Named for Joshua F. Pearl, the city's first superintendent of schools, Pearl was established in 1883 as a grammar school for Negroes and was located on old South Summer Street. It became a high school in 1897 when grades 9 thru 11 were transferred from Meigs School. In 1917, the 12th grade was added and Pearl moved to 16th Ave. No. and Grant Street. In 1936, the school moved to this location.
In 1966, the first year that the TSSAA was fully desegregated, Pearl's boys' basketball team won the state championship. Considered one of the leading Black academic high schools in America, Pearl was closed in 1983, as a result of court imposed busing. In 1986, this facility became the site of the Martin Luther King Magnet High School for Health Sciences and Engineering.