In 1962, Carolina Friends School was founded to be different by design — purposefully integrated, student-oriented, and radically equal. It wasn’t easy.
While the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling had declared segregation of public schools to be unconstitutional, efforts in North Carolina were not making meaningful progress. A small group of families within the local Quaker meetings gathered with the idea for a school welcoming children of every race and economic background.
They began with early education programs operated out of the Durham and Chapel Hill Meeting Houses. As the program and its students grew, land was acquired on our current main campus, and a Lower School facility was built. Early on, our educators incorporated ideas of open classrooms, with group tables instead of desks, teachers working in teams, and mixed-age class groupings. Experiences with these collaborative spaces and teaching practices informed the construction of the Middle School building and program in the early 1970s.
The diversity mission of the school attracted the attention of the local Ku Klux Klan, who dynamited the site of the Lower School building. Despite this, the school carried on. To connect with the local Black community, a partnership was begun with nearby Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, founded in 1871 by former slaves.
A Few Co-Founders, In Their Own Words
The first diplomas were awarded to Willis “Bunk” James and Tyree Barnes, two African-American students who had been dismissed from their public high schools for participating in the civil rights movement. Those initial graduates participated in a special partner program with Guilford College. By 1975, the log cabin building was erected, and our four-year Upper School program began.
When state legislation was passed to require standardized testing in schools in 1977, Carolina Friends School educators objected to restricting curriculum and using state-mandated tests as a means of assessment. Our school applied for and was granted an exemption, but still supported seven other schools in their successful legal battle to use other methods of assessment than the state tests.
Over the years, Carolina Friends School has continued to build new opportunities for students, including the construction of our Performing Arts Center as a fitting home for our strong arts curriculum. Our aims to support a more diverse community have included early adoption of staff benefits for same-sex partners and the support for the first student-led middle school gay-straight alliance in our area, if not the state. What has not changed are our core values — our commitments to social justice, to serving the greater good, to seeing and celebrating the unique value of each individual, and to carefully stewarding our resources.
Diversity & Inclusivity
See how we are honoring our founding by being an anti-racist school.
We are both intentionally secular and deeply informed by the Quaker values of our founders.