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Warren County Building Was Ohio's First Free School For Black People

The front of the Elizabeth Harvey Free Negro School, located along North Street in Harveysburg, Ohio.
The front of the Elizabeth Harvey Free Negro School, located along North Street in Harveysburg, Ohio.

Ohio’s first free school for African Americans was established in Harveysburg, in present-day Warren County. Harveysburg was established in the early 1800s by the Quaker couple Jesse and Elizabeth Harvey. Like many Quakers, the Harveys moved to Ohio from the South to support abolition efforts and provide stops for Freedom Seekers along the Underground Railroad.

Ann Schweitzer is the Historical Assets Manager at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Last week, she said at a presentation on the Underground Railroad in Ohio that the Harveysburg Free Black School gave Black children in Ohio a rare opportunity to receive an education.

"In the 1830s and for decades afterwards African American children were not allowed to attend public schools," she said. "Private schools like the Harveysburg Free Black School gave these children an opportunity to learn."

The school operated until the early nineteen hundreds, when Black children were finally allowed to attend local, historically-white schools.

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