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“The Lincoln School Story” documents the struggle for desegregation

A photograph from the documentary film, "The Lincoln School Story."
Ohio Humanities
A photograph from the documentary film, "The Lincoln School Story

Most of us were taught in U.S. history class about the landmark 1954 civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separating children in public schools based on race was unconstitutional.

The court’s decision did not lead to change immediately for many Black families who were seeking the right for equal education for their children.

In Ohio, a group of mothers and their children in Southwest Ohio marched for over two years trying to get those kids admitted into a white elementary school, and this after Brown v. Board of Education was decided.

The story of the Hillsboro Lincoln School Marchers is known as one of the longest-sustained actions of the nation's civil rights movement, yet it is not very widely known.

Now it is the subject of a documentary called, "The Lincoln School Story."

Melvin Barnes Jr., a historian and program officer with Ohio Humanities researched and helped produce the film. He discussed with Jenny Hamel why this story is not as well-known as others such as that of Rosa Parks. He says the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court did not offer a road map for the way forward.

“This story is really important in terms of understanding what happened across the country in the wake of that Brown decision. That decision didn't have a lot of guidance. And what that meant was that every community across the country had to figure out what that decision meant on the ground," Barnes said. "This story really helps us to understand that it took mothers, children, brothers, sisters, cousins to stand up in their communities, to actually make sure that that Brown decision meant something once it came down.”

Teresa Williams joined the conversation on the “Sound of Ideas.” She marched with her mother, Sallie Williams. “Every morning, we met down in our house, and everybody got in a line… We did that for two years.”

Barnes also discussed how women, especially the mothers in Southwest Ohio were instrumental is driving the Civil Rights movement.

“This is the 1950s, and this is a movement that starts before the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ends afterwards. I say that to emphasize the fact that the motivations that got those mothers out marching are the same motivations that sort of, propelled those people in Montgomery, Alabama," he said. "So, it really helps to underscore that these women and these children and their families were on the forefront.”

Williams, the second oldest of 11 children echoed Barnes. She said her mom was a driving force in the march. “Our mom told each and every one of us, you're going to get an education. You're not dropping out.”

The documentary screened at Case Western Reserve University on Feb. 22. The film is also airing on some PBS-stations. You can check out screening dates on this schedule from Ohio Humanities.

You can listen to Jenny Hamel's interview by clicking on the listen button above.

-Melvin Barnes, Jr., Ph.D., Historian & Program Officer, Ohio Humanities
-Teresa Williams, Lincoln School Marcher

Rachel is the supervising producer for Ideastream Public Media’s morning public affairs show, the “Sound of Ideas.”
Leigh Barr is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and the "Sound of Ideas Reporters Roundtable."