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

African American Schools in Kenton County, KY

Between 1866 and 1870, there were schools for African Americans held in churches in Kenton County, KY, and there were schools led by the American Missionary Association and a Freedmen School that were supported by the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands [see NKAA entry for Freedmen Schools]. After the Freedmen's Bureau left Kentucky, the Covington Board of Education hired the first African American teacher in 1873, she was paid $30 per month according to the thesis of Howard H. Mills, A History of Education of Covington, Kentucky, p.65. Classes started the first Monday of September in the Second District School on Greer Street. The school had been used by white students up until 1871. Several years later, in 1879, the African American school had grown considerably, there was an average attendance of 173 students who were instructed by the principal and two teachers [source: Mills, p.72].

In 1880, the teachers in Covington were Edward Trail from Kentucky, amd John S. McLeod and Della Williams from Ohio [source: U.S. Federal Census]. There was also a teacher at the school in Milldale, and in 1883 there was a search for a new teacher [see NKAA entry for Milldale Colored School]. In Covington, the colored school was moved to the southside of 7th Street between Scott and Madison Streets [source: William's Covington and Newport Directory,1882, p.15], it was named 7th Street Colored School and Samuel R. Singer was the principal [source: William's, p.134]. Clara B. Grandstaff, from Cincinnati, was a teacher at the school [source: William's, p.65] along with Minnie Moore who was also from Cincinnati [source: William's, p.107]. In 1884, Andrew Jackson was the janitor at the school [source: William's, 1884, p.95].

A new school building for the 7th Street Colored School was completed in 1888 [source: B. L. Nordheim, Echoes of the Past]. By 1893, there was an average attendance of 287 students taught by nine teachers: Samuel R. Singer, Principal; Minnie Moore; Lillian Armstrong; Tillie Young; Laura A. Tray; Mary E. Allen; Annie Price; Charles Haggard; and Edwin H. Ball [source: Mills, p.82]. A woman teacher taught high school classes beginning in 1895, the program was named William Grant High School. William Grant (info at was a Kentucky Legislator from Covington who had followed through on his promise of an African American public school in exchange for the African American vote in 1876. The first William Grant High School graduation was held June 21, 1889, with two graduates, Annie E. Price Hood and Mary E. Allen [source: "Lincoln-Grant School" by T. H. H. Harris in The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, pp.552-554]. Both graduates had been elementary school teachers at the 7th Street Colored School. 

In 1909, the city of Latonia was annexed to Covington and the Lincoln Colored School in Latonia was merged with the 7th Street Colored School in Covington, and the combined school was named Lincoln-Grant School, while the high school kept the name William Grant [source: "William L. Grant" by T. H. H. Harris on p.413 in The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky]. The number of school age children increased to 44 high school students and 360 students in the elementary grades [source: Mills, p.103]. In 1914, the night high school was established in Covington for students who had completed 8th grade and were at least 14 years old [source: Mills, p.107]. In the colored night school, students were taught basic English and arithmetic. By 1924, within the colored day school, there were 519 students with a teaching faculty of 4 high school teachers and 18 elementary teachers [source: Mills, p.114]. The number of students would outgrow the size of the building, and in 1928, a bond was issued and passed with $250,000 approved for the building of a new colored school on Greenup Street, to be completed by September of 1930 [source: Mills, p.117].

The plans to build the school had to be changed due to the down turn in the economy, and the school was completed in 1932. [For an early history of the William Grant School see "History of the School" on pp.1 and 2 of The Lincoln=Grant Herald, v.1, no.1, January 1913.] Another colored school in Covington was the United Bible School at 801 Russell Avenue, it opened around 1940 and is listed in William's Covington (Kenton Co., Ky) City Directory. In 1943, J. M. Gillian was the teacher at this school [source: Williams, p.411]. There was also a school for African American children in Elsmere, KY, Wilkins Heights. The head teacher was Rosella F. Porterfield who is recognized for encouraging the integration of Elsmere schools in 1955. Dunbar School was also located in Elsmere at 421 Spring Street with Thomas R. Lewis as the teacher 1936-1939 [source: William's Elsmere Directory for 1936-37, p.599, and for 1938-39, p.562].

In 1940, the Negro teachers in Kenton County, KY, were Roscoe C. Baught, Martha Bishop, Alberta E. Booker, William Craig, Maggie Fisher, Nathan Fleming, Eliza W. Gooch, William Hargraves, Elenora Henderson, Etta L. Hundley, Jewell Jackson, James H. Johnson Sr., May Fortes Kelly, Coleman Kelly, Laura E. Lewis, Mamie Memy, Ella Mitchell, Nan Mae Orben(?), Paul Redden, Chester A. Rice, Ednice Simpson, Melvin W. Walker, Catherine Williams, and Clarence Williams [source: U.S. Federal Census].

The Kenton County schools that began to integrate in 1956 were Kenton Elementary, Simon Kenton High School, La Salette Academy, Covington Catholic High School, Elsmere Elementary, Erlanger Elementary, Lloyd Memorial High School, and St. Henry Grade School and High School [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1956-57, pp.436-437]. St. Henry High School, La Salette Academy, Covington Catholic High School, and Northern Kentucky State Vocational School, had all been listed as having "white and colored" students during the 1955-56 school term [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1955-56, p.219]. See also The Life and Legacy of Lincoln-Grant School, Covington, Kentucky, 1866-1976 by J. M. Walton. See also The Lincoln=Grant Herald.

  • Church Schools
  • American Missionary Association Schools
  • Freedmen School
  • Second District School
  • 7th Street School
  • Lincoln Colored School in Latonia
  • Lincoln-Grant School in Covington
  • William Grant High School
  • Milldale School
  • United Bible School
  • Wilkins Heights in Elsmere
  • Dunbar School in Elsmere
  • Our Savior [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p.868]

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Kenton County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Covington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Elsmere, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Milldale, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“African American Schools in Kenton County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-05-03 13:59:34