The Hygienic School, an educational institution for Black children during the American Reconstruction era, opened its doors in 1880. Founded in Steelton, Pennsylvania, the school received its name based on its location on Hygienic Hill. The school was conceived as a way to provide a quality education for the children in the African American community and provide employment for Black teachers, who could not teach in white schools. The school first started as a night school in the basement of Steelton’s Monumental A.M.E Church, and by 1890, the number of students exceeded the space.
One of the first organized protests by Steelton’s Black population was against the discriminatory practices of the school board in 1890. During this time, the board attempted to place the Black students in an old, deteriorating hall. Blackwell and Joseph Hill organized the American Protective Association to oppose the board’s plans and demanded that appropriate classrooms be provided for the community’s Black children. A compromise was reached when someone suggested that the two rooms in the Hygienic Hill School could fulfill this purpose.
Students attended the school up through eighth grade. The Hygienic School continued to have an all-Black enrollment through the 1960’s, as the Court-mandated integration of Pennsylvania public schools was instituted. Although it was considered to be a great educational institution for the region’s African American children, The Hygienic School ultimately needed to be torn down in 1974.