Stephens Elementary is named for Charlotte Andrews Stephens (1853-1951), the first African-American teacher in the Little Rock School District and most likely the first African-American woman from Arkansas to attend college. The present Stephens Elementary is the third building to bear her name; it opened in 2001. The first Stephens School originally was named Highland Park. It was located at 17th and Pine streets and was built in 1909. It was annexed by the Little Rock School District from School District No. 27 in 1910. The district changed its name to Stephens Elementary sometime between 1910 and 1912. Mrs. Stephens showed her dedication to education and the community by donating land for the second incarnation of Stephens Elementary at the current 18th Street site.
The second Stephens School building, built in 1950.
Photo from LRSD archives.
At the age of 96 Charlotte Stephens attended the dedication of that school in October 1950. That building was razed in 1994 to make way for the new, modern Stephens Elementary. Students attended class at the recently closed Garland Elementary during the rebuilding phase. Several of Mrs. Stephens' descendants, including her grandchildren, attended the dedication of the newest Stephens Elementary in April 2001. Stephens Elementary is a technologically advanced school that stresses a high level of computer literacy for all students. Stephens participates in the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), an initiative of the Milken Foundation to attract, retain, motivate and develop talented teachers. TAP helps teachers become the best they can be by giving them opportunities to learn better teaching strategies and compensates them based on their performance. A valuable feature of Stephens Elementary is the adjoining Stephens Community Center that is open to the public, is operated by the City of Little Rock and offers such programs as community outreach services, a program for senior citizens, an after-school program and various classes for the benefit of the community.
Charlotte Andrews was born of slave parents. Her father, William Andrews, was brought to Little Rock by Col. Chester Ashley in 1821. He was freed in 1863 and shortly thereafter became the minister of the Negro Methodist Church at 8th and Broadway; he later opened a school for African-American children there. Charlotte began teaching at the age of 15 when, as the best student in her class at the old Union School, she was chosen to complete the term of a white teacher who had become ill. In an article from the Arkansas Gazette dated July 2, 1939, "Charlotte exhibits with pride the first annual report of the Little Rock Public Schools published in 1869 when N.P. Gates was superintendent of schools. Her name, she was then Lottie (Charlotte) E. Andrews, is included in the list of teachers." She devoted her life to the education of children, teaching for about 70 years; her only absence from the classroom was during the years 1870-73 when she attended Oberlin College in Ohio. Mrs. Stephens taught in all grades, was twice the principal of Capitol Hill School and was head of the Latin Department at the high school for 25 years. She retired in 1939 as librarian at Dunbar High School. She was 85 years old when she retired.
Stephens Elementary website: www.lrsd.org/schoolindex.cfm?sccode=41
"LR schools named for prominent people," Arkansas Democrat article by Cynthia Howell, 18 Apr 1983; page 10B.
Central Arkansas Library System, Butler Center, Arkansas Black History Online, obituary of Charlotte Stephens. If you have information about a Little Rock school or photographs that you would like to contribute to this project (we will return photographs if requested), please contact us!
Updated July 2008