WC Students Learn ‘The Battle for School Integration in Ohio’ from Original Sources

February 24, 2021

Classes Experience Living History

Wilmington College students gained insight into how history can come alive when actual participants share their stories. Two WC classes had an opportunity to literally meet and interact with living history earlier this month.

PICTURED: In the mid-1950s, these ladies were children, who marched with their mothers every day to Hillsboro’s segregated public elementary school, only to be denied admittance for two years. There’s was the first test case in the North of the historic Brown v Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which outlawed school desegregation across the nation.

The Battle for School Integration in Ohio was brought to life by Virginia Steward Harewood, Joyce Clemons Kittrell and Myra Cumberland Phillips, who were all active marchers, along with their mothers, from 1954 to1956 in an effort to end segregation in the Hillsboro School System.

These courageous women shared their stories with a pair of WC classes, Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Work Wendy Grab’s social work class, Community Change, and Director of Diversity and Inclusion Chip Murdock’s class, Community Leadership, in the Honors Program.

Kati Burwinkel of the Highland County Historical Society organized the speakers to share virtually their memories with the students.

This incredible local story involves several African American mothers and children, who gathered every day to walk to Hillsboro Elementary School in all kinds of weather — only to be refused entrance. These daily marches lasted for two years. Thurgood Marshall heard about this protest and sent his legal team and the NAACP, which represented five of the mothers in filing a lawsuit. This resulted in the first test case in the North of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark case on racial segregation in public schools, Brown v. Board of Education, which Marshall successfully argued in 1954.

“They won their fight and Hillsboro Elementary School became integrated. But this was not the end of the marchers’ story or struggles,” Grab said, noting the women shared their stories of both then and now. “They demonstrated that a small but committed group who believes in their cause can effect major change in their community”

In honor of the marchers’ efforts for school integration, the Wilmington College Office of Diversity and Inclusion presented them with the school’s most prestigious diversity award, the Art Brooks Diversity Excellence Award as an homage to the entire movement and all who were a part of it, according to Murdock.

“Each marcher was also honored for their part in this tireless community change process and were presented with a Wilmington College Diversity Impact Award,” he added. “We thank our presenters for all they have done for Ohio, equality and for sharing their stories with us. They are an inspiration to us all.”