Starting as something of an anomaly, Washington, D.C.’s Dunbar High School quickly became a beacon of hope for the African-American community during the Jim Crow era. Founded in 1870, Dunbar stood as a new standard of education, employing a stellar all-black faculty comprising numerous educators with graduate degrees. With many of its alumni going on to become pillars of the community and pilot the advancement of African-Americans, Dunbar’s success seemed boundless. However, in recent years, the institution’s failing test scores and record low numbers in reading comprehension mirror the challenges that plague many urban public schools today. In First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School (Chicago Review, $26.95), Alison Stewart, daughter of Dunbar High School graduates, draws on in-depth interviews with the school’s alumni to tell the extraordinary story of the academically elite public school, its downfall, and its current struggle to regain its excellence.