With an increasing African American population in Walnut Hills,
Rev. Dangerfield Early began a school for the children in his home
in 1858. When Walnut Hills became part of Cincinnati in 1870, the
school came under the jurisdiction of the Cincinnati Colored School
System and a new building was built in 1872. It was named Elm Street
School. In 1887, however, Ohio’s Brown-Arnett Bill called for
the phasing out of segregated schools. Some of the African American
community felt that integrated schools would lead to intense prejudice
against the children attending them and a decrease in jobs for African
American teachers. In an attempt to circumvent integration, in 1902
the name of the school was changed to Douglass Elementary School,
named for the famous writer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.
The school ostensibly was open to any child in Cincinnati, but in
reality became a magnet school for African American children. It
was hoped that in an environment where there was no racial prejudice
and an all African American faculty, the children would be able
to learn unhindered by bigotry. The school indeed became a beacon
for African American children, and many notable citizens including Wilber
A. Page, minister of Union
Baptist Church, DeHart
Hubbard, the first African American to win a gold medal in the
Olympics, and Jennie
D. Porter, a teacher at Douglass who went on to found Harriet
Beecher Stowe School attended. Despite the quality education
received by the students, there were many critics of Douglass School
and other similarly segregated schools during the early part of
the century. Wendell
P. Dabney and the NAACP
were especially vociferous in their opposition.
Part of the Douglass
School sixth grade girls class register, 1917-1918
Douglass School Records, 1917-1940,
Mss 815, Box 1, Folder 1
Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati
Nevertheless, the school continued to be a magnet for African Americans
across the city until the 1954 Brown vs the Board of Education Supreme
Court decision prompted the Cincinnati School Board to make it a district
school. The school, however, remained mostly African American since
its Walnut Hills location was primarily an African American neighborhood.
The school made a radical change in 1981 when a new building was erected.
It became an alternative learning school using the Montessori system.
The school still stands today and continues to be center for the community
To learn more about Douglass School, consult the following
Program of the Tenth Anniversary of the New Douglass School
Pamphlets q372.9 D737
A program for the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the new
Douglass School building in 1920. Includes the schedule of events,
descriptions of the school, different classes, and pictures of the
faculty and students. View catalog record
Douglass Elementary School: 107th Founders Day Celebration 1872-1979
General 372.1 F852
A souvenir program from the 107th anniversary of the first building
of the Douglass School. It includes a short history of Douglass School
and pictures of the school buildings and students throughout the years. View catalog record
School Records, 1917-1940
This collection consists of one box of material from Douglass School,
including two class registers, a souvenir program from the tenth anniversary
celebration of the new building in 1920, and two yearbooks called
"The Douglass." For More information, a collection register is available
in the Library.
Douglass School Collection
A collection of five photo prints of the faculty, students and school
buildings. View catalog record
Irvine Garland Penn Photo Collection,
This collection contains photos of the Penn and Sandipher families.
It also has photos of Douglass School faculty members. View catalog record
Sources Used for Historical Sketch:
Souvenir Program of the Tenth Anniversary
of the New Douglass School, Nov. 22, 23, 24, 1920. Pamphlets
372.9 qD737. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati
Nicholes, Walter McKinley. The Educational
Development of Blacks in Cincinnati from 1800 to the Present.
General 370.193 N61 T. Cincinnati History Library and Archives,
Cincinnati Museum Center.
Cornelius, Lindy. “Proud Past Hailed at
Douglass Dedication.” Cincinnati Post, October
12th, 1981, page 1B.
Zigli, Barbara. “Douglass Alumni Recall
Days Past.” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 26th, 1979,
Zigli, Barbara. “Douglass Not Just Another
School to City’s Blacks.” Cincinnati Enquirer,
April 26th, 1979, page B1.