History of African American Education

History of African American Education

In Campbell County

by Theodore H Harris

(This is a condensed version of the original)

Following the Civil War, the Freedman's Bureau was extended into Kentucky.  On March 16, 1866, Campbell County joined Kenton and Boone as part of the new Ninth District of the Freedman's Bureau.  One responsibility of this new district was the implementation of an education program for the newly manumitted slaves.  In 1866 the Freedman's Bureau with assistance from the Freedmen's Aid Commission and Missionary Aid Association, opened schools throughout Kentucky. In January 1866, the Kentucky Legislature passed a law that provided that all taxes collected from African Americans be placed in a separate fund; one-half of the fund was to provide for paupers, the other half for education.

  In September 1867, the first of two Freedman Schools opened in Newport.  The enrollment consisted of 27 children-15 males and 12 females.  The school was staffed by a teacher from the Missionary Aid Association.

During this early period, most Kentucky Freemen schools were established in the local churches.  While the exact location cannot be documented, the fact remains that a school was established and continued operation in Newport. In September 1868, the larger of the two schools had a financial sponsor named Henry Graham and the teacher was Miss Mary Williams.  The enrollment was 27 as of the last day of school, ending in June 1869.  The second school opened in September 1868, but closed one month later for lack of enrollment.  By September of that year, all schools in Newport were closed due to a lack of funding and the dissolution of the Freedman's Bureau.

In July 1869, the Freeman's Bureau organized the first state-wide convention for African Americans in Louisville, for the purpose of informing them the importance of each local area taking control of their own educational needs.

In October 1870, the Newport City Council purchased the Southgate property from Thomas and Susan Dodsworth.  On February 8, 1873, Newport's African Americans held a meeting at the courthouse for the purpose of selecting delegates to represent Newport a the "Colored Educational Convention" in Louisville the following week.  The following delegates were selected:

Washington Rippleton, Chairman

Charles W M Johnson

William Lumpkins

Isaac Hewson

Burrell Beverly Lumpkins

Lawrence Toliver

Jacob Davis

Samuel Fairbush

Reuben Wright

Robert Littleton

Dennis Lightfoot

Henry Sanders

In August 1873, the Newport Board of Education authorized four schools for Newport's children.  The fourth frame house located on Southgate Street was for African American children.  In September 1873, Miss Elizabeth Hudson was appointed the first African American teacher at Southgate Street School at a salary of $35 per month.  She was a resident of Newport, living at 61 Saratoga Street.  Miss Hudson alone continued to teach at Southgate School until June 1878, when Mr. F Mackoy was appointed assistant teacher.

On June 2, 1879, the Board of Education appointed Dennis R Anderson to replace Mr. F Mackoy, who resigned his position.  Anderson would teach from June 1879 until 1890.

In 1882, the Commonwealth of Kentucky made a final decision on state-wide school funding.  From that period until 1954, the school tax would be the same on property of white and African Americans.  The Board of Education required that all teachers meet the same teacher qualifications.  Mr. Anderson took a two-day examination conducted by the Board of Education.  On June 2, 1890, he was given a teacher's certificate to teach in Newport schools.

Anderson left in 1892 and was replaced by Joseph Lee and Miss Zenobia Cox.  In 1893 the first African Americans completed the course requirements for Newport to graduate.  The ceremony was held June 26, 1893 at the Park Avenue School Hall.  Students Louisa Smith and Lavinia Ellis addressed the audience. Charles W H Johnson delivered a compelling speech.  Read his speech here.

In 1894 Louisa A Clark replaced Miss Cox.  She was responsible for the primary grades and maintained an orderly and well managed classroom. The average class size at this time was 110.  Under Professor Lee's direction, a library was established and he petitioned the Board for an additional teacher.

The second graduation class consisted on one person, Beatrice Genevieve Johnson.  The commencement exercise took place June 19, 1896 at Park Avenue Hall.

With the addition of two rooms on a second floor in 1893 and another teacher, Southgate's teachers each had three grades and the principal had the three high school grades.  In 1902, Principal Charles Horner requested extending the course requirements from three to four years so the students would have completed the same work as done by white students at Newport High School.  However, these three year courses were followed until the high school closed in 1921.

1901 Course of Study

Class of 1919

On June 5, 1921, the Board decided to send the high school students to William Grant High in Covington.  African American students did not attend high school in Newport again until 1955.  On June 27, 1955, Superintendent Anderson D Owens submitted a desegregation program to the Board.  All students would attend Newport schools beginning with the 1955-56 year, with the exception of twelfth grade being allowed to graduate at William Grant.  And all Southgate teachers would be placed in positions in other Newport Schools.

The Southgate School is today being restored as a historical building through the efforts of the Northern Kentucky African American Heritage Task Force.


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