Douglas Anderson School of the Arts has a rich history. Originally erected in 1922, the school was named The South Jacksonville School and included grades 1-9. At the time it was the only school on the Southside serving African-American students.
Mr. Douglas Anderson, for whom the school was later named, was born on March 7, 1884 in Jacksonville and attended local public schools, completing his education in the carpentry division of Tuskegee Institute. While in Alabama he met and married Miss Ethel Stevens in 1906. They had one daughter, Mary Gwendolyn Anderson, who was born on December 31, 1908. Mr. Douglas Anderson, along with Mr. W. R. Thorpe, played an active role in spearheading the allocation of the present school site and construction of the original school buildings. Douglas Anderson’s interest in the school never ceased. He served as PTA president for many years. He was, at the time, best known for his successful and untiring efforts in acquiring free transportation for black students. For many years, he operated the only bus service for black students in Duval County. He was also a respected member and official of the Bethel Baptist Institutional Church and a leader in the Southside area. On December 18, 1936 Douglas Anderson died at the age of 52. Nine years later, in 1945 The South Jacksonville School was renamed Douglas Anderson School.
Between the years of 1955 and 1959, the grade 1-9 school expanded to become a high school, with the Fiery Dragon as its mascot. The class of 1959 became the school’s first graduating senior class. Douglas Anderson School closed in 1968 to become the San Diego Campus of Florida Junior College. In 1971, it reopened as Douglas Anderson Seventh Grade Center.
Douglas Anderson School of the Arts opened in August 1985 as an arts school which brought faculty and students together with a common bond – a love for the arts. The Douglas Anderson facilities have undergone two major renovations. The first, in 1991, provided the school with a new state-of-the-art theatre, dance studios, black-box, theatre shop, and instrumental music suite. The second major renovation was a $12.8 million construction project completed in 2002. This construction project renovated many of the school’s classroom spaces and included a new building for Film/Video, a new Vocal Music suite, rehearsal rooms, a recital hall, art gallery, and the school’s signature atrium. What began as a mandate from the Duval County School Board has in the twenty-something years since, turned a dream into a reality. Students audition for placement and the school is dedicated to training both the students who will pursue a career in the arts, as well as the student who will be committed to the support of art in the community.
Thanks to Dr. Charles H. Cline, former Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for DCPS, Jane Condon, former principal of Douglas Anderson, and Jackie Cornelius, current principal of Douglas Anderson for their research and information.