Side A: In 1866, Gaines High School (grades 7-12), one of the first high schools for African Americans in Ohio, opened just west of this site in the same building as the Western District Elementary School, completed in 1859 and enlarged in 1866 and 1868. The school was named for John I. Gaines, whose leadership was responsible for securing passage of the Ohio law authorizing public schools for African Americans. Gaines was clerk and chief administrator of the African American school board when he died in 1859 at age 38. Gaines High School’s Normal Department trained almost all of the African American teachers for southwest Ohio; schools in other states hired many of the students before they had even completed their studies. From 1866-1886, Gaines High School and its principal Peter H. Clark were nationally recognized for their excellence.
Side B: Peter H. Clark (1829-1925) was the first teacher hired to teach in a black public school in Cincinnati when the Ohio Legislature authorized public schools for African Americans in 1849. He went on to become principal of the Western District Colored School and then principal of Gaines High School in 1866. Clark was one of Ohio’s most prominent activists in the African American struggle for full citizenship rights. In 1883, he helped elect a Democrat governor who demanded and secured repeal of some of Ohio’s notorious “black codes,” fulfilling promises ignored by both parties for 15 years. On June 7, 1886, the newly elected Cincinnati Board of Education fired Clark on political grounds. William Parham, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati Law School, who practiced law and served in the Ohio Legislature after Gaines High School closed in 1890, succeeded him.