Wendell Phillips Academy High School
244 East Pershing Road


United States
Coordinates41°49′28″N 87°37′11″W / 41.82444°N 87.61972°W / 41.82444; -87.61972[1]
School type
Motto"The Premiere South Side School of Choice."
OpenedSeptember 4, 1904 (1904-09-04)
School districtChicago Public Schools
CEEB code141375[2]
NCES School ID170993001061[3]
PrincipalRashad J. Talley
Enrollment401 (2023–2024)[4]
Color(s)  Blue
Athletics conferenceChicago Public League
Team nameWildcats
AccreditationNorth Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Websitephillipshs.org Edit this at Wikidata

Wendell Phillips Academy High School is a public 4-year high school located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Opened in September 1904, Phillips is part of the Chicago Public Schools district and is managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership. Phillips is named for the American abolitionist Wendell Phillips.[5] Phillips is known as the first predominantly African-American high school in the City of Chicago. Phillips' building was designated a Chicago Landmark on May 7, 2003.[6]


The high school traces its history to 1875, when South Division High School was opened as the south side's first public high school. Phillips was established by Chicago Board of Education in 1900 to replace South Division, (which was located near 26th street and Wabash Avenue, about two miles from Phillips location) after community members petitioned for a new school due to the location being deemed "altogether unfit" and the need to provide a more modern building for the south side community. By 1903, the school was nearly complete and was scheduled to open in September of that year. Due to labor issues between August and December 1903, the last construction on the school was halted.[7] Construction resumed in January 1904 and was completed by May 1904. Constructed in the Classical Revival style, Phillips was designed by architect William B. Mundie.[8] Phillips opened for the 1904–1905 school year on September 4, 1904. The school was named for Wendell Phillips (1811–1884), the staunch abolitionist and advocate for Native Americans. He was one of the leading members of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

When its new Phillips campus opened in 1904, the school was still predominantly attended by the wealthy children of Chicago's south side mansions, but this soon changed. Changing demographics resulted from the Great Migration, by which millions of African Americans left the rural South for northern and midwestern industrial cities, including Chicago. By 1907, 90 black students had enrolled at Phillips.[9] Early yearbooks portray a racial mix in the student body, but by 1920 the school had become Chicago's first predominantly African American high school.[10] In 1924, the Chicago Board of Education created a junior high school within Phillips, serving seventh and eighth grades. By 1928, Phillips student population exceeded the capacity of the school building in which the district instituted the use of portable classrooms and the implementation of two half-day shifts.

In 1929, the Board of Education voted to build a new school in the Bronzeville neighborhood, naming it The New Wendell Phillips High School at 49th and Wabash Avenue due to overcrowding at Phillips. Economic conditions during the Great Depression slowed the work on the building; it was finally completed on February 4, 1935. Shortly before the completion of the new building, Phillips "mysteriously" caught fire on January 28, 1935, making it necessary for the students to move to the new school in February 1935. The new school was then named Jean Baptiste Point DuSable High School, after Chicago's first permanent non-native settler in April 1936. During the initial move to the new school, the board decided to only house sophomore, juniors and seniors in the new building due to limited space. The freshmen classes remained at the undamaged section of Phillips. A new wing was later built on the Phillips site in late–1936, serving as an elementary school after junior high schools in Chicago were discontinued in 1933.[11]

The new wing included a new assembly hall, gymnasium, swimming pool, lunchroom, and chorus and band rooms. In November 1937, several classrooms in the new wing of the school caught fire before its initial completion, repairs were later made. During the 1940s, Phillips offered courses for adults which became known as Evening School. Phillips experienced overcrowding in the elementary wing of the school which led to a 20-classroom extension being built in 1944. By the early 1960s, Phillips students attended classes in three shifts due to overcrowding; estimated 2,200 students enrolled by 1964.[citation needed] The alumni association and principal Ernestine D. Curry established the Wendell Phillips High School Hall of Fame in 1979.[12]


Below is a list of individuals that have served as principal of Wendell Phillips Academy High School since the opening of the school in 1904.

Other information

Phillips was used as the setting and shooting location for the movie Save the Last Dance, released in 2001.[13]

The Savoy Big Five

During the late 1920s, members of the school's winning basketball team were drafted by Abe Saperstein, a Chicago Park District employee,[14] to form the nucleus of a group that later became the Harlem Globetrotters.[8][10] They were initially called "The Savoy Big Five," taking their new name from Bronzeville's Savoy Ballroom.[15] Those players included Tommy Brookings, Hillery Brown, George Easter, William "Razor" Frazier, Roosevelt Hudson, Inman "Big Jack" Jackson, Lester Johnson, Byron "Fat" Long, William "Kid" Oliver, Al "Runt" Pullins, Randolph Ramsey, Ted Strong and Walter "Toots" Wright.[16][17]


Phillips is a High School Transformation and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) school and offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses as well as honors courses as part of its academic curriculum. It provides a positive learning environment through an academic curriculum promoting literacy and inquiry-based learning. AP courses are offered in U.S. history, Biology, and English. Honors courses are offered in 15 subjects. Education To Careers (ETC) programs are offered in fashion design, graphic communications, and drafting. Phillips also features a Junior Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (JAFROTC) program[18] and a health clinic to serve the needs of its students.[19] Enrollment is open to students living in its attendance area; if space is available, students outside the area may apply.

Extracurricular activities

In addition to its longstanding sports program, Phillips offers students the opportunity to participate in Student Council, Air Force (AFJROTC), a school Newspaper Club, the Book Club, the Culture Club, a Music Production Project, an Entrepreneurial Project, Junior Achievement, yearbook, and a debate Team.

Community partners

Phillips community and university partners include the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, Ada S. McKinley Educational Talent Search, City Year Chicago, Dawson Skills Center, Carnegie Learning, Field Museum, Kaplan, Center for New Horizons, and Project Strive.[19] In 2010, Phillips became a turnaround school in an effort to lower the school's one–year dropout rate of 66.8 percent.[20] The school received the Spotlight on Technology award from the Chicago Public Schools leadership technology summit in 2013.[21] The school's attendance boundary includes areas of the South Side, Chinatown, and portions of the Chicago Loop.[22]


Phillips competes in the Chicago Public League (CPL) and is a member of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). The schools sports teams are nicknamed Wildcats. Phillips athletic teams have had a history of success. The boys' basketball team won the state Class AA title in 1974–75 and city of Chicago champions in 1976. The boys' track and field team placed first in 1901–02, 1905–06, 1942–43, 1949–50, 1950–51 and 1961–62.[23]

The girls' basketball team were regional champions in 2012–13. [1] The 2014–15 Wildcats football team was the IHSA class 4A runner–up, making them the second CPS program and the first in 32 years to play in an IHSA football championship game. In the 2015–16 season, Phillips returned to the 4A finals and defeated Belleville Althoff 51–7 to become the first Chicago public league team to win a state championship in football, and for the second time in three years, they became the state champions again in 2017 in the 5A division, defeating Dunlap 33–7.

Notable alumni

Notable staff


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