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

African American Schools in Henderson County, KY

Between 1866 and 1870, there was a colored school in Henderson County, KY supported by the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. The school didn't last: the teachers were threatened and run out of town [see NKAA entry Freedmen Schools].

A colored school existed in Cairo in the early 1870s [source: Starling, p. 378]. Dr. Pickney Thompson is credited as the author of the 1871 act that created a colored school in the city of Henderson, KY [source: History of Henderson County, Kentucky, by E. L. Starling, p. 719]. The act was amended in 1872 because of a wording error, "...be so amended as to read between the ages of six and twenty years, instead of between the ages of sixteen and twenty years..." -- [source: Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, December 1871, Chapter 112, p. 194]. The trustees of the school were all white: Dr. Pickney Thompson, H. S. Park, A. F. Parker, Jacob Held Jr., and Y. E. Allison [source: History of Education in Henderson County, Kentucky, by Hal E. Dudley, pp. 91-92]. A school house was built on the lot located at the corner of First and Alves Streets; the lot was purchased by the Trustees. Classes started September 2, 1872; Samuel Harris, who was also white, was the superintendent and one of the teachers. He was assisted by Mrs. E. P. Thompson, an African American, who resigned after three months. She was replaced by Mrs. Mary W. Letcher, also African American; she had been a school teacher in Henderson County since before the 1871 colored school opened in the town of Henderson.

Both Mary Letcher and William W. Gilchrist were among the African American teachers in Henderson County as early as 1870, according to the U.S. Federal Census. Teacher John Mason had also been employed as the Henderson colored school superintendent in 1874, and his wife Martha was the assistant teacher [source: Dudley, p. 92]. There were 145 students attending the school [source: Dudley, p. 93]. The Masons were from Louisville, KY and had been teachers at Runkle Institute in Paducah, KY. Runkle Institute was one of the early schools supported by the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.

Another room was added to the Henderson colored school in 1878, and Miss Virgie D. Harris, a graduate of the school, was added to the teaching staff. In 1880, the teachers listed in the census were Mary Letcher, Addy Letcher, Elija Ash, John K. Mason, and William H. Hall, who lived at the home of Aaron Cabell. During the 1882-83 school term, another addition was made to the Henderson colored school, and there were four teachers: the Masons, Miss Alice B. Moting, and William H. Hall. There were two other schools in Henderson: the High Street School built in 1881 and the Alves Street School, built in 1889; a colored high school was established on the third floor of the Alves Street School [source: Dudley, p. 93].

The county colored schools were developed after 1871. In 1880 there were 16 colored schools; by 1892 there were 37 [source: Dudley, p. 121]. By 1908, 663 students were enrolled in the Henderson County colored schools [source: Dudley, p. 93]. In 1916, the expected attendance at the Anthoston Colored School was 19 [source: Library of Congress, PPOC]. In 1935, the number of county colored schools had decreased to 15 one-room schools and a three-room school. [source: Dudley, p. 177]. The school in Corydon had three teachers, and there was also a two-year high school. The new Douglass High School, built in 1931-32 on the corner of Alvasia and Clay Streets, was in the city of Henderson and served as the high school for all the other colored schools in Henderson County [source: Dudley, pp. 177 & 155].

In 1940, the Negro teachers in Henderson County were Annette C. Brown, Martha Bunch, Adella Cabell, Geneva Caldwell, Henry Ellis Cheaney, Thelma Clark, Jolene Collins, Anna Mae Dixon, Fannie Dixon, William Dixon, Adella Early, Laura Early, Hazel M. Fellows, Nellie Garland, Edward Gloss, Rosa C. Green, Ella Hill, Lorenza D. Jones, Herbert Kirkwood, O'Herl Laugley, Shelton Laugley, Florence LaVette, Eugene Mundy, Helen Neeley, Willa M. Reeder, Albert W. Settle, Tommie Soper, Walter H. Story, Mary Sweatt, Pasey Taylor, Lee Thomson, Lorene Towler, Flora A. J. Walker, and Willa Mae West [source: U.S. Federal Census]. In 1951, G. Brisco Houston was principal of the Henderson County Consolidated Schools [source: "Notes on district officers," KNEA Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, p. 6 (online at ExploreUK)]. In 1956, the first schools to be listed as integrated were Weaverton, Central Grade School, and Seventh Street Grade School [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1956-57, p. 431].

  • Freedmen School
  • Colored Schools (37)
  • Henderson School
  • Eighth Street School [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1933-34, p. 46]
  • High Street School
  • Alves Street School
  • Douglass High School
  • Cairo School
  • Anthoston School
  • Corydon School
  • Henderson County Consolidated Schools
  • Henderson County Training School [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1937-38, p. 45]
  • J. Boyd School [see p. 23 in Kentucky Historic Schools Survey, by R. Kennedy and C. Johnson]
  • Scuffletown School [see p. 23 in Kentucky Historic Schools Survey, by R. Kennedy and C. Johnson]
  • St. Clement's Mission School - The church/mission grew out of Sunday afternoon Sunday School held at a home with teachers Mary Jane Gaines and Charlotte Lyne. The mission was established in 1887 by Rt. Rev. Thomas U. Dudley, and the lot was given and the building was funded by Mrs. Virginia Barnett Gibbs so that a day school could be added. Rev. Churchill Eastin was the first priest in charge of the mission [sources: "Churches," a sheet in File: Henderson County - Education, Box 16, of the Kentucky Education Collection, Series 1, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center; and Journal of Proceedings of the 63 Annual Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Kentucky, May 20-22, 1891].

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Henderson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Henderson, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Cairo, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Anthoston, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Corydon, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Scuffletown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“African American Schools in Henderson County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 19, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/2781.

Last modified: 2023-01-16 18:36:58