Newport's First Black School

Southgate Street School Elementary and High School

225 Southgate Street in Newport

History of Southgate School

In 1870 the property of Southgate School was conveyed to the City of Newport by Thomas and Susan Dodsworth by deed dated October 4, and of record in deed book 10 page 183 of Campbell County for a school for African Americans. The following is taken from the History of the Public School of Newport Kentucky by James L Cobb-1939.

"The close of the Civil War brought the problem of educating the negro. The negro was now free and a citizen of the Commonwealth. Schools for the negro population of the State were first provided for by the Act of February 14, 1866, which appropriated for their schools all the taxes paid by the negro race in the state except enough to support their paupers.  By an Act of March 9, 1867, a poll tax for school purposes was laid on all men over 18 years of age.  By an Act of February 25,1868, all fines and forfeitures paid by the negro race were added to their school fund, and all money from the sale of public lands was set apart by the United States until the per capita of the race should equal that of the white race.

 The Newport Board of Education provided for negro education in 1873.  This school was under the control of the same board, supervised by the same superintendent, subject to the same rules and regulations, had the same course of study and textbooks, was graded on the same standards, and was supported out of the same general fund, as were all our other public schools.  In order to meet the demands for the education of negroes, the City Charter was amended as follows:

Section 1: Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, that the Board of School Trustees of the City of Newport, out of any fund in their hand, derived by taxation under and by virtue of the city ordinances of said city be, and are hereby authorized and empowered to establish and maintain schools for the negro children of the city in such number and localities as their judgment will furnish sufficient education facilities for the colored children of the city.

Section 2: Said school shall be under the same control, rules and regulations as govern other schools of the city.

In August 1873, the Board employed one negro woman teacher, {Elizabeth Hudson} at a salary of $35 per month.  She began teaching the first Monday in September in a one room cottage, between Saratoga Street and Washington Avenue.  This marked the beginning of negro education in Newport."

Two major events of 1893 were the school's first commencement and a second floor addition. The graduation exercise was scheduled for June 26, 1893 at the Park Avenue School Hall.  A local newspaper gave this account which states: "Louisa Smith and Lavinia Ellis wore white gowns and addressed the audience with essays on 'Opportunity' and 'A View of Life', which showed deep thought and careful preparation and reflected credit on the teacher, Professor Lee, as well as on the young ladies."

In 1901, Southgate began its three year high school study course. Until this time, high school students attended William Grant High School in Covington.  The high school closed in 1921.  In 1955 Southgate Elementary School closed as the Education Board integrated its students into Newport schools.  It was accomplished without hostility or lawsuits and all the teachers were placed in other Newport schools.

Today, under the direction of the Northern Kentucky African American Heritage Task Force, Southgate School is being restored as part of the Newport Historic District.

 

Do you know anyone in this picture from the Southgate School?


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