Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
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Harriet Beecher Stowe School
  Harriet Beecher Stowe School, named after Harriet Beecher Stowe, the famous Cincinnati abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was established in 1914 by Jennie D. Porter, who was also its first principal. The school was designed to give African American children the same educational experiences that white children received. Though never officially designated as a school for African Americans, it served as a beacon to the growing number of African American families emigrating from the South. This emigration swelled enrollment and in its first eight years, Stowe’s student population more than tripled. In 1914, there were 350 students and by 1922 there were 1300 students at Stowe.  

Porter founded the school on the belief that African American students were just as intelligent as white students. She believed that in order to gain their full potential, the students would have to be taught in segregated schools where they could develop themselves away from the prejudice of white students and could be taught by African American teachers. Porter made it a priority to bring in several prominent African Americans, including Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, George W. Carver and Marian Anderson, to give the children positive role models to emulate. In addition to a strong emphasis on academics, there were also vocational and agricultural programs. Porter’s belief in segregated schools, however, created much controversy in the African American community and garnered the school many critics. Many of them, including Wendell P. Dabney, editor of the Union newspaper, believed that encouraging segregated schools would reinforce and expand the practice of segregation throughout other aspects of society.

Despite these misgivings about the school, it thrived and many prominent citizens attended Stowe, among them Theodore Berry, the first African American mayor of Cincinnati, and DeHart Hubbard, the first African American to win a gold medal in the Olympics. The school closed in 1962, but the Stowe building continued to serve the community over the years as an adult education center, a school for the mentally handicapped, an office building, and as its present incarnation as a local television station.

To learn more about Harriet Beecher Stowe School, consult the following resources:

Jennie Davis Porter: A Leader of Black Education in Cincinnati
By Lesley Robinson in Perspectives in History, Vol. 4, No. 1, Fall 1988, pages 13‑18
General 905 P467
In this article, Lesley Robinson recounts Porter's struggle to achieve her own education and to educate African American children at Stowe School.   View catalog record   Request slip
Educated Pioneers: Black Women at the University of Cincinnati
By Delores Thompson and Lyle Koehler in Queen City Heritage, Vol. 43, No. 4, Winter 1985, pages 21‑28.
General f906 H673B
This article discusses how African American women worked to overcome barriers at the University of Cincinnati from 1897 to 1940. It highlights the experiences of Jennie Porter, Vera Clement, Helen Elsie Austin and Lucy Orintha Oxley.   View article (PDF)
The Educational Development of Blacks in Cincinnati from 1800 to the Present
By Walter McKinley Nicholes
Thesis 370.193 N61 T
Stowe School is placed in the larger context of the Cincinnati Public Schools in this 1977 thesis by Walter Nicholes.   View catalog record   Request slip

Sources Used for Historical Sketch:
  • Robinson, Lesley. "Jennie Davis Porter: A Leader of Black Education in Cincinnati," Perspectives in History. Vol. 14, No. 1., Fall 1988, pages 13‑18. Cincinnati History Library and Archives. Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Thompson, Delores and Lyle Koehler. "Educated Pioneers: Black Women at the University of Cincinnati," Queen City Heritage. Vol. 43, No. 4., Winter 1985, pages 21‑28, General f906 H673B, Cincinnati History Library and Archives. Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Merkel, Jayne. "Unused Schools Given a Second Term," Cincinnati Enquirer, September 10, 1983, page D3.
  • Roberson, Renee. "Cincinnati's History Remembered," Cincinnati Herald, February 19, 2000, page 2, Supplemental.
  • Webb, Bob. "Not Diploma, But Job....Students Study," Cincinnati Enquirer, April, 25, 1965, page 6A.
  • "Students at Stowe School Show How They Learn," Cincinnati Enquirer, November 21, 1963, page 28.


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This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.