Pioneering The Change To Be Better: Jennie Davis Porter And Cincinnati's All-Black Harriet Beecher Stowe School, 1914-1935
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentHistory and Geography
ProgramDoctor of Philosophy
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SubjectsAfrican American history
The debate about the appropriate mode of schooling for African-American children has existed for decades. Educators, community leaders, and parents have argued over whether black students would perform better in integrated or segregated schools. This dissertation examines how educator Jennie Davis Porter's educational philosophy, which consisted of progressive pedagogy and conservative thinking, shaped how black students learned in the Cincinnati Public Schools. She believed that African-American students performed better in an all-black environment where the teachers would nurture them and aid in their overall development. The story of Porter and her decision to separate the Harriet Beecher Stowe School placed the debates regarding segregated schools and the use of intelligence testing on African-American children in a northern city, where integrated schools were legal. This dissertation is not a biography of Porter, but rather an examination of how her leadership and dedication enabled thousands of African-American students to obtain a good education and guidance towards a better life. This study argues that Cincinnati's West End Neighborhood needed an institution like the Harriet Beecher Stowe School. The predominantly black neighborhood was one of the poorest in the city. This dissertation will also argue that the Great Migration of southern African Americans to the North contributed to the curriculum development at the Harriet Beecher Stowe School. Finally, this study will discuss Porter's insistence on having a self-segregated school, which would employ African-American teachers and staff, who assisted in her vision and were able to pursue their own academic goals. This dissertation is a combination of various source types to reexamine the functions of the Harriet Beecher Stowe School, which includes discussions of segregated schools, vocational training, intelligence testing and the involvement of black teachers and the African-American community in the overall development of black children in Cincinnati's West End Neighborhood. This is an attempt to historicize psychology and education scholarships to gain a better understanding of the learning needs of black students and the curriculum development of the Harriet Beecher Stowe School. With the limited amount of historical literature on African-American history in Cincinnati and on black education in the North, sources in this study came from the research of educators and psychologists of the era. Select historical sources that were also used are newspapers, school board records, personal papers and research studies to reconstruct and humanize the story of Porter and her school.