Reconstruction presented a brief, brilliant decade of tremendous progress and optimism for the four million African American citizens of the US. Cincinnati’s Colored John I. Gaines High School and its Normal School for training teachers, under the leadership of Black Walnut Hills resident Peter Clark, made significant contributions to the creation of new schools for the new freedmen of the South. The report of the Colored School Board opened at the end of the Civil War with the proud statement:
“The year 1864-5 is more fruitful with interest to the colored American citizen than any other. since the formation of this government. The long-desired object has been obtained – the emancipation from human slavery of the poor bondmen – it has come though, through fire and sword, and bloodshed, it has come, and our duty to them comes with their freedom.
“Are we prepared to extend to them the helping hand of education in its broadest sense?
“I am proud to say to some extent we are. Ohio has furnished a great many teachers for the freedmen. On their banners are indelibly Inscribed, St. Louis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and New Orleans. Notwithstanding the many disadvantages the colored American citizen of Cincinnati labors under on account of poverty and the withholding from them of their natural rights, many persons have been qualified for the responsible position of public educators. No less than twelve or fourteen, to a more or less degree, have been prepared in Cincinnati, and all of them obtained their certificates here within the last few years.”
Winslow Homer’s painting Sunday Morning in Virginia at the Cincinnati Art Museum in neighboring Eden Park became the most famous depiction of teaching freed children to learn to read during Reconstruction.