Kentucky Civil Rights Leaders

April 20, 2011 in 1920s-30s, 1950s-1960s, Political history

This paper discusses the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Kentucky becoming the first Southern state to enact a strong civil rights law, former Governor of Kentucky Ned Breathitt’s role in moving Kentucky’s Civil Rights forward and Audrey Grevious who was born in Kentucky and later become the Lexington Chapter President of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

During President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration Congress passed Public Law 82-352 (78 Stat. 241). The provisions in this civil rights act prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered all executive agencies to require federal contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” This marked the first use of the phrase “affirmative action.” In 1969 an executive order required that every level of federal service offer equal opportunities for women and established a program to implement that action.

Former Kentucky Governor Ned Breathitt was instrumental in Kentucky passing historic civil rights legislation. First elected to the Kentucky State House in 1951, he served until 1958. Breathitt was elected Governor of Kentucky in 1963 and introduced a petition at the 1964 National Governors Conference in which he called for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Later in 1964 Governor Breathitt at a civil rights conference in Louisville pledged his support for a strong civil rights bill addressing employment as well as public accommodations. This pledge from a southern Governor was unheard of in its time. In 1966 the Kentucky General Assembly passed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. This law prohibited discrimination in employment and public accommodations and empowers cities to enact local laws against housing discrimination. The Kentucky Civil Rights legislation also repealed all other state segregation laws and setup the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights which had the statutory authority to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth. Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act went further than its federal counterpart because it prohibited racial discrimination in hiring. The Reverend Martin Luther Kings called Kentucky’s Civil Rights Bill “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state.” Governor Breathitt went on to assist the integration of athletics into the Southeastern Conference which included the University of Kentucky. This website is a timeline of Kentucky’s Civil Rights. From this timeline we can see Kentucky’s progression in the Civil Rights Movement as well as other significant events.

Another important Kentuckian who played a crucial role in Civil Rights is Audrey Grevious. Audrey Grevious was born in 1930 in Lexington, Kentucky. Grevious as a youth attended segregated schools. After earning her bachelors degree in elementary education at Kentucky State University she went on to earn a master’s in administration from Eastern Kentucky University. According to this website which contains Audrey Grevious biography http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_grevious.htm in the later 1940’s Grevious became active in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) as well CORE (Congress on Racial Equality). As the civil rights movement continued Grevious became the president of the Lexington Chapter of the NAACP in 1957. Working with a friend Julia Lewis who was the president of Lexington’s CORE, the two brought the NAACP and the CORE together for the first time. Grevious and Lewis helped organize sit-ins at dime store food counters, pickets of a neighborhood grocery store and protests in Lexington Kentucky theaters for the Civil Rights Movement. These two organizations carefully worked together contributing to the peaceful achievement of civil right goals.

Sources

 http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/16/local/me-breathitt16

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