Throwback Thursday: Frederick Douglass School

Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation > History > Throwback Thursday: Frederick Douglass School

When Walnut Hills was annexed to the City in 1870, a private school for Black students was brought into the segregated Cincinnati Public School system. A new building was constructed and the school was soon named the Frederick Douglass School after the well-known ex-slave abolitionist spokesman. Starting in 1887, segregated schools in the Cincinnati Public School system began to be phased out in favor of an integrated school system. The last of these schools was Douglass, at the corner of Chapel and Alms, but it did not close. The school district faced pressure from the Cincinnati African American community concerned with high dropout rates in integrated schools and the rapid loss of teaching positions for African-American educators at all of the closing schools. So instead of shutting down, Douglass was rebuilt.

The second Douglass School, built in 1911, a beautiful building with Rookwood decoration (source: Cincinnati Historical Society)

While the new Douglass was open to all students throughout the city, it remained almost completely African American, and provided a prejudice-free learning environment.  The school became nationally renowned, and a center for Walnut Hills community activities. Because it remained a largely segregated school, Douglass certainly had its critics in the first half of the twentieth century. Yet it existed in a time when integrated schools were not providing truly equal opportunities for Black students to learn, or for Black educators to teach. It stands as an important piece of African American history in Walnut Hills. Not only that, Frederick Douglass School (rebuilt in 2007 at 2627 Park Ave.) is still a vital neighborhood school and community gathering place.

Douglass School faculty in 1914. Principal Francis M. Russell in center of front row. (source: Cincinnati Historical Society).

Data Sources: Douglass School was prominent in history of segregated Cincinnati schools, Cincinnati Herald, February 2010, (; Walnut Hills City Neighborhood, Cincinnati Historical Society.

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