National Dunbar-Abrams Foundation Inc.

The History of Dunbar-Abrams Alumni Association

The Dunbar-Abrams Alumni Association (DAA), whose headquarters is located in Bessemer, AL, is a unique organization born in 1977 out of its alumni’s devotion to its alma mater.  The Dunbar Colored High School, which was closed in 1960 as a result of desegregation laws, was left vacant for more than twenty-five years.  The Association was organized to purchase the old school building.  The group’s first meeting was held in Detroit, MI in 1978.   Officers elected were:  John Dawson, President; Juanita Bice, Vice President; Earlene Cockran, Recording Secretary; Robert Moore, Financial Secretary; Vyagles Crenshaw, Treasurer.

Members contacted fellow alumni in various states to increase membership.  Several chapters were organized between 1978 and 1986. 

The following local chapters have been incorporated into the National Chapter from 1978 to present.  Their current status is also included:

  • The DAA Chapter of Atlanta, GA - (Inactive)
  • The DAA Chapter of Greater Cleveland, OH – (Active)
  • The DAA Chapter of Akron, OH – (Inactive)
  • The DAA Chapter of Greater Detroit, MI – (Inactive)
  • The DAA Chapter of Chicago, IL – (Inactive)
  • The DAA Chapter of Los Angeles, CA – (Active)
  • The DAA Chapter of Buffalo, NY – (Active)
  • The DAA Chapter of Greater New York – (Active)
  • The DAA Chapter of Bessemer, AL – (Active)

National conventions have been held in each state. Some of the past meeting locations and host chapters are:

  • August 10-12, 1979 – Ramada Inn West, Bessemer, AL
  • August 8-10, 1980 – Hyatt Regency, Chicago, IL
  • August 6-9, 1981 – Airport Hyatt, Los Angeles, CA
  • August 11-14, 1983 – Bond Court Hotel, Cleveland, OH
  • August 9-12, 1984 – Hyatt Regency, Dearborn, MI
  • August 8-11, 1985 – Journey’s End, Bessemer, AL

During the National Convention in 1985, the name “-Abrams” was added to the Association’s current name giving its current title of Dunbar-Abrams Alumni Association. 

When the opportunity came, the Alumni Association formulated plans, collected pledges and donations and, along with monetary contributions from the City of Bessemer, initiated the purchasing process. Within eleven years, the alumni made the final payment on the property at 2715 – 6th Avenue North, Bessemer, AL.

 It was agreed that the renovations for the school would be completed in three phases.  Details of each phase were designed by an architectural firm located within the city.  The plans included space to preserve and display the school’s historical achievements; classrooms for educational programs for youth and social services for seniors; a state of the art center for community events, public meetings, sports activities and a day care center to assist young mothers as well as provide employment for community residents.

Steady progress has been made over the years. Completed renovations thus far include a beautiful, all-purpose auditorium known as the Dunbar-Abrams Community Center, a well designed and completely equipped kitchen, dining hall, computer room and classroom spaces.

The association decided to give back to the community and the city which gave DAA its start.  For some of its members, this is done at great sacrifice.  In order to provide the types of services needed for the Bessemer community, a foundation was organized to secure government funds to help subsidize projects.  The foundation is called the National Dunbar-Abrams Alumni Foundation, Inc.  The Foundation continues to attain its goal to help disadvantaged children reach academic excellence by providing access to technology and learning opportunities on a daily basis.  The Foundation also continues to restore the two story school building.

The original site is still intact with the Alumni Foundation having constructed a small dental clinic office on one corner of the property.  This is an income producing property for the Foundation and contributes to support the maintenance and upkeep of the renovated facilities in the school building.  The dental clinic is the Sarrell Dental Clinic provides free dental services to children ages 2-20.  It accepts AL Medicaid, Blue Cross, Blue Shield and all other medical and dental insurances.