republican ticket he switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party in the 1960s during the emergence of new Civil Rights legislation.
The Leevy School was eventually incorporated into Carver Elementary School, which was established in 1938 a few blocks south on Elmwood Avenue. The old Rosenwald school building was demolished and C.A. Johnson High School was erected on the site in 1948.
(1) Fisk University Rosewald Fund Card File Database, http://rosenwald.fisk.edu/module=search.details&set_v=aWQ9MzcxMg==&school_historic_name=kendalltown&button=Search&o=0 (September 2014).