Site of George Bell's School, 3rd and D Streets NE at Massachusetts Avenue
In 1807, three former slaves, George Bell, Moses Liverpool, and Nicholas Franklin, organized D.C.'s first private school for African-American students. All three were laborers at the Navy Yard, and, ironically, all three were illiterate. To blunt possible criticism from whites, Bell advertised in the newspaper that his school would teach only free African-Americans, and would not assist any slaves to gain literacy skills, nor would they help slaves forge documents.
The D.C. public school system was established for white students in 1804, and paid for by taxes to all citizens (including free African-Americans, whose children could not benefit). Bell's School was opened in response, a private school in a small wooden building on this site. Within four years, three other private Black schools would open. But it was not until 52 years later, in 1862, that Congress would mandate that D.C. establish public schools for African-American students, also paid for by municipal taxes.