Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the American Missionary Association came to Missouri to establish Freedmen's schools for African American school children. Reverend George Candee identified Warrensburg as a potential site and in January of 1865, Cynthia Ann Reed Briggs arrived in Warrensburg to establish the school.
There was some local resistance to the creation of the school, but Briggs received support from the federal Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, which was better known as the Freedman's Bureau. From 1865, when the Freedman's Bureau was founded, until 1870, when the Bureau was abolished, the Bureau established more than 9000 schools and helped educate 247,000 students. Briggs appealed to the Freedman's Bureau to support the American Missionary Association's effort to establish the school in Warrensburg.
On June 1, 1867, the American Missionary Society purchased Lot 14 in Rentch's Addition for $100.23. The purchase price included funds that African Americans in Warrensburg had contributed to the project as well as money towards the construction of the school. Unfortunately, not enough money was raised to complete the construction of the school and so the Freedman's Bureau paid the remaining $800.00 needed to finish construction.
The school was completed in August of 1867 and was named the Howard School in honor of General Oliver Otis Howard, who was the Commissioner of the Freedman's Bureau. The Freedman's Bureau retained title to the building, but the newly created Warrensburg School District oversaw the management of the school.
When the school opened, about forty-five African American students attended and by 1869, the number of students attending had risen to seventy-five, which quickly led to an overcrowded one room school. The Warrensburg School District moved some students and grades to other locations in the town, including the Snoddy building, which was located on Main Street.
The Freedman's Bureau conveyed the ownership of the Howard school to the American Missionary Association in 1869 and ten years later, in 1879, the AMA withdrew its financial support of the school and conveyed ownership to the Warrensburg School District.
When the Warrensburg School District assumed ownership of the school, it was still too small to accommodate the needs of the city's African American students. On May 21, 1888, after considerable pressure from Warrensburg's African American citizens, the Board of Education approved plans to construct a larger school, which was completed in 1888.
The new 1888 school retained its name as the Howard School and became the educational facility for African Americans in Warrensburg. The school remained primarily a grade school, but the eleventh grade was added in 1929 followed by the twelfth grade. In 1948 the Missouri State Department of Education adopted additional requirements that all students needed to meet, but in order for students at the Howard School to meet those requirements the school needed to be upgraded. Unfortunately, Warrensburg residents turned down the Warrensburg School District's request for two bond issue proposals that would have made the Howard School compliant with the new standards and the School Board voted to discontinue the high school program at the Howard School.
African American students in Warrensburg, who wanted to complete high school had to be bussed to C. C. Hubbard High School in Sedalia, which was a distance of thirty miles. The Howard School offered classes for African American students until the Brown v. Board of Education, 1954 decision resulted in the closure of the school and the integration of Warrensburg Public Schools.
Frances Morgan Harden, who moved to Warrensburg in 1939 and attended the eighth grade at the Howard School remembered:
"Felice Gaines was one of my teachers, and the Greers, Fred and Olive. Felice was very exacting. She taught sewing and candy making. She had two sewing machines for two to fourteen girls. The manual training classes were on one side: it was noisy and dusty there. We'd have sawdust in the room, when Mrs. Greer was teaching us to cook. I was quite happy about the integration of schools because we had to use outdated books from other schools. I think the teachers did the best they could, they just didn't have much to work with. We moved into the change process of desegregation without any fighting. It went smoothly."
The Warrensburg School District still owned the Howard School until 1968 when it was sold to the Jesus Saves Pentecostal Church of Warrensburg. The school served as the sanctuary for the church until they constructed a new building behind the Howard School and the school remained vacant.
On February 14, 2002, the Howard School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately the structure collapsed in 2013 and is no longer extant on the landscape.