Written by Keloni Parks, Branch Manager, West End Branch Library
For this episode of the West End Stories Project, we spoke to West End Community Council Beautification Chair, Fannie Shaw, who moved to the West End from Whitfield, Georgia, when she was eight years old. When her family first moved to the West End, they lived in a building on Clark Street in what became the Laurel-Richmond Urban Renewal Project. She attended Dyer Elementary, Stowe Elementary, Porter Junior High, and Taft High Schools.
Ms. Shaw attended Porter Junior High School, which was connected to Hays Elementary School on Court and Mound Streets. Opened in 1953, Porter only cost three million dollars to construct, and had a capacity for 2,000 elementary and junior high students.
When Hays Elementary and Porter Junior High opened, it was during a time when dozens of schools were being constructed throughout the city to replace outdated facilities and alleviate overcrowded conditions. According to this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer, nine schools in what was then called the “basin” (Downtown and West End) were recommended for abandonment by the Schoolhouse Planning Committee. This included both Sherman and Jackson Elementary Schools in the West End. It was recommended that Stowe School’s junior high be rehoused, and that its current building be used solely as an elementary school.
The schools were named after Jennie D. Porter, the first Black school principal in Cincinnati and first Black woman to receive a Ph. D. from the University of Cincinnati, and George W. Hayes who was formerly enslaved and was the first Black court crier.
While attending Porter Junior High School, Ms. Shaw took home economics, and gained professional training such as interviewing skills and professional dress. “It was like they were preparing you for the world,” she said.
Today, Hays Porter Elementary School still honors the memory of Jennie D. Porter and George W. Hays. Middle schoolers now attend Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School, a block north.