Meet inspiring Daytonians who helped shape black history

Civil rights pioneers, Olympians, innovators, and historic black universities make up the fabric of the community. 

Here is a look at some of their stories:

» VISIT IN PERSON: 7 experiences to learn more about black history in the region

Mayor James H. McGee reads a letter on behalf of the City of Dayton in 1980. At rear is is Dr. David Ponitz. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Photo: Dayton Daily News Archive

A Dayton trailblazer: James H. McGee was Dayton’s first black mayor. 

A Wilberforce graduate, he moved to Dayton and began to practice law. Much of his work was for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

» READ MORE: James H. McGee, Dayton’s trailblazing mayor

A parade for the two-time Olympic champion was held in downtown Dayton in 1984.Moses and his wife Myrella rode from Courthouse Square to Memorial Hall in a convertible with a patriotic banner covering the hood.More than 1,000 Dayton public school children walked alongside holding American flags high as Moses and his wife waved to the crowd on the streets. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Photo: Dayton Daily News Archive

An Olympic great: Just months after winning a gold medal in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Edwin Moses was honored by his hometown. 

“Moses has climbed mountain of fame,” was the Aug. 6, 1984 Dayton Daily News front page headline marking Moses’ 47.75-second finish in the 400-meter hurdles. 

» READ MORE: ‘Edwin Moses comes home again’

Jeraldyne Blunden founded the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in 1968. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Photo: Dayton Daily News Archive

Devoted to dance: The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) is Ohio’s oldest modern dance company. It has mesmerized audiences both local and worldwide, and developed countless dance stars since 1968, and it wouldn’t have happened without the talent and passion of Jeraldyne Blunden. 

Blunden devoted her life to dance education and performance and provided inspiration for generations of talent. 

» READ MORE: Visionary creates dance company

Shorter Hall on the original Wilberforce University campus in an undated photo. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE REMBERT E. STOKES ARCHIVES AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Photo: Rembert E. Stokes Archives and S

‘A refuge from slavery’s first rule: ignorance’: Wilberforce University, the country’s oldest private historically black university with origins dating back before the Civil War, was founded in 1856. 

The original university had its start on land known for its natural springs and pastoral beauty located east of Xenia. Elias Drake, a lawyer and former speaker of the Ohio General Assembly, purchased the land and built a health resort on the site in 1850. He called it Tawawa Springs. 

» READ MORE: Wilberforce University founded in 1856

Col. Charles Young was born into slavery in 1864. He went on to be the third African-American to graduate from West Point and the first black man to become a colonel in the Army. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL AFRO-AMERICAN MUSEUM AND CULTURAL CENTER
Photo: Contributed

A military pioneer: Charles Young was the third African-American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He went on to achieve the rank of colonel and serve as a military attache despite his being born into slavery in 1864. 

At the end of the Civil War, Young’s family left Kentucky and sought a new life in Ripley, Ohio, where Young thrived as a student in an integrated high school class and graduated in 1881. He went on to teach at a school for black students for several years.

» READ MORE: Col. Charles Young, military luminary

W.S. McIntosh protesting outside of the Lincoln Federal Bank June 26, 1964. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Photo: Dayton Daily News Archive

Dayton’s civil rights pioneer: W. Sumpter McIntosh challenged segregation before the issue of racial equality gained national attention. A firm believer in non-violence, McIntosh, known as “Mac,” attempted negotiation to earn equal rights. When his efforts were hampered, he stirred Dayton’s black community to boycott and picket. 

As president and founder of the West Side Citizens Council, McIntosh led one of the first civil rights demonstrations in Dayton to protest discriminatory hiring practices at white-owned stores and banks in West Dayton. 

» READ MORE:  A firm believer in non-violence

Lieutenant Colonel Charity Edna Earley was the first black officer in the Women s Army Corps and commanding officer of the only organization of black women to serve overseas during World War II.
Photo: HANDOUT

Black women that helped shape Dayton’s history: A Twitter hashtag campaign, #BlackWomenDidThat, encouraged memories of and inspiration from black women who have helped to change history. 

Here are seven women with Dayton connections who fit into that group. 

» READ MORE: 7 black women who helped shape Dayton’s history

A cabinet card portrait of author Paul Laurence Dunbar as a young man in 1890. Dunbar was born in Dayton in 1872 to former slaves and was the first African American poet to receive critical acclaim for his work. He died in Dayton Feb. 9, 1906. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION

A poet for all time: The son of former slaves, Dayton-born Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first nationally-known African-American writers. 

Dunbar’s father, Joshua, escaped slavery and enlisted to serve in the Union Army before settling in Dayton. His mother, Matilda, was born a slave in Fayette County, Kentucky, but despite being illiterate instilled a love for language in her son.

» READ MORE: Dunbar’s prose a treasured legacy

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