A documentary chronicling the integration of the Hillsborto elementary schools and the Highland County Historial Society committee that helped create it have been invited to be the feature program at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati on July 25.
It will be a media event for the kickoff of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History Conference coming to Cincinnati in September.
Kati Burwinkel, the project director for the historical society’s The Lincoln School Committee, said she was notified of the invitation last week. She said that two weeks ago the exhibit was featured on the Channel 2 Sunday morning TV news show “Newsmakers” and that after the taping of the show, Freedom Center representatives talked to historical society members about showing the film during the upcoming conference.
“They asked if they could show our film and then talk to some of the people involved afterward in a kind of panel discussion,” Burwinkel said. “I think it tells the story in an inspirational way and it has been really well received so far.”
In addition, Burwinkel said the committee has been invited to show the Lincoln School film at the Freedom Center during a Nov. 7 program for middle school students.
And if that’s not enough, Burwinkel said the society has been offered to turn the film into a special for PBS. She said the film is currently 17 minutes long and that it would need to be 27 minutes long before it can be shown on PBS.
“We’re pretty excited,” Burwinkel said.
The documentary and Lincoln School Exhibit debuted on June 2 during a private reception at the historical society’s Highland House Museum. They tell the story of the fight for integration of the Hillsboro elementary schools in the mid-1950s.
For several decades, the integration battle that took place in Hillsboro was seldom remembered or revisited, but in recent years it has been brought to the forefront by a variety of individuals and organizations. The Times-Gazette revisited the Lincoln School saga in an in-depth story in early 2016, the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering Hillsboro to immediately integrate its elementary school. Many readers said it was the first time they had heard about the drama that took place over a two-year period from 1954-56.
A press release about the Lincoln School exhibit said, “After the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the segregation of schools based on race was deemed unconstitutional. A group of African-American mothers from Hillsboro organized under the leadership of mother and activist Imogene Curtis and marched their children to the Webster Elementary School each weekday for two years, only to be turned away. Aided by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, this case went to the Supreme Court and became the first northern test case of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The case was then used in other northern cities, such as Boston and Cleveland, to end segregation in their schools.”
Other members of The Lincoln School Committee are Pamela Nickell, Deb Koehl, Charlotte Pack, Jim Rooney, Virginia Harewood, Carolyn Goins, Eleanor Cumberland, Teresa Williams, Joyce Kittrell and Elsie Young.
The film, “The Lincoln School Story – A Battle for School Integration in Ohio,” was produced by award-winning filmmaker Andrea Torrice, and will be shown regularly at the Highland House. A DVD of the film is also available for purchase at the museum.
The liner notes of the DVD say the film “tells the inspiring story of how five courageous African American mothers and their children fought for school integration in 1954 in Hillsboro, Ohio.” The film details how the marches occurred each day, despite cross burnings and other threats.
The documentary features interviews with surviving marchers, archival photos and even video footage. It details the determination of the mothers to fight for their children’s right to enjoy the same educational standards and quality of their white counterparts. The permanent exhibit also features original photographs and memorabilia that have been donated to the museum.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.