Civil Rights Movement in Portsmouth, Ohio
Explore the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Portsmouth, Ohio, where the city’s black residents resisted the development of racial segregation and other discriminatory practices that followed the end of Reconstruction in the 1870s.
Learn about the decades long struggle to end segregation in the city’s schools and how in the 1960s non-violent, civil disobedience worked to integrate the Booker T. Washington School and the Terrace Club, a private, whites-only swimming pool and youth center. Complete the tour in person or virtually using the Scioto Historical mobile app and website.
Begin at the former location of Allen Chapel (AME) on 7th Street (now the location of Kroger’s delivery docks), where the city’s leading black and white champions of civil rights celebrated the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870.
Learn about local efforts to resist the segregation of public spaces, when Wurster Brothers on Chillicothe Street refused service to the Rev. W. B. Derrick, an influential Bishop in the AME Church. Visit the site of the Westland Theater (now the location of the Portsmouth STEM Academy playground), where the NAACP successfully organized black enrollees in the nearby Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps to boycott special, black-only movie screenings. Visit the grave of Bessie Tomlin who is remembered as the only person to drown in the Flood of 1937 and learn how residential segregation shaped the city’s evacuation plans and ultimately contributed to the tragedy that is memorialized by her marker in Greenlawn Cemetery.
Learn about the origins of the Fourteenth Street Community Center, when the North End Luncheon Club opened a “Community House” in 1932. Then, with the establishment of multiple, segregated CCC camps on the outskirts of the city, Portsmouth civic organizations backed the National Youth Administration’s construction of a segregated “Community Center” on 14th Street, one that could serve the needs of black CCC enrollees, as well as the city’s black youth.
Finish the tour at the Eugene McKinley Memorial Pool, which supporters of integration originally promoted as “A Place in the Sun for Everyone,” and then contemplate the history of Dreamland Pool, which before its integration in 1965 was known as the Terrace Club.