The Underground Railroad is just part of the story: 9 facts about black history in the Tri-State

CINCINNATI - Black History Month begins Feb. 1. Started in 1926 by African-American historian and author Carter G. Woodson, the celebration began as Negro History Week to honor the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass.

In 1976, during the United States Bicentennial, President Gerald Ford extended the observation a month. 

“The intent was just to highlight achievements of African-Americans, of course highlighting the word ‘American’ because it established a culture that we have here,” said Assia Johnson, public relations and social media coordinator for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

With the Underground Railroad running through the heart of the Tri-State, there is plenty of local history tied to slavery and emancipation.
You can learn more about the following chapters of local history in "Cincinnati's Underground Railroad," by Richard Cooper , which comes out March 10. Cooper is interpretive services manager for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
1. You may have seen his statue along the Ohio River in Covington. James Bradley was the first African-American student to attend Oberlin College. Bought by a slave holder who lived in Pendleton County, Ky. at age three, Bradley eventually purchased his freedom and went on to attend Lane Seminary. 

2. Many African-Americans came to Cincinnati to live after the city was founded in 1788. The black population continued to grow in Cincinnati until 1829, when a white mob attacked hundreds of homes in an area known as Bucktown. After the attacks, more than 1,000 African Americans left Cincinnati, relocating to northern Ohio and Canada.

3. Henry Boyd was born a slave in Kentucky in 1802. He became a skilled carpenter and purchased his freedom in 1826. He began a new life as a house builder in Cincinnati and, in 1836, established the H. Boyd Company. He went on to invent, manufacture and sell the “Boyd Bedstead.”

Boyd employed several workers and amassed a fortune $420,000. He used most of his money to purchase the freedom of slaves.

4. Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Bethel is one of the oldest black churches in Cincinnati. It dates back to 1808, when it was organized as the Mill Creek Church. Despite being burned down several times between 1812 and 1815, Allen Temple assisted runaway slaves until the end of the Civil War.

5. The Union Baptist Church was established July 21, 1831 to foster religious freedom for African-Americans in Cincinnati. It is the second oldest black church in Ohio.

6. In 1842, Father Wallace Shelton teamed up with several members of Union Baptist Church to organize the Zion Baptist Church on Plum Street. Many members participated in Underground Railroad activities.

7. The Dumas House was a boarding house in downtown Cincinnati. The house, which was under African-American ownership, was a popular boarding house for black visitors. In addition to providing lodging for free African-Americans, the house was a prominent station of the Cincinnati Underground Railroad.

8. Peter H. Clark was born in Cincinnati in 1829. His father was a barber who owned slaves and his mother was one of his father’s slaves. Clark became a teacher in an African-American school in Cincinnati. He took over the barber shop in 1849 after his father died, but his decision to run an “equal rights” shop caused complaints from white customers.

Clark left the profession and moved to New Orleans. He moved back to Cincinnati in 1852 and became a school principal. He considered education necessary for improving the African-American condition and achieving equal citizenship.

9. In 1843, The Disfranchised American, sometimes referred to as The Disenfranchised American, was the first African-American newspaper published in Cincinnati. Its editors included community leaders Alphonso M. Sumner, William E. Yancy, Rev. Thomas Woodson, Gideon Q. Langton and Owen T.B. Nickens. The paper, which was only published through 1844, was created to uplift black Americans by promoting independence and self-sufficiency.

Photos 2-9: Courtesy of Cincinnati Historical Society

Photo 1: (James Bradley statue) by Richard Cooper, interpretive services manager for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center


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