Jennie Porter (1876-1936)
Posted On: 11/03/2017 - 1:24pm, Posted By: Christine Engels, Archives Manager, Manuscripts Department
Jennie D. Porter was born in Cincinnati in 1876. Her father was Cincinnati’s first African American undertaker and her mother a schoolteacher. Jennie Porter graduated from Hughes High School in 1893 and like her mother she pursued a career in teaching. She ran a private kindergarten for African American children in the West End for a time and then became a teacher at the Douglass School. After trying to find a temporary school for African American children who were displaced after a flood, she discovered that many did not have one to go to in the first place. Porter helped establish the Harriet Beecher Stowe School in 1914 and became its principal, the first African American woman to become a principal in Cincinnati.
Creating the Stowe School as a strictly African American school placed her at the center of a controversy. Porter believed segregated schools were better for African American children because they would be able to learn and grow in an environment free from the abuse and prejudice that they found in integrated schools, and African American teachers could more easily find employment. Porter’s opponents believed segregated schools were a hindrance in the fight for equality and helped spread and strengthen segregation in other parts of life. Despite this Porter held to her conviction that segregated schools were better for African American children.
While at the Stowe School, Porter pursued her college education and gained her bachelor's degree in 1923, her master's in 1925, and three years later became the first African American woman to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. Porter continued to be principal until her death in 1936. Though her stance on segregated schools drew much criticism, she nevertheless created one of the most important educational opportunities for African Americans in Cincinnati.
More information about Porter can be found in these items from our Printed Works collection:
“Jennie Davis Porter: A Leader of Black Education in Cincinnati”
By Lesley Robinson in Perspectives in History. Vol. 4, No. 1. Fall 1988, pages 13 18.
General 905 P467
Lesley Robinson recounts Porter's struggle to achieve her own education and to educate African American children at the Stowe School.
“Educated Pioneers: Black Women at the University of Cincinnati, 1897-1940”
By Delores Thompson and Lyle Koehler in Queen City Heritage, Vol. 43, No. 4. Winter 1985, pages 21 28.
General f906 H673B
This article discusses how African American women worked to overcome barriers at the University of Cincinnati from 1897 to 1940. It highlights the experiences of Jennie Porter, Vera Clement, Helen Elsie Austin and Lucy Orintha Oxley.
Jennie Davis Porter: A Woman of Substance
By Judy Rasp
Mss 719, Folder 7
Judy Rasp wrote this short biography of Jennie Porter for the 1984 Metro History Fair. She includes statistics on the number of pupils at the Stowe School from 1914 to 1925.
100 Who Made a Difference: Greater Cincinnatians Who Made a Mark on the 20th Century
By Barry M. Horstman
General f920.07714 H819 R.R.
Barry M. Horstman gives a brief overview of Jennie Porter's life in this 1999 book.
Please see our Guide to African American Resources at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives for more information on Cincinnati’s African American history.