African-Americans may be a smaller percentage of Bexley's population, but they have a long history in the community, according to Bexley High School history teacher Scott King-Owen.
King-Owen discussed his research into local African-American history during a Dec. 10 program at the Bexley Public Library that was attended by about 100 parents, students and community members. The Bexley Minority Parents Alliance sponsored the program to raise awareness of African-Americans' contributions to education and other fields, said Jonathan Baker, the organization's president.
"One thing the Minority Parent Alliance wants to do is provide a support system for current students and for anyone who wants to help minority students succeed," he said. "We can find a way to be inclusive and ... be a part of the Bexley High School culture."
King-Owen said he began researching the history of African-Americans in Bexley as part of the curriculum for a black history class he teaches.
The class originated from student responses in a 2014 high school survey that indicated "it would be useful to have a class where they could sit and talk about race and American history in a way that would give them some information before they go off beyond the Bexley bubble," King-Owen said.
"We hear African-American voices come to life by reading about their experiences and their struggles," he said.
The black history class spans everything from the history of African civilization to contemporary cultural aspects such as hip hop and the modern-day over-representation of African- Americans in the criminal justice system, King-Owen said.
"It positions you to be in a place to listen to people with different experiences when you leave Bexley," he said of the class.
Bexley was originally part of a municipality known as Marion Township, which was home to 46 African-Americans in 1880, according to the 1880 U.S. Census, King-Owen said. The migration of African-Americans from the South to the northern cities in the early to mid-20th century doubled central Ohio's African-American population to 22,000.
Some African-Americans moved to Bexley in the early 20th century to work for the Ralston Steel Car Co., which was located in the namesake of Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., and affluent Bexley families also employed African- Americans as household domestic staff, King-Owen said.
By 1920, 17 African-Americans lived in Bexley, and a woman named Lella Pullens became Bexley High School's first African-American graduate in 1926. Over the years, African-American graduates from Bexley High School continued to be rare until the U.S. Supreme Court's 1979 decision to desegregate public schools, King-Owen said.
"There are no African-American graduates in the entire decade of the 1960s. There is a whole decade of folks who don't experience people who are different from them," he said. "It's not until the '70s that we start to see African-American faces in Bexley again."
King-Owen said he is hopeful enrollment in the black history class, which is a one-semester elective, will continue to grow through word of mouth and students referring peers.
He said he plans to continue his research and will soon begin reading every published edition of the high school's newspaper for the process. He wants to eventually compile his findings into a book.
"I'm going to continue to work on this," he said, "because I think there's much more to the story."