Austin High School History
In 1870, Miss Emily Austin, a white woman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, came to Knoxville under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church to teach black children. During the Civil War she had volunteered for the less popular work of tending to wounded soldiers in a black hospital.
After teaching grade school for nine years, she realized the need for a black high school. She returned to the North and raised $6,500 among her friends and asked the Knoxville Board of Education to contribute another $2,000 to organize her high school. Being the cousin of President Rutherford B. Hayes ( 1877-1881) obviously helped her efforts.
On June 10, 1879, the Knoxville Board of Aldermen approved a resolution to accept the money from hiss Austin and to contribute another $2,000 to establish the Austin School at 327 Central Street. Students 6-18-years-old were to attend tuition-free. The building stood between Commerce and Union Avenues.