The Sterling community in Greenville, South Carolina, owes its name to the former center of its community, Sterling High School, the first black public high school in Greenville County. Sterling High School was founded in the late 1800s by Rev. Daniel Minus, the son of slaves from Colleton County, South Carolina. Rev. Minus was brought to Greenville to build both a church and a school. Rev. Minus set to work fundraising and naming trustees of the school. One of these trustees, Thomas F. Parker, made the largest donation to the school and bought several acres of land around it. He divided these acres into lots and streets and sold them only to African-Americans, giving them 5-10 years to pay for their lots. This led to the creation of an all black neighborhood surrounding the high school.
When it was time to name the school, Rev. Minus decided to name it after a Caucasian woman named Mrs. E.R. Sterling, a philanthropist, who was involved in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape to freedom. She funded the education for Rev. Minus, paying his way to Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC. Rev. Minus said, "Mrs. Sterling was a great woman, and she deserved all of the honor we could bestow upon her. For it will take eternity to tell the good she has accomplished for the uplift and elevation of suffering humanity."
Over the decades, Sterling High School became a nationally renowned institution. Many professionals, athletes, leaders, and change makers graduated from its halls including Rev. Jesse Jackson and Thomas Kerns, the first African-American Superintendent of Greenville County Schools. Many Sterling students also thrust Greenville into the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.
Tragically, a suspicious fire destroyed Sterling High School in 1967 during a student dance to raise money for Homecoming. Its loss had a profound, unfortunate impact on the community. The community tried for years to have the school rebuilt, but with the integration of schools in 1970, the project was abandoned.
After the fire, the community began a steady spiral downwards that negatively impacted resident health, local infrastructure, and business. For the past 40 years, the community has faced gentrification, poverty, high crime, poor infrastructure, isolation, and poor health. That's where the Healthy Communities project comes in.