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Oxford introduces new self-guided Black history tour

Situated along some of Oxford’s most familiar streets such as Vine, High and Main, there resides a rich history of the Black men and women who made their impact on this town more than 100 years ago. 

This history had gone relatively unknown to the greater Oxford population — until Taylor Meredith and Valorie Elliot, employees of Enjoy Oxford, the city’s visitors bureau, saw an opportunity to educate and inform on a topic that had long gone unnoticed. 

Meredith and Elliot drafted an idea to create a self-guided Black history tour which would highlight significant locations within Oxford that stemmed historic and monumental points for the town’s Black community that lived there at the time.

Being a self-guided tour, it is completed within each individual's own time. There are physical brochures to pick up or an online PDF mapping out the 16 stops the tour consists of. Each stop includes a brief description of the history created there.

The tour starts on Beech St., highlighting the Bethel A.M.E. Church – the oldest of the four Historically Black Churches that are located in Oxford. As one continues through the route, they are taken to another one of the town’s historic Black parishes along E. Vine St., First Baptist Church. This was the location of the church from 1865 until 2006 – the location is now a private residence.

This is the case for several of the locations along the tour. The third stop, the Cephas Burns House, located on N. Main St., currently serves as off-campus housing for Miami University students. 

Some of the historic pinpoints along the route now serve as familiar Oxford favorites. The seventh stop on the tour leads you to 209 E. Sycamore St., the location of Johnny’s Campus Deli. But in the late 1940s, this address would lead to Knoxy’s Delicatessen, a common place for the Black men in the community to gather and discuss local and worldly struggles.

Oxford’s Black history can be found in Miami’s academic buildings, as well. On the tour's 11th stop, one can see what students and faculty now know as McGuffey Hall. But, this building was previously known as the McGuffey Laboratory School — a K-12, all-white education center. The school was established in 1910, but it wasn’t until 1965 that the first Black students were enrolled. 

The tour concludes on Contreras Rd., where the Oxford Municipal Pool in Roosevelt Park previously sat in 1935. The location is now property owned by the Oxford Country Club. 

After one has concluded their tour, they are given some additional history regarding Oxford's Black history at the end of their tour guide pamphlet, including descriptions on John S. Jones, the Miller family and the lynching of Simeon Garnett and Henry Corbin. 

After a little more than a year of research and persistent work spanning from February 2019 to its finalization and release early this summer, Meredith and Elliot  are pleased that this tour is finally available for the community to safely enjoy. Being a self-guided tour, they are happy that this educational experience can be done at any time — especially in a time of masks and social distancing.  

“As a visitor center, something we really try to do is promote attractions and promote activities and events that the community is able to do safely,” Meredith said. “And this is something that is extremely accessible and educational for all.”

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Visit Enjoy Oxford’s website for more information on how to take the self-guided tour.