Ohio’s role in the nationwide fight for school integration

When their school district refused to integrate after Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, a group of Black mothers in Southwest Ohio marched their children to the white school, demanding admission, only to be turned away every day for two years. Their activism resulted in one of the longest sustained protests of the civil rights era—one that began before and lasted longer than the Montgomery bus boycott.

The story of the Hillsboro Lincoln School Marchers is an important one in America’s fight for racial justice. For years, it went largely untold.

Many of the Lincoln School students who marched are still alive today. By sharing their story, the marchers hope to inspire other to remember their mothers and continue the work they started.

Their commitment to keeping the story of the march—and their mothers—alive reminds us of the importance of education and of how recent the civil rights movement is in our past.

Here are some staff reading and listening picks to learn more about the fight for integration in Ohio and across the country:

Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

An African American Dilemma: A History of School Integration and Civil Rights in the North by Zoë Burkholder

Why Busing Failed by Matthew Delmont 

“Early Boycotts of Segregation Schools: The Case of Springfield, Ohio, 1922-23” by August Meier and Elliot Rudwick

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

“Mothers Marching for Equality: The Two-Year Fight for Integration in Hillsboro, Ohio” by Aaron Rovan

“Marching On” by Aaron Rovan and Melvin Barnes

Sweet Land of Liberty by Thomas Sugrue 

“The Long Walk” by Sara Stankorb

“Essay B” from This American Life

“The Forgotten Mothers of Civil Rights History” from Throughline

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

“Picturing Black History: Marching Mothers” by Jessica Viñas-Nelson

Self-Taught: African American African American Education in Slavery and Freedom by Heather Andrea Williams  

“Fire of Justice: The Battle for School Desegregation in Hillsboro” by Pat Williamsen