Hope Night School: 1878  - 1928


Tech Historian Rob Jolly has essays and writings that "Tech High began in 1878 as Hope Night School, a private school for boys who had been orphaned by the war between the states and the Yellow Fever epidemic".

In 2010 this website found evidence that Hope Night School was not the forerunner of Tech.  Please continue reading...



This website originally began extensive research to find printed evidence and/or information about Hope Night School that would lead to a "Tech connection".  We verified in archived newspaper articles that  the Hope Night School began in 1878 and became part of the City School District in 1892.  An 1894 Memphis Directory lists the Hope Night School on Adams, corner of Charleston, with the description "A free school for the business education of boys".  In 1898, the school was listed at the corner of Main and Poplar.  Girls were admitted to the Hope Night School in 1910.

There have also been articles and references that the Hope Night School continued to exist up to 1928, long after the Vocational High School opened in 1911 at "the castle" on Poplar and we now know that Hope Night School classes were conducted IN the Vocational High School building concurrently with the night classes OF Vocational High.  In addition, it appears that by the early 1900's Hope Night School had mainly become a school where immigrants learned English and enough history to pass citizenship tests.  But we did not find any evidence that the two schools ever merged or that there was ever a discussion about the possibility of a merger.   Hope Night School closed in 1928 simply because "it was no longer needed" since Tech's own well-attended night classes were doing the same job.

The strongest evidence that Hope Night School was not a forerunner of Tech goes back to 1911 when the new Central High School opened.  At the same time that Central was created, the Board of Education created the new Memphis Vocational School, with its own night school program.  Since Hope NS was already part of the school system, why wouldn't they simply have renamed it Hope Vocational School instead of creating a separate school?  Instead, Hope Night School continued to run its own, separate course along side "Tech", until 1928.  (See verification articles below).

Various articles about Hope Night School are reproduced below.  Two of the later articles verify that Hope Night School AND Crockett Technical existed simultaneously.


The Board of Education is mostly responsible for the legend that Tech grew out of the Hope Night School.  They published this photo of the Vocational School in their Yearly Progress Books of 1911 and identified it as "Vocational School (Home of Hope Night School)."   In their text about Hope Night School they neglected to say that it was a separate school and that the Vocational School also had it's own separate Night Classes which duplicated those of Hope Night School.

<   Click on small photos to enlarge them.   >

Below is a brief history of Hope Night School from the 1912 book "Standard History of Memphis"

In 1892 the Hope Night School was taken in as part of the Public School System.  This school has an interesting history and has been  a valuable factor in training Memphis boys.  It was conceived in the fall of 1878 by Mr. J. C. Johnson, after the terrible scourge had left so many Memphis children fatherless.  Many boys so left were forced to go to work and could not take advantage of the day schools.  Mr. Johnson pondered on means for providing for a continuation of the education of such boys, which ended in his decision to open a night school.  That took money, and knowing the impoverished condition of the city he would not solicit aid from others.  He determined to make the venture alone and fitted up a room for the purpose in a store he owned on Main Street.  After this outlay he obtained a teacher, whose salary he paid, bought books and other school-room necessities and invited the boys to come.  The came and the school grew so rapidly that larger quarters were needed before many sessions had passed.  The school was moved to the "Bethel" where four teachers were employed with Miss Smith as principal.  The record of this school was excellent year after year and some of the most influential citizens of Memphis today were once students in the Hope Night School.

When Mr. Johnson's daughter, Miss Lillian Wyckoff Johnson, returned to Memphis from school in 1887, she became a teacher in the Hope Night School.  When her father moved away from the city she was not only principal of the school but, with her father's enthusiasm for the success of the institution that had become an expensive one to run, this brave young teacher collected from Memphis merchants $1,500 every year for its maintenance till it became one of the public schools in 1892.

 - "Standard History of Memphis" by John P. Young and A. R. James   



Biography of Lillian Wyckoff Johnson

Lillian Wyckoff Johnson was born in 1864. Her family was active in education. Her father had started Hope Night School for orphan boys who would roam the streets of Memphis.  She became superintendent for Hope Night School from 1884-92.  Her mother taught Sunday School and headed a group of twenty ladies who taught the poor to sew. At age 15, Lillian attended Wellesley and later received her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. She returned to Memphis and joined the faculty of Clara Conway Institute. She taught history at Vassar for five years and then studied abroad at Sorbonne and Leipzig. In 1902 she became the first woman in the United States to get a doctorate from Cornell. She founded the West Tennesse Normal School (Now Memphis State University) and she was president of Western College for two years, 1904-1906. She resigned from her position in 1906 due to poor health.


The newspaper articles below are very interesting.
Click on the fragments to read the entire article.


Below:  1894 article about commencement at Hope Night School - and mentions there's talk about closing this school.

Below:  1895 article is about the re-opening of Hope Night School - so apparently it did close for a period.



Below:  This 1920 article verifies that Hope Night School existed simultaneously with Crockett Technical High - and that Hope Night School taught English to immigrants.

Below:  This 1921 article  verifies that Hope Night School used the Crockett Technical building and offered night classes simultaneously with Crockett Technical.



Below:  This 1900 Directory shows Hope Night School at Poplar and Main.  It changed locations every few years but was always in the downtown area.

Below:  Lillian Johnson verifies the 1928 closing of the Hope Night School in her memoirs.

"Before leaving Memphis in 1892 I persuaded the Board of Education to make the school (Hope Night School) part of the City school system and it remained so until 1928 when no longer needed".

Below:  This 1916-17 booklet published by Memphis Vocational School verifies that the Board of Education created a NEW Vocational School in 1911.

Below:  This 1911 article also verifies that the NEW Vocational School is run by the Board of Education.

Below:  This 1911 article verfies that the new Vocational School will be in the Poplar "Castle" building because there's "No other use for it" and that the new Vocational School was created to take the pressure off Central...etc.



For more archives:  http://register.shelby.tn.us/ and then click on "Ray Holt Memphis School Article Collection".












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