CWRU Links
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND FREE SCHOOL

CLEVELAND FREE SCHOOL

The CLEVELAND FREE SCHOOL, or Colored Free School, was organized by a committee of black citizens who were concerned about the lack of educational opportunities for Cleveland's black children between 1832 and the early 1850s. The school, open intermittently during the period in several locations, also helped to educate adults whose education had been banned in southern states. In 1832 JOHN MALVIN, a black citizen who had arrived in Cleveland only a year earlier, called together a group of black men to find some way to rally support for a school for blacks in Cleveland, since a state law passed in 1829 specifically prohibited their attendance in tax-supported schools. The small group succeeded in instituting a subscription system of monthly payments from black citizens of the city. John H. Hudson, a white mill owner, granted the group the use of one of his mill rooms; later the school was held in Millers Block on Superior just west of W. 3rd St. The school's first teacher, a "half-breed" Indian, was replaced by a young white woman, Clarissa Wright, who was forced to resign because of illness and followed by a young black man, Matthew M. Clark. Three-month sessions were managed by the small group of subscribers, but the need for a more comprehensive approach to the matter of education for blacks in Ohio led Malvin and his group to lobby for changes in state laws. A law passed in 1848 provided for tax-supported colored schools or integrated systems. Cleveland's public schools, originally "accessible to all white children" according to the 1836 city charter, were completely integrated by 1850 and remained so until well into the 20th century.