A brief history of the Frederick Douglass School buildings

1855: Dangerfield Earley’s School Before the Civil War many African Americans settled in Cincinnati. The city had a separate system of Colored Public Schools for their children. The suburb of Walnut Hills also had a private African American school run by Dangerfield Earley, minister of the First Church founded in 1856. The Rev. Earley held[…]

Robert Gordon's Coal Yard

Robert Gordon: How History lost his Community

The previous half-dozen posts examined the way businessman Robert Gordon thrived in the growing, prosperous and culturally rich African American community in Cincinnati before, during and after the Civil War. By the time of his death Gordon was a minor celebrity; he turned up in national accounts of wealthy Blacks during reconstruction and was covered[…]

Melrose YMCA Development and Programming

In 1944, the Cincinnati and Hamilton County YMCA established the Walnut Hills branch, a Black alternative to the segregated Williams YMCA on McMillan. Initially the branch operated the existing Nash Recreation Center at Mt. Zion AME Church. Within a few years the programs had more than 1700 participants and required more space. The citywide YMCA[…]

Walnut Hills (Melrose) YMCA

With the closing of the Melrose YMCA for a remodeling that will leave most of the space in the hands of other non-profit organizations, we look back at the history of the buildings on that lot – and their occupants – as a reflection of the history of the block and the neighborhood. Known originally[…]

Major Savings and Loan

Major Savings and Loan, located primarily at Gilbert and Lincoln Avenues, was the longest-lived African American Savings and Loan in Cincinnati, operating from 1921 until 1986. Savings and Loans, earlier called Building and Loans, were the primary savings institutions for most people, and the source of most mortgage loans, during the middle half of the[…]

Dr. Loretta C. Manggrum

Loretta Cessor, born in 1896 in Gallipolis, Ohio, had African American, Irish and Native American ancestry. Her mother was a teacher who played the piano and the guitar. Loretta proved a natural pianist, playing in her Sunday School from the age of six, and in her church while still a child. At about 15 she[…]

Ida Mae Rhodes

Ida Mae Rhodes was born in 1899 and lived until 2000 – 101 years. She went to the University of Cincinnati; most records show her graduating in 1919. Yet the university bulletin for 1919-1920 shows her as a junior, and in 1920 she became the president of the first African American sorority on the campus.[…]

Donald Spencer, Douglass School teacher

Donald Spencer was born in Cincinnati in 1915. He went to public schools and graduated from Walnut Hills High School in 1932. At Walnut Hills, Donald worked to ensure that African-American students could attend the Junior-Senior Prom. He then went to the University of Cincinnati where he first graduated with a degree in Chemistry in 1936,[…]

The Great Migration

In the nineteenth century, both before and after the Civil War, most African Americans lived in the rural South. Cincinnati had a relatively high African American population for a Northern city at about 5% in the early twentieth century, and the population grew by nearly a third in the first decade of that century to[…]

Grace Smith Slade

James and Mary Smith lived in the African American settlement near the Elm Street Colored School, on Maple Street (later 2912 Park Avenue). They were within a few blocks of Dangerfield Earley’s home. In 1875 their daughter Grace was born, the second of five children in a home that “maintained the ideals of culture and[…]