Picture of Lincoln School marchers

The Athens premiere screening of “THE LINCOLN SCHOOL STORY” will be held during Berry Day Week Kick-Off Event

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, OH – In partnership with the Mount Zion Black Cultural Center, WOUB Public Media is screening the new documentary called THE LINCOLN SCHOOL STORY as part of the kick-off event for Berry Day Week in Athens on May 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Athena. The production, created by Ohio Humanities and distributed by WOSU Public Media in Columbus, follows a group of Black mothers in Southwest Ohio as they heroically fight for school desegregation.

“There couldn’t be a more perfect film for the opening celebration honoring the Berrys,” said Mount Zion President Ada-Woodson Adams.  Edward “Ed” and Martha “Mattie” Berry were the owners of the once world-famous Berry Hotel on Court Street. May 23, the day in 2004 when a historical landmark was installed at the former site of the hotel, is now known as Berry Day in Athens and the Mount Zion Preservation Society celebrates the Berrys all week.

“Showing this film at the same time we are honoring the story of the Berrys and African American people in Appalachia and Athens County makes perfect sense,” said David Descutner, an Athens resident who serves on the Ohio Humanities Board and was a financial supporter of the project.

THE LINCOLN SCHOOL STORY documentary film tells the inspiring story of a group of courageous African American mothers who fought for school integration from 1954 – 1956 in the town of Hillsboro, Ohio. After the Brown v. Board of Education decision, these mothers marched with their children to the white elementary school, demanding admission—only to be turned away. Their lawsuit against the school board was one of the first test cases of the Brown decision. Despite segregationist redistricting, cross burnings, job losses, and legal threats, they marched for two years in one of the longest sustained civil rights marches in American history. Produced by award-winning filmmaker Andrea Torrice and Ohio Humanities, THE LINCOLN SCHOOL STORY is the first documentary to feature these women and highlight their role in the early civil rights movement.

“When you see the documentary, it is troubling that there was such hostility and opposition to something that makes so much sense. The treatment was inexcusable and wrong, and the film makes you uncomfortable,” said Descutner. “But it is important to share true stories that make you uncomfortable and allow us to learn and grow and imagine a better society. This kind of self-reflection gives us all a better sense of possibility for what we want our society to be.”

“We want this story to become a story that people know nationally,” said Ohio Humanities Executive Director Rebecca Asmo. “A lot of the marchers, who were children at the time, grew up without talking about this story very much. They kept it quiet, didn’t even tell their own children that they were a part of it, because they thought it would cause friction in the community. But this story is so important because of the length of the protest and the fact that it was led by women and children. These women and children were some of the first protestors in the Civil Rights Movement.”

The film is being shown across the country on PBS stations this summer. In addition to the film, Ohio Humanities is working with the Ohio University Press on a book, and has already created a children’s book that tells the story of the Lincoln School marchers.

“The Lincoln School story is an example of a part of Ohio history that was almost lost, because it was reported heavily in Black news publications, but less so in the papers of record. Black papers were not digitized like other newspapers are, which speaks to the structural racism of history in what gets documented and remembered,” said Asmo. “So, in the production of this film and children’s book, our team went through archives in Highland County and digitized a lot of those news reports, so they are now available to the public.”

“We were very happy to be able to support the creation of this film and the children’s book,” said Descutner. “We made our donation for the children’s book in honor of two extraordinary women whose whole lives exemplify what the Lincoln School marchers were about, Ada-Woodson Adams and the late Francine Childs. I’m thrilled this film is being shown in Athens.”

After the film screening, Descutner will introduce Asmo and Chris Boyd, owner of Zachary’s Deli, a popular gathering place on Court Street in the1980/90’s which was situated next door to the Hotel Berry. Boyd will share his experiences as one of the first Black business owners in the Uptown Athens Club Scene.

The LINCOLN SCHOOL STORY will air on WOUB TV on Juneteenth, June 19 at 6:30 p.m.