Monthly Archives: February 2016

BLACK HISTORY MONTH – A Brief History of Toledo Public Schools

The year 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of Black History Month.

Black History Month was started by  Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson and was initially called “Negro  History Week.”  Dr. Woodson was a devout scholar of the history of Africa and the African Diaspora and wanted to ensure that black people in America were knowledgeable about the contributions of black people, not only in this country but in the entire world and to humanity in general.

To further his aims of spreading knowledge regarding the history of black people, he and some of his colleagues and students started an organization called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.  Today that organization is called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (or ASALH).  ASALH began in 1915 and today it issues themes in regards to Black History Month.

For 2016, the theme of ASALH is “Hallowed Ground, Sites of African American Memory.”  In honor of this theme I was interested in highlighting some areas and institutions that have been integral to black Americans of Toledo and as such I decided to focus on two items in particular – sites of the Underground Rail Road in Northwest Ohio and the role of education and specifically public education in Toledo due to one of black culture’s primary features being a desire for current and future generations to attain adequate knowledge needed to succeed in American society.

This post will focus on the Toledo Public School system and how it has been a trail blazer in the area of availability of public education for black youth and in regards to integration.

What we now know as the Toledo Public School system began in 1853.  As shown within the previous post regarding blacks in Toledo on the 1850 Census, there were over 40 black/colored families in the area in the City of Toledo during that time. Included within those families were 40 children 14 years and less in the city.  On the Census, only three of the black/colored children were labeled as having attended school in 1850.

Prior to becoming the city of Toledo or Lucas County, land was set aside in this area for the benefit of public education.  In 1785 and 1778, territorial law dictated that a square of land should be held for area public schools.

The constitution of Ohio emphasized a desire and a right to public education by including a provision in 1820 to allow local communities to collect taxes in order to provide educational opportunities to local children.

Early Toledoans also were interested in providing educational opportunities and so the first known schools were set up in the early 1800s in this area.

The first known school in Toledo was established in 1829 on the bank of “Ten Mile Creek” near the Ottawa River.  Another was set up in 1830 along “Mud Creek” near the present day Main Branch of the Toledo/Lucas County Public library.  Mud Creek was a branch of what all of us Toledoans know as Swan Creek.  In the mid 1800s, Toledo was a part of the “Great Black Swamp” and during the era when these schools were created, there were still areas, like Mud Creek that were yet to be drained and buried.  (An interesting aside is that some buildings in downtown Toledo still have sub-pumps working that are draining water from the buried creeks and swamp areas).  Classes were also held in 1835 in a wood frame structure located on Erie Street.  All of these schools were created prior to the establishment of Toledo as a city.

After Cityhood, Toledoans approved public funding to establish schools for white children of both genders in 1840, which was an innovative act being that females were not regularly allowed to attend schools in the United States at this time.  In 1849 the city established a Board of Education to oversee the public schools for the growing city.  A new brick school was built for white students on Lagrange Street on land donated by Jesup W. Scott and another was built in 1853 near Madison and 10th Street called Toledo High School and later Toledo Central High School.  This same year, the Board of Education included the education of black children in segregated buildings.

Due to the creation of new schools for white children, black children in Toledo begin to have classes held in the former wood frame school on Erie Street in 1853.  The city built a new school for African American children in 1858.  During that year 31 black children attended public schools in Toledo.

By 1871 Toledo fully integrated its public school system so all of the children attended the same schools.  There were a few pictures taken of early classes of students in Toledo in the 1880s in particular that I have reviewed.  I am always hoping to find one of my earlier relatives in those pictures due to having school aged ancestors in the 1880s.  Unfortunately, there are not many labels for the pictured individuals.  Some cute and interesting pictures of Toledo classes from the late 1800s and early 1900s are below:

stickney school 1888

Stickney School 1888 (5th Grade)

Stickney school 1888 1st grade

Stickney School 1888 (1st grade)

Fulton School 1894 4th grade

Fulton School 1894  – black child’s name is labeled as Lillie EASELY

Lagrange School 1916

Lagrange School 1916

Birmingham School 1926

Birmingham School 1926

As a result of the early integration of Toledo Public Schools, black residents in Toledo were able to receive the same education as all other children in this area.  A large amount of the junior high and high school aged children received a vocational education that would enable them to perform jobs during the height of Toledo’s industrialization and manufacturing boom.

During the 1800s, Toledo did not have as much segregation between different ethnicities as we see in the city today.  Many of the neighborhoods and the schools which today are more segregated based on residency, were not so prior to the intervention of local government and the creation of public housing which designated neighborhoods in the mid 20th century to either be “negro” or “white” developments.

As shown above, there were black students in various neighborhoods in Toledo in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Many of these areas are ones (East Side and North Toledo/Polish Village) that people today associate mostly with European immigrants, most notably the Polish for North Toledo and the Hungarians for the Birmingham neighborhood in East Toledo.  Though the black population was small, there have always been African Americans in Toledo in those neighborhoods and practically all others of the city.  Even though today people think of Central City as the neighborhood which is most important to the African American community, prior to the creation of public housing in that area, most black Toledoans lived amongst the Polish, German, Irish, and other immigrant populations.  There were pockets of black residents within all of the working class Toledo areas.  Many black Toledoans, including a large amount of my family lived in what is now the Warren Sherman area (especially near Canton Ave. and Woodruff Street near Cherry) and the Old North End .  Reviews of early year books and class pictures show a small, but constant amount of black students prior to 1900.

Unfortunately, I have yet to confirm that one of my relatives is in any of the early class pictures from the late 1800s.   Many of the pictures above I found via searches of the Google News Archive and’s records.  A lot of the actual year books held at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library of early Toledo schools do not label the pictures of attendees until they graduate high school and high school graduation was rare amongst all Americans during this time period.  Early yearbooks usually list all of the students in a particular grade on another page, but not under the picture like we see today.

Luckily, I do have some confirmed relatives from the early to mid 1900s that were labeled in high school year books.  I will gather and post those pictures on a later post in regards to providing information about using year books as genealogical resources.

In summation, education was highly sought by early black Toledoans.  Once public education was open to black students, families took advantage of these opportunities and African American residents in the area were much more highly educated versus black populations in more discriminatory areas in Ohio and around the country.  All of my great grandparents who were students in Toledo prior to 1930 all received high school diplomas at a time when completing high school was rare, even amongst white Americans.  Two of them also went to and completed college at the University of Toledo.




Difficulties of Slavery Research – Surname TRAYNUM

Thus far, on the blog I have primarily written about my maternal line due to their long roots in the Toledo/Northwest Ohio area. For the next month or so, I intend to focus some on my paternal ancestry and on some of my enslaved ancestors on my maternal side.

This post will primarily focus on the surname TRAYNUM and a line of my ancestors who migrated to Toledo during the height of the Great Migration period (1910-1960).

My great grandfather Talmadge TRAYNUM (1907-1984) came with his family to Toledo when he was only a teenager.  The TRAYNUM family moved here primarily for economic opportunities.  Prior to moving to Toledo, they lived in Anderson County, South Carolina.  This part of my family had lived in that county since the end of the Civil War.

Talmadge’s great grandfather’s name was Pinkney TRAYNUM (b. approx 1844, d approx .  In 1870 Pinkney TRAYNUM/TRAYNHAM lived with is wife Dicey TRAYNUM and 3 children – sons Lee (b. approx 1864) and Jacob (b. approx 1866), and daughter Hattie (b. approx 1870).  In 1870 Pinkney and Dicey lived in the same family with the JORDAN family headed by Laura JORDAN and two male children – Turner JORDAN and Patrick JORDAN (Patrick was listed as being “idiotic” which may have meant he was deaf, blind or had a developmental disability).  I have yet to find a connection between the JORDAN family and the TRAYNUM family.  I initially thought that Laura JORDAN may have been a relative of Dicey TRAYNUM but I am still unsure of the connection.

I am a descendant of this family through one of the youngest children of Pinkney and Dicey.  My third great grandfather, Robert TRAYNUM (b. approx 1873, d. March 14, 1933) migrated from Anderson County, SC to Toledo, Ohio as a part of the “Great Migration” of the 20th Century.

The Great Migration is considered one of the largest internal movements of persons to have ever occurred in the United States.   Over 6 million people participated in the Great Migration.  It was characterized by primarily rural black people moving from the Southeast to urbanized Northern and Western cities.

Though the Great Migration is a fascinating historical occurrence and will be the subject of the another post in the future, this post, will be about the difficulties of researching enslaved ancestors and some strategies I use to try to overcome the barriers in this sort of research.

So far, Pinkney and Dicey TRAYNUM, my 4th great grandparents are the earliest confirmed ancestors on my paternal line (my father’s father’s line of relatives).  I initially thought it would be easy to trace this family due to the unique surname of TRAYNUM (also spelled TRAYNHAM/TRAINUM/TRANUM/TRANEM/TRANHEM in various documents).

Boy was I wrong!  This line has actually been one of the more difficult lines for me to research.

When pursuing slavery research one has to have a calculated plan in my opinion.  My first line of tackling this portion of my family tree for ancestors prior to the Civil War was to do like I did for my maternal WHITFIELD/WESTRAY line and look toward court records, specifically probate and wills issued in the county where my ancestors lived in 1870.

In 1870 Pinkney and Dicey lived in Anderson County, South Carolina.  On the website there is a list of databases by state and usually every state in the USA has a section for Court, Wills, Land Claims, and Probate.  I looked into Anderson County and scoured through all of the electronic records for the TRAYNUM surname and all its variations.

The only one I found was for a man named Lazarus TRAYNHAM.  Lazarus TRAYNHAM’S will listed out his slaves and named his wife and children who he willed his property (including slaves) to via this document.

None of those names match Pinkney or Dicey, nor Lauren JORDAN.  Initially I thought that maybe one of the slaves had changed his/her name after obtaining freedom as this was sometimes the case with formerly enslaved persons.  They may have always gone by a different name amongst family and the black community whereas their owners may have named them a different name that was not used after emancipation.  So, I then checked the 1860 and 1850 Slavery Schedules to see if Lazarus TRAYNHAM had any slaves who were near to age of my ancestors.

Only one male was similar in age – Alex TRAYNHAM (spelled Alx in the will).  So I looked up Alex TRAYNHAM on the 1870 Census and found that he was listed separately from Pinkney TRAYNHAM so Pinkney definately was not Alex.

I reviewed all the other wills and probate information, tax assessors records (slaves were taxable property so this is always a good resource to review when conducting slavery research), and looked through both Family Search and vital statistics information for South Carolina.  All of this was of no avail.  I never found a marriage record for Pinkney and Dicey.  I have never found a death certificate for them either.  Dicey, was listed on the 1900 Census when she was over 70 years old so I was hopeful since she reached the 20th century, I would find something about her in particular, but I never have.

Unfortunately in many southern states, they did not routinely keep birth and death records until it was federally mandated by the government in the 1910s and so if Dicey died prior to that time, it would be hard pressed to find her information online.

I kept looking online specifically for many years for information about this family and am still looking to this day.

So as stated above, slavery research can be very difficult.  Some states, like Virginia have more online information published online (will write about Virginia ancestors in post next week), but no matter what, it is difficult and will be very time consuming.  There are a few tips I have found helpful in slavery research that are shared below:

  • Review probate and will indexes and online books (if you are not in the location where your ancestor was enslaved) to look up wills and tax records
  • If your ancestor was a slave on a large plantation, many times those plantations kept records of their business dealings and there may have been published a record of that plantation, consult with librarians and historical societies and see if you can look up a plantation history that may include your ancestor
  • Do some genealogical research on the white family who owned your enslaved ancestor, your ancestor may have been willed to a daughter who married, yet the slave kept her father’s last name after emancipation
    • On this, don’t hold any sort of crazy grudges about slavery.  Most people I know don’t, but it must be said.  Slavery existed and we can’t act like it didn’t happen.  People alive today are not the same people who owned your ancestor and they may be a useful resource in tracking down your ancestor, especially if they know of a genealogical sketch or book about their family

The most important tip is to be okay with not finding out any additional information on specific lines of enslaved ancestors.  As stated above, slavery existed and it was a system that did, indeed de-humanize individuals and not respect our ancestors as the people that they were.  Due to the attitudes and societal norms during those eras we have to come to grips with the fact that we may never know anything else about our ancestor’s lives beyond our furthest known great grandparent who was a slave.  I personally take comfort in the fact that their strength is the reason I am here today.  They did exist and I am grateful.  Be grateful for what you know about them.