Newport Black History Tour
NEWPORT BLACK HISTORY TOUR
Newport's history is enriched by the stories of its African American residents. It was the center of education for Black students in Campbell County and has many neighborhoods and buildings that reflect the contributions of their families.
This tour was originally developed by the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC) as a walking tour. They have graciously allowed it to be adapted for this website.
Southgate Street School/
Newport History Museum
Location: 215 E. Southgate St.
The first commemoration of African American education in Newport, Kentucky, the Southgate Street School still stands. The end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery in Kentucky and institutions in Northern Kentucky attempted to offer African Americans new opportunities to improve their socio-economic status. To aid in the transition from slavery to freedom, the Freedmen’s Bureau was established by the federal government in the spring of 1865. The Freedmen’s Bureau’s main responsibility was to establish schools in the former slave states ; the Southgate Street School’s roots lie with the Bureau.
The school was first opened in the fall of 1866, but when the Freedmen’s Bureau’s funding was cut by Congress a couple of years later, the school closed. With the intention of providing separate educational facilities for African American children, the City of Newport purchased the Southgate property in 1870.
Elizabeth Hudson, the school’s very first teacher, began holding classes here in 1873. Ms. Hudson held this position for six years, then Dennis Anderson became the school’s teacher. As the school’s student population increased, additional teachers were hired and eighth-grade level instruction became available. The enrollment increased from 55 in 1880 to 125 by 1900. The current building was completed in 1893.
The school closed its doors in 1955, when Newport's schools were integrated. It has since been turned into the Newport History Museum, with a large exhibit honoring the region’s African American community’s commitment to education.
Site of 1900's African American neighborhood
Location: 6th St. & Saratoga
In the mid to late 1800's, Newport and neighboring Covington served as a gateway to freedom for the African American workforce searching for prosperity.
The houses on the four blocks from 6th St. to 10th St. were available to Black people to rent and buy. This land was less desirable than other areas in Newport because of the Licking River flood plain and the nearby railroad tracks.
The neighborhood was fairly self-contained, with shops and other businesses that served the residents. Many residents were displaced after the 1937 flood, some eventually relocating to the 1950's public housing projects. (See Stop #6 on this tour.)
Corinthian Baptist Church
Location: 131 E. 7th St.
Corinthian Baptist is the oldest African American church in Newport. In 1869, a group of African Americans living in the city gathered together to establish the historic congregation, originally under the name Zion Baptist.
In July 1869, the congregation purchased a house as a temporary place of worship. It wasn’t until 1872, that the congregation took on the name Corinthian Baptist and just a year later, in 1873 found a new home on Roberts Street.
Close to a decade later, the congregation made its way to a new home when they purchased the old German Baptist Church at the corner of Columbia and 6th Streets.
George Wiedemann sought to expand his brewery business and the church consented to sell for a fee of $2000 in 1892. Three trustees, William Gee, William Moore and William Thompson acquired the First Presbyterian Church at 520 Columbia as their next house of worship for $3000, of which $1500 was paid as a down payment. This location is referred to as "Old Corinthian."
Like many churches and other structures in Newport, Corinthian Baptist was heavily damaged by the 1937 flood. The congregation stood by their church to fight the flood waters and, in time, restored the structure.
In 1956, the Newport Board of Education sought to purchase the property at 520 Columbia Street to build a new school. Even though the church fought the school board's claim of eminent domain, the congregation was ordered to sell the church property for $23,000. The congregation used the funds to purchase Bailey's Grocery Store located at 7th and Saratoga. The store was torn down and a new church was built. The members met at the Newport Court House until the new building was ready.
On April 2, 1958 the dedication service was held. On May 25, the cornerstone was laid by the Newport Masonic Lodge #120 and Rev R D Wess delivered the sermon. Newport city officials were among the dignitaries present.
Fourth Street School (former)
Location: 101 E. 4th St.
The new Academy on Fourth apartments were built on the site of Fourth Street School. The first school on the property was built in 1799 as part of a land grant. It was called the Newport Academy, technically a public school but enrollment was restricted to white men who could afford the tuition.
It was rebuilt in 1838 out of brick and served as the school for white students in Campbell County, just as the Southgate School (Stop #1 on this tour) served the Black students. By 1955, it was fully and peacefully integrated.
In 2018, the school district was redrawn and this school was closed due to low enrollment. In the courtyard of the Academy on Fourth complex, there is a brick fireplace, built with Fourth Street School bricks.
Location: 924 E. 3rd St.
The Thompson house is currently a music venue focusing on the Electronic, Rock, Hip Hop and Alternative genres. It's included on this tour to represent the jazz and blues venues that were popular in Newport in the 1940's through '60's, many of which were also housed in former residential buildings.
For more information about the Newport music scene at the time, please read this article.
See below for a photo of the Copa Club, which hosted such headliners as Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, BB King and many more.
The Copa Jazz Club, circa 1959
Location: Central Ave. between 3rd and 4th Streets
To read more about the Copa and the jazz and blues legends who played there, please click here.
Peter G. Noll Apartments (former)
Location: 401 5th St.
The subsidized housing "projects" that stood here were built in the 1950's with 171 units, named after labor leader Peter G. Noll. Part of the complex was torn down in 2006 to make room for commercial development. The rest of the main buildings were torn down in 2017 and later to make room for the expanded Route 9 connection. Residents were displaced with about 3 months notice, many of them being offered vouchers to relocate.
Newport on the Levee
Location: 1 Levee Way
Now a thriving entertainment district and tourist destination, the site of Newport on the Levee was once a business district that served Black residents. The transition began with the construction of the aquarium. Cincinnati originally had the idea for the aquarium, but Newport moved more quickly.
Because historic restrictions prohibited Black property ownership in certain areas of Newport, the city was able to declare eminent domain, displacing the Black businesses and demolishing the buildings to construct the aquarium and Newport on the Levee.
Newport Floodwall Murals
Location: Dave Cowens Drive & Linden Ave.
To celebrate Newport's 225th anniversary, the first murals of this series were painted in 2020.
The mural pictured here features Virinda Garland Doddy, a student at Southgate Street School (Stop #1 on this tour). She is depicted writing on a chalkboard, representing the high quality education the children received at that school. She is also shown as the graduate in the foreground. Virinda was the first Black graduate in NKU's Human Services program. She was personally able to attend the dedication of the mural in 2020.
Artist and NKU graduate Gina Erardi designed the mural with the colorful waves symbolizing "how the teacher comes together with the student to create this force of nature, this wave that just explodes into possibility," More information is available here.