The five plaintiffs in Clemons v. Board of Education and their attorneys stand in court on Sept. 29, 1954 while on their precedent-shattering mission. Front row, left to right: Plaintiffs Elsie Steward, Roxie Clemons, Zella Cumberland and Gertrude Clemons. Back row, left to right: Attorney Russell L. Carter, plaintiff Norma Rollins and attorneys Constance Baker Motley and James H. McGee. Photo by Harvey Eugene Smith of AP

The Lincoln School Story follows a group of Black mothers in Southwest Ohio as they heroically fight for school desegregation. After Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, the Lincoln School Marchers marched with their children to the white elementary school, demanding admission—only to be turned away. They woke the next morning and marched again. And again. For over two years, they marched in what became one of the longest-sustained actions of the nation’s Civil Rights movement.

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. We’re proud to share it with you in a new documentary!

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What connections can you make between the Hillsboro march and the larger context of other social protests, past or present?

Why do you think it was important for the mothers to challenge segregation both in the courtrooms and on the streets of their local community? 

In what ways did this protest act as a model for future social action against racial inequality? In what ways might this protest inspire social change today?

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Children of Lincoln school marchers pose in present day.

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.


Eleanor Curtis Cumberland 

Mother: Imogene Curtis 

“People would come to my mother for a lot of different things, like if they were having housing discrimination or job discrimination or even problems with the courts. My mom wrote letters to prisons and lawyers and to judges on people's behalf. So I know what my mom did. With every fight, you have to have somebody leading it.” 


Joyce Clemons Kittrell 

Mother: Gertrude Clemons 

“At that time, the parents were very strict about learning. My dad always told me, ‘You do 100%. If you can do 150%, you do it.’ And so that kind of helped a lot, you know? We knew we had to do it because we'd have been right back where we were before if we didn’t—not allowed to go places and not allowed to do things.”


Myra Cumberland Phillips

Mother: Zella Mae Cumberland 

 “We've still got a long way to go, but I hope children today learn what we actually, really went through. And really, I never sat down and explained it all to my boys until after this (documentary) film came out. I didn't think they would be interested. I never did explain it to them when they were little. I just would say, ‘You better get an education.’ ” 


Teresa Williams 

Mother: Sallie Williams 

“I have often been asked, how did we get along with kids after we got into Webster School. We would tell the difference from the kids who knew about the desegregation problem in Hillsboro. Because the kids who didn’t have a problem playing with us, it wasn’t being talked about in their homes. The kids who had a problem with the Black students knew about the desegregation problem in Hillsboro.”  


Virginia Steward Harewood

Mother: Elsie Steward Young 

 “I mean, two or three months (of marching) was something. But we went for two years every day, rain or shine. I thought, ‘Why do we have to continue to do the same thing over and over when we knew they weren’t going to let us in?’ So, at 8, you can imagine what that was like.” 


Carolyn Steward Goins

Mother: Elsie Steward Young 

“(Being held back) wasn't nice. It wasn't fun at all. We already knew all that we had learned from the kitchen schools when they put us back. So we knew everything they were trying to teach us. It still bothers me. It makes me mad. But, you know, we met so many nice people. I wasn't fond of going back to school, but I enjoyed all the kids that I got acquainted with.”  


Ralph Steward

Mother: Elsie Steward Young 

“I appreciate everything my mother did, because she made it easier for the Black kids to go to school. And we've had several that have graduated college. And it all stems from what happened in '54 to '56. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, but sorry for the way that we were treated. There's so many things we were not able to do because of our skin color. And it's not right. I would hope that they wouldn't ever want to go backward. We need to continually go forward.”  

More about the film

Andrea Torrice is the filmmaker of The Lincoln School Story. She is an award-winning documentary and educational filmmaker whose work has focused on key issues facing the communities of Ohio, many of which have national relevance. Her work has been supported by Ohio Humanities, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Stephan H. Wilder Foundation, amongst others.

This project is supported, in part, by our generous conversation starters.

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