Here we are, in the midst of Black History Month, an important time to remember those that came before us, those men and women who are so often omitted from the narrative of history. You could write a book on the history and contributions of the black community in Dayton. In fact, Margaret Peters wrote such a book, Dayton’s African American Heritage: A Pictorial History, which I highly recommend. The book was the result of a project by The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, which is part of the Ohio Memory Project, and their collections can be accessed online, here: https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p15005coll34.
I am a big proponent of what is sometimes called “lowercase h history,” that is, the everyday stories of individuals, how and where they lived, and how their stories fit into the larger narrative of our pasts. Margaret Peters' book is full of such individual stories, so I thought I’d highlight some of those today.
“Mrs. N. A. Anderson, owner of The Home Store at 324 Sprague Street, is remembered as a good businesswoman. An ad in the June 13, 1919 Dayton Forum shows that she also had the spirit that helped the black community thrive. Her ad offered “FREE FOOD in case of sickness or accident.” She was also active in the YWCA. Courtesy of the Dayton YWCA.”
Charity Adams Earley:
“Charity Adams Earley was the first black woman to be commission as an officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WACs). One Woman’s Army tells of her struggle against the racism and the sexism that she and the women in her battalion encountered. In 1919 Charity was honored as Montgomery County’s Citizen of the Year for her volunteer work, which included serving as a member of the Sinclair Community College Board of Trustees, and chairing the Parity 2000 Committee. In 1993 she was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Courtesy of Charity Adams Early.”
“In 1985 WDAO FM was sold to a corporation from Maryland and became an AM station, with Jim Johnson (pictured) as station manager. Johnson served in that role until 1988, when local African Americans formed Johnson Communications, Incorporated, and purchased WDAO, Dayton’s first black-owned radio station. At that time “The real rhythm of the city” motif was added to the original logo... Courtesy of Jim Johnson.”
“After Earning his engineering degree form Renssaeler Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, James Parsons became the Director of Duriron’s Research Laboratory. He supervised what was reportedly the only all-black laboratory staff in the country. Parsons earned eight patents for developing processes which made stainless steel possible. Because of his achievements, in 1928 Parsons received the Harmon Medal from Orville Wright in the first public program at the Fifth Street Y. Charles Kettering delivered the address. Parsons later taught at Tennessee State University, the Ohio State University, and Garfield Skills Center. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center.”
“Lelia Francis, the first black realtor in Ohio, is seen leaving her office in the 1950s. Mrs. Francis fought against redlining and was arrested for demonstrating to force Rike-Kumler Department store to hire black people. Her community activities have been recognized by many Dayton organizations, including the National Business League and the Greater Dayton Christian Council… Collins Studio, courtesy of Lelia Francis.”
“In 1954, W. S. McIntosh, the first marcher, began leading demonstrations against the city of Dayton, banks, and stores, demanding fair treatment and equal employment opportunities for black Daytonians. The second marcher is Reverand Walter Dunson, who began working with McIntosh as a teenager. McIntosh’s efforts secured jobs and loans, but they also led to the loss of his dry-cleaning business when suppliers refused to sell to him. He continued the struggle, opening his House of Knowledge bookstore in Westown. McIntosh was killed in 1974, while trying to stop a robbery in downtown Dayton. Courtesy of Reverand Walter Dunson.”
There are countless other stories out there. Other sources of information on the history of African Americans in Dayton, their stories, and the inequities they have faced, can be found here:
West Dayton Stories: https://www.wyso.org/west-dayton-stories
Redlining: Mapping Inequality in Dayton & Springfield: https://thinktv.org/redlining/