Cincinnati History is Black History — Prelude Episode

Our first season of Urban Roots starts with an episode that will take you back, way back, to Cincinnati’s beginnings.

If you know anything about Cincinnati’s Black history, you have probably heard of neighborhoods like the West End and Over-the-Rhine. But what do you know about the African American communities in Evanston, Avondale, or South Cumminsville? Have you ever heard about John Hatfield — a major player in Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad history? It’s okay if you don’t know much, that’s why we are here — to help tell the lesser known stories of urban history.

In 2021, Urbanist Media established the Urban Roots podcast as a tool for encouraging inclusive historic preservation, community engagement, and public history. Thanks to a Truth & Reconciliation Grant from Arts Wave, we were able to develop the first season of the podcast, a special series focused on the African American history of Cincinnati’s Evanston, Avondale, and South Cumminsville neighborhoods; Lost Voices of Cincinnati couples archival audio and primary research with oral histories we collected from residents to explore and explain why these neighborhoods have been so underrepresented in Cincinnati’s history.

But before we can discuss these neighborhoods, and where they are today, we have to go back and explain the the rich — and fraught — African American history of early Cincinnati. We are so excited to kick off this first season of Urban Roots with an episode that will take you back, way back, to Cincinnati’s beginnings, and tell you stories you’ve probably never heard — like how a Cincinnati barber helped execute the biggest North American escape of enslaved people, ever; how and why a mob attacked Cincinnati’s African American community (with cannons, no less) in 1841; and how the West End became one of the most happening Black communities of the 1920s. We show how, throughout the city’s history, African American communities have always faced adversity — but have also always banded together to not only persevere, but thrive. This episode features Kathy Dahl (Hamilton Avenue Road to Freedom) and Dr. Eric Jackson, professor of African American history at Northern Kentucky University.

S01E01 — Cincinnati History is Black History on Youtube and all podcast platforms now!!!

Part I: The tale of the escape of the 28 [0:00–08:23]

Part II: Early Cincinnati history with Professor Eric Jackson [08:24–17:48]

Part III: A sneak peek of what’s to come [17:49–22:37]

Find us on Youtube, Stitcher, Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Urban Roots is hosted by historic preservationist Deqah Hussein-Wetzel and journalist Vanessa Quirk. We’re edited by Connor Lynch and mixed by Tim Soarce. Our theme music is by Adaam James Levin-Areddy. Our Lost Voices of Cincinnati series was made possible by a Truth & Reconciliation grant from ArtsWave and our Fundly patrons (Donations always needed/welcomed!). We’d also like to thank Invest in Neighborhoods for their support.

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