Saint Frances Academy

Saint Frances Academy is a Catholic high school in Baltimore City founded in the mid-nineteenth century by Elizabeth Lange and the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first Catholic order made up of women of African American descent. From its foundation, Saint Frances Academy played a large role in the progression of African American rights in the Baltimore area, as it gave local children the ability to receive an education, a privilege most African Americans did not have for hundreds of years. The unofficial start of the school was in early 1828, when Elizabeth Lange and Maria Balas, the first two members of the order, began teaching local African American children in their home. In the same year, Father James Hector Joubert, a local French-born priest, was looking to teach the local Haitian refugee children to read and practice religious studies, so he connected with the two women in hopes of starting an official school with the purpose of caring for and educating young African American girls.

The first school to open and operate under the order was The Oblate School for Colored Girls, founded on June 13, 1828 on St. Mary’s Court in Baltimore City. The order and school were forced to move several times, first to a rented home on George Street in Baltimore, and next to a home on Richmond Street that served as the motherhouse for the following 31 years, and by 1832, The Oblate School had its first graduating class. The Oblate School for Colored Girls was renamed Saint Frances School for Girls in 1853, an ode to St. Frances of Rome, a woman with a similar mission of religiously educating the women of her community, but the name was soon after shortened to St. Frances Academy. Following the Civil War, the school changed locations in 1871 due to the increasing enrollment demands, and ended up on East Chase Street in East Baltimore, which remains the current location for the school.

Although the school’s original purpose was to educate and care for African American girls, the school finally became co-educational in June of 1974. St. Frances Academy remains the oldest African American Catholic school still in operation in the United States, continuing to serve the black community of Baltimore. While at its foundation African Americans struggled to receive an education, the school is now one of the top ranked in the area, with one of the best football teams in the nation.



501 E Chase Street, Baltimore, MD 21202