Sterling was one of the city’s most vital neighborhoods—it was the social and economic heart of African-American community and deeply contributed to Greenville’s history and culture. Surrounded by thriving businesses and homes, Sterling High School was the anchor of many community members as an educational and social institution. It was destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1967, leaving a hole in the community, which led some heartbroken residents to move away.
Without this vital institution, the neighborhood declined and poverty took hold. Ineffectual community organizing combined with fragmented development resulted in a blighted core with little revitalization. Additionally, residents were peripheral to the process and came to tolerate mediocrity. Though well-intentioned, these earlier efforts did not produce the systems change that is necessary to move people out of poverty. The Sterling Land Trust desires to be that change.
Although Sterling High School was destroyed, part of it survives to this day. The Sterling Hope Senior Center was built on the site of the high school. Its gym is the only remaining part of the historic building. Sterling High School will never be forgotten. Its teachers, students and staff created a vibrant community and imparted a lasting legacy to everyone who passed through its doors. Sterling and all of Greenville remember the achievements of students and teachers, who were paragons of academic and athletic excellence.
The Sterling Land Trust pays tribute to Sterling High School in its pursuit of a better future for Sterling and all of Greenville. We are called to this mission through the everlasting memories of the high school.
We are inspired by Sterling's prestigious history to embrace challenges and work toward a future that is worthy of our community members. Our community development efforts are centered around the principle that residents have the most power to change Sterling for the better.
History testifies to the power of the neighborhood and our experience indicates that Sterling residents have the power to change Sterling for the better. There is an opportunity for many different people and organizations to work with residents and be a part of Sterling's ascent.
Sterling High School's first graduating class. We hope to make them proud through our revitalization efforts.
Reverend Daniel Minus named the school after Mrs. E. R. Sterling which later became the neighborhood’s name. Rev. Minus was a son of slaves. Mrs. Sterling funded his education at Claflin University and as a symbol of his appreciation for her compassion and humanity, he named the school in her honor. Reverend Minus has a street bearing his name in the neighborhood today.
Mrs. E. R. Sterling