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Outdoor Lockport quilting bee to honor civil rights pioneer

LOCKPORT – An outdoor quilting bee Saturday in Lockport will feature two groups of quilters paying tribute to Aaron Mossell, the man whose persistence led the Lockport Board of Education to desegregate the city’s public schools 78 years before the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that done nationwide.

The quilting event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of Sweet Ride Rentals, 51 Canal St., store owner Ellen Martin said.

The hours coincide with those of the weekly Lockport Community Market, which also is held on Canal Street.

The quilting groups from the Kenan Center and the Dale Association will take part in the event, Martin said. “They are working on a Mossell quilt, so they’re getting together and having public demonstrations of quilting.”

Visitors will be able to have some hands-on learning opportunities with the city’s leading quilters.

Mossell, an African-American brick manufacturer whose bricks were used to construct what was later renamed John Pound Elementary School on High Street in Lockport, complained to the Board of Education in 1871 about his three children being refused admission to the very school built with their father’s bricks. The teacher there refused to have them in the class.

The Mossell children were directed to the city’s blacks-only school on South Street.

The board rejected his complaint at first, but Mossell didn’t give up, and in 1876, the board decided to close the South Street school and ordered an expansion of a school on Washburn Street to make room for African-American children.