In 1870, the Freedmen’s School was established as the first public school for African-Americans in Brunswick. Colored Memorial High School, designed by Cloister architect Francis L. Abreu, was built adjacent to the Freedmen’s School in 1923* and named to honor African-American veterans of World War I. The Freedmen’s School was replaced by Risley High School in 1936 and served the community until 1955 when a new Risley High School was built elsewhere. It was named Risley School, for Captain Douglas Gilbert Risley, who advocated for the school as the head of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
*- The 1922 date on the building is the date the cornerstone was laid by Dr. H. R. Butler.
Savannah High School traces its origins to Chatham Academy, a school chartered in 1788. During the Great Depression, this campus was built by the Public Works Administration around the foundation of a hotel whose developers went bankrupt. It was said to be the largest public school building in the United States at the time.
The school was integrated relatively early, in 1963, by twelve African-American students. In 1997, Savannah High relocated and this campus became the Savannah Arts Academy.
Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places