Historical Marker #2071 in Newport commemorates Southgate Street School, an early African American educational institution in Campbell County.
The end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery in Kentucky. Now free, African Americans sought new opportunities to further their social, economic, and political places in their communities. To aid in the transition from slavery to freedom, the federal government created the Freedmen's Bureau in the spring of 1865. Part of the responsibility of the Freedmen's Bureau was to establish schools in the former slave states. Apparently the Southgate Street School's roots lie with the Freedmen’s Bureau.
In the fall of 1866, a school for African Americans was opened in Newport that was run by the Freedmen's Bureau. When the Freedmen's Bureau’s funding was cut by Congress a couple of years later, the school in Newport closed. In 1870, the city of Newport purchased the Southgate property with the intention of proving separate educational facilitates for African American children.
By 1873, classes were being held at Southgate Street School under the direction of teacher Elizabeth Hudson. She taught for six years, and then Dennis Anderson became the school’s teacher. Early on, these teachers had to educate children in all eight grade levels, but, as the student population increased, additional instructors were added. By the turn of the century the school employed four educators. However, it was a constant battle for the teachers to keep pace with the growing number of children. The enrollment rate increased from 55 in 1880 to 125 by 1900.
Newport was one of the first Kentucky school districts to institute the mandate handed down in the Supreme Court ruling, Brown vs. Board of Education. The landmark court case made the segregation of educational facilities illegal. This ruling allowed students at the Southgate Street School to transfer into local elementary and high schools in 1955.
Today, the old Southgate Street School still stands as a reminder of the Newport African American community’s commitment to education and their will to provide their children with a better future.