Growing Lincoln School Film

To better understand a period of American history that is often forgotten, Ohio Humanities is working with National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) partner, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). For a 2015 video on Lincoln School segregation, the organization’s staff and other participants gathered information from Hillsboro during the last weekend of June. On Thursday, Sept. 8, a group of people representing Hillsboro as well as other supporters and community members will see the updated version of the video at the Highland County History Museum in Columbus.

There was just one quality elementary school for African-Americans within walking distance of Washington and Webster primary schools in Hillsboro in 1954. Despite the 1954 major Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case, segregation continued in Hillsboro, despite the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision. Parents of Lincoln School students made daily treks to Webster Elementary with their children from nearby Black areas between 1954 and 1956. They were dubbed the “Marching Mothers” for a reason.

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The protest culminated in the first federal court lawsuit in Ohio opposing school integration under the direction of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Clemons vs. Board of Education of Hillsboro, Ohio. There had been no previous successful integration cases in Ohio before this one, thanks to the moms’ advocacy.

Some of the Hillsboro area women that were interviewed for the expansion of the film about the Lincoln School story
Some of the Hillsboro area women that were interviewed for the expansion of the film about the Lincoln School story

Melvin Barnes Jr., Ph.D., a program officer with Ohio Humanities, says that “the Lincoln School story is really important because it’s these really early elements of what a lot of people think of as that traditional civil rights struggle that begins with Brown versus the Board of Education or even the Montgomery bus boycott,” but “what we’re seeing in Lincoln School story is people really at the forefront of that explanation of the movement.” For the country as a whole, the parents and their organization in 1954 are sorts of lighting the route.”

Rebeca Brown Asmo, executive director of Ohio Humanities, said the organization is also working with a publisher of children’s books and developing a discussion guide for the video itself. In order to make the film available to community groups for viewing and discussion, she added, “We’re putting together a discussion guide.” The film will be made available on the internet via Ohio Humanities. With our labor, we’ll be able to provide free and digital access to the movie for everyone, says Asmo. Smithsonian Magazine will run an article on the Lincoln School narrative, which Ohio Humanities hopes to publish as well.

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According to Asmo, there are a variety of reasons why the Lincoln School story is so important. This is a rare example of a long-term endeavor spearheaded by a woman, and it’s essential to remember that these kinds of women-led efforts do exist. They’re just a little less well-known. She noted that the revised video will focus on the Lincoln School story’s significance outside the town of Hillsboro. That is why we’re hiring two or three historians to help us put this narrative in a national historical context,” she said.

In Barnes’ words, “It’s really a narrative about the love that moms express for these children and the stuff that they are ready to do to ensure that they get a quality education, and so not just with their own kids, but for children who are going down the line.”

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