Madison Dunbar High School "Bears"

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IN THE BEGINNING - Where Closed High Schools Consolidated To
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Madison Dunbar HS
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                         The History of Madison Dunbar High School
Madison (population 4,545) is located in southwestern Illinois about three miles north of East St. Louis. It is situated in the southwest corner of Madison County.  The banks of the Mississippi River flow about one mile southwest of Madison.  The Horseshoe Lake is located just west of town. Illinois Route 3 and Illinois Route 203 both lead you to and from Madison. The railroad lines of the Norfolk Southern, Chicago & Northwestern, and Alton Southern all travel through Madison as well. A short drive across the McKinley bridge over the Mississippi River will take you from Madison to the northeast side of St. Louis, Mo.
Dunbar High School, named after poet and orator Paul Laurence Dunbar, was a public high school established in 1891 to educate the African-American students of Madison. It is on the same line with other such schools featured on this site such as Venice Lincoln, Mound City LovejoyMounds Douglass, Cairo Sumner, and DuQuoin Lincoln, all of which competed in the Southern Illinois Conference of Colored High Schools (SICCHS).

In 1905, the school moved to a new building in the Newport neighborhood. It was in the early 1950's that the new Madison High School building was erected. In 1952, Madison Dunbar High School was closed. The students of Dunbar began attending Madison High School for their education.
The 1905 school building has since been razed.

Madison Dunbar High School Quick Facts
Year opened:                               1910-1920?
Year closed:                                1952
Consolidated to:                           Madison High School 
Madison Dunbar team nickname:   the "Bears"
Madison Dunbar team colors:        Purple & Gold
School Fight Song:                       unavailable
The sports program at Madison Dunbar definitely included basketball ( We believe that baseball and track were offered as well. School team nickname, colors, fight song, coach's names, and better team records are alll items we are seeking at this time.
The late 1940's brought some nice successes for the Madison Dunbar High School basketball team. Three District titles and a Regional Championship put the Dunbar kids on the IHSA trophy list. Unfortunately, team records for these and other great Dunbar teams are not currently available.
Donn Hornberger of the Venice Historical Society provides the following information regarding the Madison Dunbar HS basketball program:
"Dunbar won the 1946 state championship for African American schools in Illinois. This is cited by non-other than Taylor Bell in one of his many books.  Most of this information is provided by George Smith, coach and principal. 
Significant Dunbar of Madison (Newport of North Venice) players were:  Chuck Jenkins, Luther Ferrell, J D Haynes, Chuck Garrett, Frank Jenkins, Jeff Riggs and Ira Long.  All were NCAA Division I collegiate players.  These are familiar basketball names in downstate metro St. Louis area."
1942-43            SICCHS Runner-Ups
1943-44            SICCHS Runner-Ups
1944-45            SICCHS Runner-Ups 
1945-46            SICCHS State Champs!!              Coach George Smith
                        IHSA District Champions
1947-48            District Championship                 Coach John Arthur Algee, Sr.
1948-49                                                               Coach John Arthur Algee, Sr.     
1949-50            District & Regional Champions   Coach John Arthur Algee, Sr.
                        Lost in 1st Rd. of Sectional
                        to Collinsville 42 - 34
1950-51                                                               Coach John Arthur Algee, Sr.
1951-52            ILL-MO Conference Champs       Coach John Arthur Algee, Sr.


From Dan Kostencki:

"I am currently (2009) principal at Metro-East Lutheran High School in Edwardsville. I started my career in the Madison School District in 1968, I was principal at Madison High School from 1978 to 1986 and Superintendent of Schools from 1986 to 1994. In total, I spent 23 of my years in the Madison school District.

During that period of time, I became very aware of the history of Dunbar School. At the time I started teaching, the Dunbar building was still being used as a junior high school, during the early seventies, Dunbar was totally closed due to a Federal Desegregation Order, and the African American children going there were consolidated into the old junior high school which at the time was in the original Madison High School building. About 1979, a new Madison Middle School was built and the old Junior High was vacated. 

Dunbar High School ceased being a high school in 1952 when the new Madison High School was completed, the two old high schools were consolidated in the spring of 1952, and it was one of the first public high schools in our area to be integrated.

Many of the folks who taught there or attended Dunbar are deceased or I have lost touch with them. Two men who were principals there were Joshua Johnson, who upon leaving the principal's position at Dunbar worked for the Madison County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. George Wilkins, who was later elected at the State Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Johnson then worked for the State Board of Education under Dr. Wilkins, Ray Page and Michael Bakalis. An interesting note is that Josh played major league baseball in the old Negro League, and was also a Major during WWII. Mr. Wade James became principal of Dunbar after Mr. Johnson, he served as principal until the early seventies when he became Assistant Superintendent of the Madison School District."


…about the history of Madison Dunbar High School? You can contact us with your information at or send them to the address via regular mail. We are looking for a photo of the school itself or any other information that pertains to MDHS. You can reach us via real mail (USPS) at:

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6439 N. Neva St.

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