My Contribution: I taught and prepared the first African American students for admittance to the high school in Harrisburg. I was the principal of North Street School, which became the Lincoln School, later renamed William Howard Day School, the school of many Eighth Ward residents.
My Legacy: I left a rich legacy through my students, including John
P. Scott and William H. Marshall. The John P. Scott Elementary School still operates in Harrisburg today in honor of one of my most distinguished students. I was politically engaged as an abolitionist and served alongside William Howard Day in the People’s League. I also left a legacy through my son, Spencer P. Irvin, Jr., an esteemed medical doctor at Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia.
About Me: “The first supervisory principal of the schools in this building was Spencer P. Irvin, a teacher of great ability. He it was who prepared the first colored pupils for the High school. Amongst the number were two prominent citizens of today, Prof. John P. Scott and Rev. William H. Marshall. So thoroughly did he do this work that their examination was one of the most brilliant ever recorded in Harrisburg of grammar schools pupils applying for admission to the High School. Mr. Irvin was determined to leave no loop-hole for invidious comparison in regard to the first colored scholars who would be brought in direct scholastic competition with the white students of the city.” — Harrisburg Patriot, 1913, J. Howard Wert.
Full Name: Spencer Potter Irvin • Birth Date: April 14, 1855 • Death Date: July 3, 1932 • Place of Birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania • Sex: Male • Race: Black (1900 Federal Census), “Mulatto” (1910 Federal Census), “Negro” (1930 Federal Census), and “Colored” (Certificate of Death) • Places of Residence: 414 South Street and 406 Cowden Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; 1157 S. 19th Street, Philadelphia. • Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resident; teacher and principal at North Street School; member of People’s League alongside William Howard Day. • Family Members: Father: Charles Irvin (Haiti). Mother: Caroline Potter (Philadelphia). Wife: M1: Ida Jones. Wife: M2: Anna Louisa Jones Irvin. Son: Spencer P. Irvin, Jr. • Education: Served as teacher and principal in Harrisburg schools. • Occupations: Teacher and principal at Lincoln School. • Church Membership: Unknown • Activism: served in People’s League • Connections: George H. Imes, William H. Marshall, and John P. Scott.