Newport, Ky., Southgate School played important part in early Black education

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The Newport, Ky., Southgate Colored School had roots that trace back to the foundation of our nation. Photo provided

By Roger Giblin

Herald Contributor

Nestled behind Newport’s Hofbrauhaus is an important structure of our region’s history. The Newport Southgate Colored School, roots of this school trace back to the foundation of our nation. Lt. Craddock of the Virginia Militia created a small school in Kentucky’s first capital in Danville. A Frenchman who served with Craddock educated the enrollment in this school. One of those students was Washington Rippleton. Mr. Rippleton was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Newport Southgate School.

During the August 1, 1866, meeting of the Newport Committee, which later would send a delegation to Louisville to the Kentucky State Committee, a disagreement led to a fight ensued between Gus Adam of the 128th Regiment United States Colored Infantry and Beverly Lumpkin of the United States Colored Infantry and veteran of the Battle of the Crater). This brawl took place in the shadows of the building of Newport Southgate School on Taylor Street. Both of these men had strong opinions on how, where, and most importantly when the education of those denied by fiat an education.

The Freedman Bureau in Kentucky had a unique task. Kentucky was a slave state, but stayed in the Union, for there were a significant population of free men and woman of color as well as those who were held in bondage. Prior to the Civil War politicians had met to discuss the gradual end to slavery in Kentucky and the future of those former slaves in Kentucky. This meeting ended with division lines hardened. No input from the Black community was solicited.

Kentucky law, unlike Virginia law, prohibited the education of “colored children.” Kentucky had a narrow path towards literacy because there was no law prohibiting the “teachings of numbers or words” to “non-Whites.” Examples are Danville Craddock School, Dick Johnson’s Choctaw School (his wife, a bi-racial woman was the acting administrator acting on Johnson’s behalf until her death in 1833.

The February 8, 1873 Colored Education Convention in Louisville sent a delegation from the Newport Colored School Board that included Washington Rippleton, Gus Adam, Beverly Lumpkin and others. The funding of the school rested solely on the African American community. Fees and fines on African Americans went into the fund to support this school.

There is a lot more to the story, and that information can be found in the following references: Charles E Horner and his son Charles D. Horner write about their story of education and early medicine in the region (reference Lloyd Library in Cincinnati). The Clarks: Peter H. Clark writes about his struggle, his political weight, and his son’s appointment as deputy Hamilton County. His son Herbert Clark was a deputy and publisher of Afro-American Newspaper, which was financed by the Democratic Party (1882). A possible relative to the Clarks was Melvin Clark, who is mentioned numerous times in Jet magazine as a publisher, playboy, and man of influence until his death in 1954 during a shoot out between Melvin Clark and Frank Screw Andrews that took place in the shadows of the Newport Southgate School.

The story of the Southgate Street School has numerous twists, turns and angles. The reason cited for its location was its close proximity to the Newport Barracks. Even as the military instillation was moved out of the flood plain, the school remained close to the neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Before Brown vs. Board of Education, Newport Southgate School closed its high school in 1923, sending students to Grant High School. By 1955, the elementary school closed.

The transfer of property from Andrews to the Masons provides another twist and link in the story of this simple two-story building were students once would twice a day ascend a ladder to raise our flag.

Roger Giblin is a regional historian, has a BA from Xavier, MA in Public History from NKU. He has been involved in exhibits at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Music of Change “hymns, blues & rock and roll” and Behringer-Crawford Museum “Covington 200.’’

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