William E. Higganbotham School / Dubois Academy

Higginbotham elementary was named for William E. Higginbotham, who along with William F. Malcolmson, designed over 75% of Detroit's public School buildings from 1895 until his passing in 1923. Construction on the first unit of Higginbotham School began in 1927. The school is in the Mediterranian style, made of face brick and Indiana limestone, with a Spanish tile roof.

Higginbotham opened on February 1st, 1928. Construction of wartime temporary housing in the neighborhood boosted population in the 1940's. Two additions, built in 1945 and 1948 includes a gymnasium, auditorium, and classrooms. Despite the additions, the school was still overcrowded, and by 1961 enrollment was near 1,000.

From its earilest days Higginbotham was a majority black school, which meant that it tended to receive less in funding and resources than majority white schools. Still, the school flourished, thanks to the involvement of parents who advocated for the programs their children needed.But low enrollment made the school a frequent target for consolidation, starting as early as 1971.

Exactly when Higginbotham closed isn’t clear, but by 2001 the building was being used to house Commerce High School. Commerce, a business administration program had originally been located next to Cass Technical High School until it was demolished in 1964 to make way for I-75. The program was resurrcted in 1994, was located in temporary buildings until moving into Higginbotham. Within a few years though Commerce would move again to Southwestern High School in 2004.

In 2006 the W.E.B. Dubois Preparatory Academy, a charter school began leasing Higginbotham. Dubois had a long history, being one of the first schools in Detroit to have an afro-centric cirriculum. In 1994 it became the first charter public school in the city, with 300 K-12 students. Despite praise from some parents, the school struggled academically, and was forced to cut the elementary school program in 2012, triggering a sharp decline in enrollment.

In October of 2013, DuBois Preparatory Academy unexpectadly closed its doors just six weeks into the new school year. Around 100 students were forced to quickly find new schools, leaving parents angry and frustrated. The sudden shutdown left little time to secure the building and its contents.

The University of Detroit Jesuit bought Higginbotham and an adjacent recreaction center in 2020 with plans to convert the site into an athletic campus. Work on the $7.5 million dollar project began in 2020. It’s not immediately clear if the school building will be incorporated into the project.