Honoring Black Stories

by Rebecca Brown Asmo

When I joined Ohio Humanities as Executive Director in 2021, I began working with our team to identify untold and under-told stories that would encourage meaningful discourse among Ohioans. I was soon introduced to the story of the Lincoln School Marchers and the important role that Hillsboro, Ohio, played in the movement to desegregate America’s schools and the overall fight for Civil Rights for Black Americans. I was transfixed.

In 1954, five mothers of children attending the all-Black Lincoln School sued the Hillsboro school district for refusing to integrate, setting up the first northern test case of Brown v. Board of Education. For two years after this suit was filed, 18 mothers and 37 children marched 2.5 miles daily to the white school, only to be turned away.

In December 2021, a team from Ohio Humanities traveled to Hillsboro to meet with members of the Highland County Historical Society and a group of women who, as children, participated in the two-year long civil rights effort to integrate Hillsboro’s schools. During this meeting, we discussed how Ohio Humanities could support efforts to ensure that this story is known, embraced, and understood by every Ohioan.
Beginning in 2022, Ohio Humanities will work with Lincoln School alumni and the Highland County Historical Society to preserve and more deeply explore aspects of the Lincoln School story and the impact it had–and continues to have–on Hillsboro, Ohio, and the broader United States. We are working to update and distribute a documentary film, Lincoln School Story, which is currently on display at the Historical Society. We are also exploring other ways in which we can tell this incredible story, including a children’s book, an article in the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Magazine, and a discussion guide for the film. We are so grateful to be working with the Lincoln School alumni and marchers to share their stories and better understand how their experiences changed our country.

This month, we also join the rest of the country in celebrating Black History Month. Black Ohioans have made invaluable contributions to our state and our nation. There are countless ways to share Black stories, and we strive to highlight this crucial history in our programming throughout the year.

Here is a list of some of our recent favorite books about Black Ohio history or by Black Ohio authors:

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib

The Northern Stories of Charles W. Chesnutt edited by Charles Duncan

Beyond the River: The True Story of the Unsung Heroes of the Underground Railroad by Ann Hagedorn

Tigerland, 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing by Wil Haygood

Answering the Call: An Autobiography of the Modern Struggle to End Racial Discrimination in America by Nathaniel R. Jones

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones

Historic Black Settlements in Ohio by David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker

Home by Toni Morrison

Cobra: A Life of Baseball and Brotherhood by Dave Parker and Dave Jordan

The Turtle With An Afro by Carlotta Penn and Audy Popoola

Virginia Hamilton: America’s Storyteller (Biographies for Young Readers) by Julie Rubini

Happy Black History Month!