Walnut Hills and the Great Migration

Our November, 2020, virtual meeting featured research by Geoff Sutton on how Cincinnati and our neighborhood responded to the immigration of African Americans from the South in the early part of the 20th century. The meeting features paintings by Jacob Lawrence as well as photos from around here. Check it out!

Black Baseball in Walnut Hills (Fall, 2020)

This project includes banners hung around the neighborhood, a walking tour, and collected links to research about baseball in our community.

Research on the Black Business District:

The streets around Lincoln and Gilbert were a center for Black-owned businesses. This lively area formed the backdrop for many memories of people growing up in Walnut Hills in the early to mid 20th Century. When MLK was built in the 1980’s, one effect was to cut the district off from traffic, harming local businesses. Other changes in the 1980’s and ’90’s also caused many of the businesses to close or move. Our project is to recover the business history of this area.

Collaboration with Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts:

Brynn Thomas teaches a UC/CCP course in African-American History. One day a week, she has her students work on research identified by the WHHS.

  • In 2019-2020 & 2021-2022 school year, the students worked on the 1900 Census and Sanborn Insurance Maps from 1904, to compile a database of the heart of the Black neighborhood in Walnut Hills. We have been able to use that work to present maps and do further research on this area at the turn of the 20th century.
  • In 2018-19 school year, students¬† worked on two projects.
    • They began a digital index of Wendell Dabney’s Colored Citizens of Cincinnati — a rich though unorganized source for Black History into the early 20th Century.
    • The students also interviewed Kathryne Gardette and logged that recording, as part of our oral history project.
  • In the 2017-18 school year, students worked on three projects:
    • They documented addresses of businesses using the Green Books and Williams City Directories. That database allows us to map businesses and visualize the Business District at different points in time. The Green Book data is summarized in map form and preliminary results are available.
    • The African-American History class also documented addresses on various streets in Walnut Hills, using the Williams City Directories: 1925, 1930, 1935 and 1940.¬†These results have also been mapped and we are starting the more detailed analysis.
    • The class also completed¬†research projects on topics suggested by their work on Walnut Hills businesses. These papers are available here.

Ads about Black Businesses

Another part of the research supports an art project on Lincoln Avenue. We have researched advertisements of black-owned businesses to be used by the artist as a basis for murals. The density and distribution of the Black Business District can be seen from the map of these ads. A slideshow of the ads shows the range of businesses.

Oral Histories:

Some of our neighbors have lived and worked in Walnut Hills for a lifetime. We want to capture their memories so that our children can have a connection to the people who made their neighborhood such a rich, diverse place to live.

Collaboration with Frederick Douglass and Spencer Schools:

Both schools are eager for their students to appreciate the educational history in their institutions and buildings. The Faith Alliance, Parent Groups, Harriet Beecher Stowe House and WHHS are working together to find ways to make the history accessible to the students. To celebrate Back History Month 2018 we have provided a fact and a picture for each school day; we’re posting them here, too.

We also led a 4th-grade history club which toured local landmarks near the schools.


We want to help institutions in our neighborhood preserve their history by organizing their archives. Working with Church of the Advent, we have developed a relatively simple way to catalog the documents and discover which need special handling for preservation.