From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

African American Schools in Harrison County, KY

According to the 1866 Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, there was a colored school in Harrison County in 1866. It may have been one of the two schools in Cynthiana funded by the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands between 1866 and 1870 [see NKAA entry Freedmen Schools, Kentucky].

A history of the colored schools was found in the Harrison County Historical Society files and reprinted in the Harrison Heritage News with editing by William A. Penn--the original author is unknown. According to the article, it was thought that the first colored school in Harrison County opened in 1868 and was the beginning of formal education for African Americans in the county.

The school was located on the "Commons" near the river [source: History of Education in Harrison County, by Mrs. H. E. Young, p. 115]. According to the article in the Harrison Heritage News, a second school was located on Water Street. In 1870, a colored school was constructed in Cynthiana by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, and in December of 1869, there was an American Missionary Society (AMS) school [source: Tenth Semi-annual Report on Schools for Freedmen, July 1, 1870, by J. W. Alvord].

C. C. Vaughn from Virginia was a teacher at the American Missionary Society School in Cythiana. He was at the school for two years, leaving in 1870 to continue his education at Berea College [source: Ante-bellum free Negroes as race leaders in Virginia and Kentucky during Reconstruction (thesis), by C. B. King, pp. 104-105]. The schools were independently managed; after 1875 the colored schools came under the Harrison County Board of Education's jurisdiction [source: History of Education in Harrison County, pp. 32-33].

In 1880, the school teachers were Laura Brown in Leesburg; and Janie Harding, Ella Asberry, and Frank Howard in Cynthiana [source: U.S Federal Census]. In 1885, there were nine colored school districts with eight schools. The teachers were from Xenia, OH. In 1892, there were 11 colored school districts with 11 common schools, the school terms lasting 3 months (2 schools), 4 months (2 schools), 5 months (5 schools), and more than 5 months (2 schools) [source: Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1892, pp. 357-361].

Three of the school buildings were made of log, seven were frame structures, and one was made of brick. There were 1,165 school age children of which 602 were enrolled in the colored common schools; they were taught by 13 teachers. In 1890, there was an all-time high of 14 teachers in the colored elementary schools [source: History of Education in Harrison County, p. 70].

In 1893, a new colored school was opened, bringing the number of schools to 12; ten of the schools had five month terms, and two had terms longer than 5 months. All but one of the schools was located in the county. Beginning in 1895, the colored schools were in session for nine months [source: History of Education in Harrison County, p. 121]. By 1908, there were eight colored school teachers. The city school, Cynthiana Colored School, had three teachers; it was soon overcrowded.

In 1921, the Board of Education purchased the old hospital in Cynthiana, had the building remodeled, changed the name from Cynthiana Colored School to Banneker School, and added two years of high school to the curriculum [source: History of Education in Harrison County, pp. 116-124]. Mr. Newsom was principal.

At the end of the school term in 1925, there were 150 students enrolled in Banneker School. The teachers earned a little more than $400 annually, and the principal earned $1,000. By 1926, the number of colored teachers had decreased to 5, justified by the decrease in the African American population in Harrison County. The first high school graduation took place in 1928 [source: Harrison Heritage News].

In 1940, the Negro school teachers in Harrison County were Ernest Alexandria, Jessie Crawford, Vivian David, May H. Fields, James F. Hillard, Ethel L. Jones, and Lucindia Lewis [source: U.S. Federal Census]. 

In 1956, the first schools in Harrison County to be listed as integrated were Buena Vista, Connersville, Harrison County High School, Oddville, Renaker, and Cynthiana High School [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1956-57, p. 431]. 

For more see "African American Education in Harrison County," Harrison Heritage News, vol. 6, issue 2, February 2005; and Harrison County [online].

  • Banneker School, 1921-1963
  • Cynthiana American Missionary Association School, supported by the Bureau
  • Cynthiana Freedmen School
  • Colored Schools (12)
  • Cynthiana School, closed in 1921
  • Leesburg School
  • Water Street School

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Harrison County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Cynthiana, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Leesburg, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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“African American Schools in Harrison County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 28, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-10-07 16:19:48