Hillsboro’s “marching moms” and students are now forever enshrined in an Ohio hall of fame that commemorates the state’s greatest civil rights achievements.
Fifty-five people from Lincoln School who marched in the mid-1950s for integration of Hillsboro elementary schools were inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in Columbus last week.
According to a press release from Kati Burwinkel, project director of the Lincoln School Committee, the inductees from Hillsboro joined previous inductees such as Toni Morrison, Jesse Owens and the Ohio Freedom Riders.
The ceremony was held Oct. 5 at the Columbus Statehouse and was attended by 12 of the living marchers, many family members of the deceased marchers, along with many community members, Burwinkel said.
Master of ceremonies was Mike Jackson, anchor of NBC4 and the keynote speaker was L Brands founder Leslie Wexner. There were three other inductions.: Chief Lawrence Harper of the Mansfield Police Department, Lt. Col. Gilbert H. Jones of the State Police Academy, and Moses Fleetwood Walker, who was the first African-American to play professional baseball for the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883, preceding Jackie Robinson by more than 60 years.
Honored from Hillsboro were: mothers Zella Cumberland, Elsie Steward Young, Sallie Williams, Zora Cumberland, Selicka Dent, Alberta Jewett, Maxine Thomas, Francis Curtis, Joanne Zimmerman, Dellia Cumberland, Glea Clemons, Minnie Speech, Roxie Clemons, Norma Rollins, Alberta Goins, Rosa Kilagore, Gertrude Clemons, Imogene Curtis, Nellie Zimmerman and Della Blakey.
Honored students were Joyce Clemons Kittrell, Teresa Williams, Eleanor Curtis Cumberland, Myra Cumberland Phillips, Virginia Steward Harewood, Carolyn Steward Goins, Mary Williams Steward, Peggy Williams Hudson, Glenna Dent Hennison, Billy Dent, John Curtis, Lawrence Curtis, Lewis Goins, Lee Curtis, Ralph Steward, Rev. Michael Hudson, Harold Joe Thomas, Delbert Thomas, John Cumberland Jr., Doris Cumberland, David Butch Johnson, Marva Curtis, Rosemary Clemons, Jennie Speech Williams, Howard Williams, Brenda Thomas Coleman, Winnie Thomas Cumberland, Debbie Rollins, Charles Johnson, Diane Zimmerman, Glen Dent, Lynn Dent, Evelyn Steward Bostie, Sarah Alice Clemons, Annabell Johnson Smith, and Dorothy Clemons Ford.
The 60th anniversary last year of the U.S. Supreme Court ordering Hillsboro to immediately integrate its elementary school began a commemoration locally of the drama that took place over a two-year period from 1954-56.
After the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the segregation of schools based on race was deemed unconstitutional. When Hillsboro schools failed to immediately follow the court’s ruling, a number of African-American mothers from Hillsboro, organized under the leadership of mother and activist Imogene Curtis, participated in a peaceful march each morning to Webster Elementary school for two years, only to be turned away each time.
Aided by the NAACP, the case went to the U.S. 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.