A message to parents from our Dean of Student Activities
Saint Frances Academy leads urban American high schools through educational excellence and responsiveness to the needs of students and community.
Through its dignity and uniqueness, Saint Frances Academy continues the legacy of Mother Mary Lange, its foundress. Saint Frances Academy, with faith in God’s Providence, provides relevant educational programs which give all members a sense of their culture by helping students and members of our community, particularly the poor and the neglected, develop and live as respectful and responsible members of God’s family.
On June 13, 1828, thirty-five years before President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Mother Mary Lange – then Elizabeth Clarisse Lange (1784-1882), established a school to provide a “Christian education to colored children.” She recognized the need for education for African American children and opened the school in her home in the Fells Point area of the city. The school was established with the mission to teach “children of color to read the Bible” – an act that would have been tremendously difficult during the era of American slavery.
The Oblate School for Colored Girls operated for about five years at 5 St. Mary’s Court in Baltimore’s Seton Hill neighborhood, northwest of downtown Baltimore, near St. Mary’s Seminary and College (then located on North Paca Street). The following year in 1829, the school taught out of 610 George Street and then 48 Richmond Street (now West Read Street), a few blocks away. The school graduated its first class with ceremonies in 1832.
By 1853, the name was changed from the Oblate School for Colored Girls to the Saint Frances School for Colored Girls, named after St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440), and later shortened and elevated to the Saint Frances Academy. After the Civil War, the enrollment grew too large for the building. As a result, in 1871, the school moved to its current location in inner East Baltimore at 501 East Chase Street in what is now the Johnston Square neighborhood.
In June of 1974, Saint Frances Academy transitioned from an all-girls boarding and day school and by September of the same year, began operating as a co-educational institution, then named Saint Frances-Charles Hall High School, and became part of the Father Charles Hall cluster. In 1978, renovations were completed on the E. Chase Street building, with the school’s living space, converted into classrooms, and the Oblate Sisters moved their convent to Brentwood Avenue, around the corner from the school.
During the summer of 1991, the Father Charles Hall cluster was reorganized, and the high school resumed its independent status as Saint Frances Academy, the oldest continuously operating, predominantly African American Catholic High School in the United States.
Saint Frances Academy empowers urban youth with an ability to overcome obstacles in the face of hopelessness as they embrace opportunities to realize, develop, and share their potential within God’s earthly family.