History of Union Academy

Initial Development

Union Academy was the outgrowth of earlier schools dating back to J. A. Wiley’s Colored Institute in 1887, and the First Providence Missionary Baptist Church School, later known as the Brittsville School, dating to the same period. In 1893, leading African-American citizens petitioned the City of Bartow for a new school. The Odd Fellows Hall was rented as the school site, until a new building was completed in 1897. The school consisted of four large classrooms, and by August, boasted an enrollment of 120 students. Union Academy’s first day of construction was on September 14, 1897. This day marked a new era for the African-American community in Bartow. The first principal was Professor A. N. Ritchie. Union Academy in Bartow was named for the fourth African-American school in Florida, founded in 1867 by the Freedmens Bureau in Gainesville.

Enrollment continued to climb through the 1920’s forcing the addition of satellite classrooms at the Knights of Pythias Hall. In 1923, a longtime dream was fulfilled when the school added a secondary department bringing it to high school status. The first high school graduate was Lela Burkett. She became Polk County’s first graduating African-American Senior on June 4th, 1928. The old 1897 school was razed and in 1929 the high school moved to a new facility on East Wabash Street. Union Academy became a centralized elementary & high school keeping pace with the growing population.

Principal Stephens 1950

Principal Stephens 1950

In 1938, James E. Stephens became the principal. During the next thirty-one years he was the guiding light through growth, expansion, desegregation, and consolidation with the Summerlin Institute. In 1955, the high school and primary buildings were upgraded making Union Academy one of the leading schools in the state. The 1964 Civil Rights Act mandated desegregation public schools and in the fall of 1969 all high school students from Union Academy were transferred to the Summerlin Institute site and later became known as Bartow High School. During the 1970’s Union Academy was renamed Golfview Junior High School serving grade 7.

Recent History

Union Academy Magnet School was established as a Magnet School in 1991. In 2010, Union Academy started the process to become an IB-MYP, International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, school. After an intense two and one half year process, Union Academy was designated an IB-MYP school and renamed Union Academy Middle Magnet.