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

African American Schools in Clark County, KY

According to the personal interviews conducted by Fred Allen Engle for his 1928 education thesis, some enslaved received an education in Clark County, KY. The enslaved were taught by their owners: Judge Charles Stephen French, Mrs. Telitha Clay, Laura Bramlett, Mrs. Josephine Peterson Rogers and Mr. Samuel Rogers, and also  Philip B. Winn [source: The History of Education of Clark County (thesis) by F. A. Engle, pp. 28-29]. Engle also notes that, in 1866, at the first colored school in Clark County (located in Winchester), classes were held in a rented building, the only colored school in the county for a few years. The teacher was Mrs. Amanda Faulkner [source: Engle, p. 43].

In 1869, the Freedman's Bureau provided funding for a new school building that was constructed on a lot at the corner of Broadway and Wall Streets; the land was secured from money raised by the African American community. The school was built by Kirkpatrick Brothers, a plumbing business [source: Engle, p. 43], and by the time the building was completed the school teacher, Mrs. Amanda Faulkner, had died of tuberculosis and was replaced by John C. Hubbard.

The new school was referred to as a Freedmen School [see NKAA entry Freedmen Schools, Kentucky]. The school term was four months, later  extended to nine months. Later, three African American trustees oversaw the school: J. T. Taul, Dan Baker, and M. M. Bell [source: Engle, p. 117].

Other city schools included a log school building at the corner of Maple and Washington Streets and a third colored school at No. 24 Second Street [source: Engle, pp. 43-44]. In addition to Mrs. Amanda Faulkner and John C. Hubbard, the first colored teachers in Winchester were George Cary, Miss Delilah Culbertson, Miss Malinda Smith, Miss Sue Henry, and James S. Hathaway.

School teacher George Cary had replaced John C. Hubbard; Cary was from Canada and was remembered for his brilliance and for greatly increasing the enrollment and attendance at the Freemen School. A disagreement of some sort arose between George Cary and members of the African American community, resulting in the construction of the Washington Street Colored School with Miss Delilah Culbertson as the teacher. Culbertson was later replaced by Miss Melinda Smith, who was replaced by Miss Sue Henry in 1877. George Cary left the Freedman School in 1882 and was replaced by James S. Hathaway and Miss Sue Henry. During this period, colored schools were started in the county; one of the first was located at Howard's Creek around 1870, a log building later replaced by a frame building [source: Engle, p. 29].

The following quotation comes from the 1884 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, p. 28: "Some of the districts depend on their churches as school-rooms. Immediate wants: School-houses and smaller districts." The report contains a discrepancy as to the number of school-aged children in Clark County [source: 1884 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Colored. Table II. p. XXVII]: 967 children between the ages of six and 20 were reported to the auditors by the assessors for 1885: 1,628 children reported to the superintendent for 1885, a difference of 661 children. "Schools were taught in every colored district except one; there the house was not completed in time for school. Teachers were comparatively well-qualified. A majority were educated at Berea College, in the adjoining county." -- [source: Engle, p. 22].

In 1886, 11 colored schools were located in Clark County, according the Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The schools were supported by taxes, subscription fees, and donations [source: Engle, p. 30]. Additional information about the Freedmen School and the names of the teachers and principals can be found on p. 45 of The History of Education of Clark County (thesis), by F. A. Engle.

In 1893, there were 15 colored school districts in the county with an average attendance of 575 students; half the schools were still being taught in churches and other buildings. In the 1880s there was a disagreement: the African American community spoke out about the condition of the city colored schools, resulting in all of the colored school buildings being closed. According to F. A Engle (p. 118), in response to the closing of the schools the African American community opened a new school in an old laundry building at the corner of Washington and Oliver Streets, and Mrs. G. S. Benton, a teacher and Berea College graduate, opened a school in her home on Third Street. Mrs. Benton had been the school principal at the Freedmen School. The interim schools continued until a bond issue was successfully voted into action by the city for a new colored school building on Oliver Street.

The Oliver Street Colored School opened in 1892 and closed in 1969. The first principal, Mrs. G. S. Benton, was replaced the following year by J. H. Mingo, a graduate of the Chandler School in Lexington. The teachers were Miss C. N. Willis, Miss Flora Z. Barbee, Miss Willie Woodford, Mrs. Nettie David, and Mrs. Julia A. Benton. In 1894, Principal Mingo was replaced by James H. Garvin. At the Oliver Street School the students were taught music, cooking, sewing, shoe making, brick laying, and business and literary courses [source: "The Colored School," Winchester News, 10/12/1908, p. 3]. Both Prof. Garvin and his wife, Lillie B. Garvin, were school teachers. Prof. Garvin was principal at the school for 24 years, retiring in 1918 [source: "Education," The Crisis, March 1918, vol. 15, no. 5, p. 215]. Stanley R. "Fess" Williams was a teacher at the school around 1917-18 [source: WWI Draft regisration card, 1917-18]. 

The Oliver Street Colored School contained grades 1-12. Early pictures of the school appear on pp. 123-124 of The History of Education of Clark County (thesis) by F. A. Engle.

Another school, the Clark County Moonlight Colored School, was first held in 1915. Considered one of the four best Moonlight Schools for Negroes in Kentucky, it had an enrollment of 203 students [source: Cora Wilson Stewart and Kentucky's Moonlight Schools, by Y. H. Baldwin]. The colored school in Indian Fields was taught by Maggie Kidd in 1919 [source: Day By Day County Illiteracy Agent's Record Book, Fanny Curry - Clark County Agent, 7/1/1919]. In 1924, there was a Rosenwald School in Jouett's Creek; a photograph of the school can be seen on p. 13 in Rosenwald Schools in Kentucky, 1917-1932. In 1928 the Freedmen School building was still standing; it was used as a manual training shop for the city colored school [source: Engle, p. 29]. A picture of the school building is on p. 125 of The History of Education of Clark County (thesis), by F. A. Engle.

The Negro teachers in Clark County in 1940 were Howard Allen, Howard Buckner, Juanita Callery, James Callery, Julia Colerane, Elizabethe B. Curry, Jennie Didlick, Lula Diggs, Minnie Downey, Lettie P. Green, Mildred E. Henderson, Lillian Holmes, Katherine K. January, Eshter Laine, Mary Miller, Chalmer Owens, Missouri Quisenberry, Letilla Rannels, James Ray, Mary Robinson, Charles F. Sloan, Fannie Sloan, Vivian Taylor, and Marie Williams [source: U.S. Federal Census].

The Oliver Street High School was closed in 1956, and in 1957 the Clark County high schools began to integrate. The elementary grades at Oliver Street School continued until 1969.

  • Enslaved educated by owners
  • Colored School (1866)
  • Winchester Freedmen School (Broadway and Wall Streets)
  • Maple & Washington Street School
  • Second Street School
  • Howard's Creek School
  • Colored Schools (1884)
  • Washington & Oliver Street School
  • Mrs. G. S. Benton's School
  • Indian Fields School
  • Moonlight School
  • Oliver Street School 
  • Jouett's Creek School (photograph, p. 13, Rosenwald)

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Clark County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Winchester, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Howard's Creek, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jouett Creek, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“African American Schools in Clark County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 13, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-01-16 17:54:46