Lucy Harth Smith

April 19, 2011 in 1960s-1970s


Charlestine Williams

                Black history was withheld from textbooks in Kentucky’s public school system until Lucy Harth Smith, African American activist born in Virgina in 1888, and others took a stand. Ms. Smith’s aim was to improve the educational system for black students. Her dedication in seeking an education benefited many. To further her education, she attended Hampton University, graduated from Kentucky State College and received her master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. Following, these credentials qualified her to become a principal at Booker T. Washington Elementary School from 1935 to 1955.

 Before integration black educators taught the students the best way they could. The students didn’t have to worry about in class stress, or teachers treating them unfairly. It’s difficult to learn while walking in fear all day long. Not only were the schools segregated but the textbooks were also. Black history was left out of our public education. I was impressed with determined African Americans taking a stand. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a prominent figure and one of the leaders of the Study of Negro Life and History. This organization worked hard to require the educational system to have “Negro Week in the school agenda in 1926. Teachers were supposed to elaborate on key figures in black history in order to keep students aware of their background.

History teacher, William L. Katz, author of “Eyewitness: The Negro in American History” agrees that, “we have to pledge to teach the truth, to let the chips fall where they may, he warns: “some of these chips are going to soil the flag”. He also shared some theories about how the Negro got pushed out of American history. One fault he argues is that the Southern version of the African American in pre and post- Civil War America became the National Version. The Dixie Version was based on the assumption that the African American was happy as a slave and the closer he could be kept to slavery the happier he and the white man would be. Obeisance to the Southern point of view was due in large measure to the nation’s attempt for many years after the Civil War to win back the allegiance and support of the defeated Confederacy. He then states, “Unfortunately, we tried to bind up the wounds of the civil war by using African Americans as band aids”. (Ebony, 111). I totally agree with his theory. Once the truth is revealed about out past, it would degrade the American Flag. This is supposed to be the land of the free, with all mankind treated equally. Our past is a bloody and controlling society that the African Americans had to endure. They had to fight for the abolition of slavery, the suffrage for both men and women and to be treated as a citizen with equality and justice. To attempt to restore unity, the Southern’ point of view that the African American was happy as a slave was a false and weak way to win back the allegiance and support of the defeated Confederacy. In my opinion, why lie? The south especially was aware that the African Americans’ was not happy as a slave, or an indentured laborer. Although some may have been brain washed, thinking that, sharecropping or forced labor was all they were capable of doing, the majority knew life had more to offer. Many African Americans migrated to the North in aims of seeking a better education and social life for themselves and their family.

I was intrigued with a group of more than thirty thousand black high school students in Chicago that boycotted high school classes during October. Their demands were simply the inclusion of black history in textbooks (Ebony, 111). Taking the non-violent approach in solving issues was spreading. Non-violence spoke with more volume and weight, because the more people you have boycotting, the quicker you will attack attention. I admire the student’s strategic plan and boldness in taking a stand for the betterment of their education.

 Lucy Smith was among the prominent figures in the upgrading of our school system especially in Kentucky. She was also a member of the Study of Negro Life and History and President of Kentucky Negro Education Association, who lobbied for educational improvement. As a result, the earlier textbooks incorporated Harriet Tubman and her bravery in freeing hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, Levi Coffin, Frederick Douglas, an self-educated formerly slave, who edited the abolitionist newspaper, The North Star. Nat Turner, a slave that formed a violent revolt in Virginia in 1831, killing sixty white people, was also mentioned in the earlier textbooks.

Works Citied:

Ebony Magazine, 1968

Underground Railroad Digital Classroom: Textbooks

“Famous Kentucky Women” pamphlet by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, revised May 1997,

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