The Lincoln School For Colored Children
EDITOR’S NOTE: In 1881 Crawfordsville School Trustees ordered a school be built at the southwest corner of Spring and North Walnut Streets to serve black students in grades 1-8. Once graduated, the students attended the integrated Crawfordsville High School. This site accommodated the vast majority of black families living in Crawfordsville’s north end. Trustees purchased the lot in September 1881 for $2,000. On Dec. 3, 1881, Hinckley and Norris won the contract to build the building for $6,400. The architects designed a plain two-story red brick structure with playgrounds for all the black children who resided in that area. Lincoln School officially opened in September 1882 with 42 students. When the black population moved to the east end to work in the factories, Linclon Building 1 was renovated into Horace Mann, and Linclon Build 2 was opened on East Wabash Avenue. That building became Lincoln Rec Center and was demolished in 1981. This project began as a project historical research project to honor all those individuals who went to school in separate and unequal facilities as the law dictated.
George William Thompson
Educator from 1910-1918
George W Thompson was born on 9 November 1883 in Covington, Indiana, to Charles, a barber. He graduated from Covington High School. He participated in the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis before attending Indiana University to become the first documented Black athlete in 1905. While at IU, Thompson set the school record for the 440-yard dash and was a Western Conference championship-winning mile relay team member.
In 1908, George married Lotta/Lottie Thompson, who had been born in 1881 in Indiana and completed at least one year of college. By 1910, the couple was living in Crawfordsville at 214 Harrison Street. That same year, George began his tenure as principal of the Lincoln School for eight years, leaving just before World War I. In 1917, the couple moved to 803 Milligan Street. George resigned from Lincoln School to enter World War I as a lieutenant in service, executive secretary, and athletic director of the Y.M.C.A. Assigned to Depot Company K, 370th infantry, he left New York on 2 February 1919, arriving a week later in Brest, France. While in service, he wrote letters home from the front. The Crawfordsville Daily Journal published several.
Upon his return from the war in 1919, George became associated with the Y.M.C.A. in Akron, Ohio, which continued for 25 years. He served as an associate professor in the sociology department of Akron University. Akron struggled with the responsibility of meeting the social needs of its increasing Black population, so a group of Black citizens asked the local Y.M.C.A. for assistance. George tackled the problem by coordinating Black activities, but accomplished little for the next few years. In 1921, he delivered a 20-minute speech, “The White Side of the Black Subject,” to the men at the Akron Y.M.C.A.
In 1925, The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company pledged $10,000 to support work with the Black citizens of the community. The company had no idea how to meet the social needs of the Black population, so it appointed a five-member committee that met in March 1925 to make recommendations. George attended this meeting, and on that night, the Association for Colored Community Work (the Association) was born. He designed the organization as a clearing house for all problems Black people faced such as job discrimination. George continued this vision to improve Akron’s Black people by changing the organization’s name to the Akron Community Service Center. Eventually, the group moved into a new facility that included all the amenities that had been lacking, such as a gymnasium, swimming pool, meeting rooms, classrooms, library, lounges, and a kitchen. In the 1960s, an auditorium was added. It became the haven for the Black community and offered recreational programs for children and adults when no other facilities in Akron would allow them through the doors. The organization still exists and has continued to serve thousands of people by providing programs and services that emphasize education, job training, economic development, antiviolence, health and wellness, and mentoring. It remains one of 88 affiliates of the National Urban League and continues to be a driving force behind the employment of minority workers in the community.
In 1943, Akron honored George for his work. According to the newspaper coverage, “Industrial and businessmen, both White and Black, attended to pay their respects to George. Being a tall man with a soft-spoken manner, he acknowledged in his speech that industrial and business people and leaders of both races were responsible for the improvement of all Akron citizens. In his remarks, George disclaimed credit for himself for improved racial relations in Akron and said the praise should rightfully belong to the understanding men and women of both races who have worked with him.
His obituary, 26 October 1944, read, “more than any other one individual, George W Thompson is responsible for the understanding and mutual trust which prevails between the White and Negro populations of the city of Akron. That understanding will remain, we hope, as a monument to Mr. Thompson’s diligent and intelligent labors. It is not enough to say that he was a credit to his race. George Thompson was a credit to mankind. Here is a living example of the fact that whites and Negroes can get along with mutual respect and confidence.”