Historic Harlem Academy School 1871-1965

Our Leaders

The Historic Harlem Academy School grew under the leadership of the finest principals known to the Tampa Bay area.

Christina Meacham (1865-1927)

Mrs. Christina Meacham (1865-1927)

In 1914 Mrs. Meacham became the first African American principal of a Tampa school - The Harlem Academy School.  Mrs. "Tina" as she was affectionately called, taught schoolchildren for 40 years.  She spurred the growth and development of the Hillsborough County and Florida Negro Teachers Associations.  An astute businesswoman, Mrs. Tina was considered by the mid-1920s to be "one of the wealthiest Negro residents of the city."  Mrs. Meacham followed the example set by her father-in-law, Robert Meacham (1835-1902), who had been a superintendent of schools and postmaster in Monticello, Florida.  Christina Meacham was married to Robert A. Meacham, Jr.  Today, Meacham School in Tampa, Florida is named in her honor.  Thousands of children owe much of their education to Mrs. Tina.  The Meacham's lived at 602 E. Scott Street.  Robert Meacham, Jr. died in Tampa on March 23, 2913.  Christina Meacham died on November 5, 1927.

Blanche Armwood (1890-1939)

Blanche Armwood (1890-1939) was an extraordinary woman who devoted most of her life to the African American freedom struggle.  Rather than registering their daughter at a poor, segregated school, her parents, Levin & Maggie Armwood, enrolled her in St. Peter Claver Catholic School, where in 1902, she completed her studies.  In 1906 she graduated from Spellman Seminary (now Spellman College) in Atlanta, Georgia.  In addition to her service at The Harlem Academy School as Assistant Principal, she was asked by the Tampa Gas Company, in conjunction with the Hillsborough County Board of Education and the Colored Ministers, to organize an industrial arts school specializing domestic science.  She went on to organize similar institutions in Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana.  She eventually served as the first Supervisor of Negro Schools.    Under her leadership, 5 new schools were built and African American teachers' salaries were raised.  In 1934 decided to take her career in another direction and she enrolled in Howard Law School and graduated with a jurist doctorate degree.  However, she was never able to practice law because she died unexpectedly while on a speaking tour in Medford, Massachusetts on October 16, 1939.  Today, Armwood High School in Tampa, Florida is named in her honor.


Mr. Joseph Valentine Sheehy

Mr. Joseph Valentine Sheehy attended the public schools in Tampa, Florida. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree at North Carolina State, Durham, North Carolina.  He earned a Master of Arts degree at Columbia University in New York City, New York.  His professional career spanned three decades of service to the public schools of Hillsborough County, as a teacher and a principal.  He served as principal of The Harlem Academy School for five years.  Mr. Sheehy was a respectful administrator but this fact did not stop him from clashing with the system.  One day, Harlem awaited a delivery of 35 new desks and chairs. The school had raised the funds with donations from the community.  The truck arrived and workmen brought in chairs that clearly had seen better days. Joseph Sheehy stopped them.  He asked the delivery guy, 'Where are you going with those second-hand seats?  I'm sorry, but you put 'em right back on that truck and take 'em back wherever you got 'em from."  According to Mr. Sheehy's wife, Marie Sheehy (who served as a teacher at The Harlem Academy School), once her husband notice a student who did not have on any shoes.  He instructed his wife to take the little girl shopping for shoes.  He often purchased out of his pocket, clothing, shoes and whatever else Harlem students needed.

Mr. Jackson C. Longworth

Mr. Jackson C. Longworth, served as principal of The Harlem Academy School.


Mr. Ben Griffin

Mr. Ben Griffin, served as principal of The Harlem Academy School.


Mr. Lucius Mills (1909-1991)

Mr. Lucius Mills (1909-1991), served as last principal of The Harlem Academy School.