Empowerment through Education
Sign #8 154 Church Street
African-Americans in Lexington believed strongly in education, establishing private schools before the Civil War. Many were educated as missionaries and sent around the world, including to Liberia. With the support of the Freedmen’s Bureau, four free schools for blacks were established soon after 1865 – the first was Howard School here on Church Street (the building was known as the “Ladies Hall” because of the fundraising by women). The Lexington Normal Institute opened in 1870; it was later renamed Chandler Normal School when it reopened in 1889 to train teachers. By then three public schools for African-Americans were supported by taxes: Fourth Street, Constitution Street and Patterson Street.
Public schools were segregated by race until the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Brown vs Board of Education decision that states could no longer separate public-school students by race. Both Lexington and Fayette County High Schools soon integrated but lower schools were still segregated. In 1971 black parents challenged the school system in the Robert Jefferson et al v Fayette County Board of Education. The judge ordered the Board of Education to develop a plan to integrate schools fully.