Inequality within Equality

January 27, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Primary source, Social history

Photograph of Jennie Wilson, 102

Jennie Wilson, 102

According to the oral history interview with 102-year-old Jennie Wilson, African Americans in Kentucky experienced intense discrimination especially in the realm of education. Jennie describes fearing for her safety at home and hearing of horrendous public displays of racism but also explains how she was only permitted to receive six years of education. Her education, received from her mother and father and other members of the community, included instruction on how to cook and clean and do whatever necessary to provide for your family.

Jennie went on to have four children, all of which would graduate from college. Jennie’s daughter, Alice Wilson, launched a very important movement for the education of African Americans and the integration of schools in Mayfield, Kentucky. Alice and a group of her friends chose to integrate their all-white high school independently at age 14. In her portion of the interview, Alice Wilson says that the integration was extremely unexpected and she and her friends had no idea how their actions would be received. As a group of typical teenagers, Alice and her friends entered Mayfield High School to register for school. When she was admitted, the first thing she noticed was the distinction in text books and the fact that the school remained segregated within even though it had been integrated in the eye of the public. The observations from within the school that Alice shares closely parallel efforts to desegregate across much of the southern United States. Alice’s commentary regarding the inequality experienced although she was admitted to attend the school is representative of prolonged injustice for African American education in Kentucky and across the nation following the overturned rule of the “Separate but Equal” doctrine in 1954.

Intregration of public schools

Intregration of public schools

In expressing her pride for her daughter’s actions, Jennie Wilson explains that her feet have endured quite a lot in her 102 years including the transformation of a society. She came from a world of “scary times” and she and many other members of her community thought they would merely have to learn “how to deal with society” rather than be accepted as an active and equal member.



“KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson.” Living the Story: The Rest of the Story. Web. 27 January 2013.

“US History/Eisenhower Civil RIghts Fifties.” Wikibooks. Web. 27 January 2013.

“Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.” Notable Kentucky African Americans. Web. 27 January 2013

5 responses to Inequality within Equality

  1. I think that the way that you set up this entry is great. The way that the blog flows from Jennie’s story to her daughters to connecting the two with each other and what African Americans across Kentucky and the state was a great way to allow the reader to follow along with the thoughts of these two incredible women. I think that the fact that this looks specifically at how the education of African Americans is really good too. It shows how society changed in just one generation and is very eye opening to what these people went through.

  2. I really like how you tied it up with the comment Jennie made about her feet. I think feet are a really strong metaphor for the trials of blacks through generation and it really made your entry meaningful.

  3. I enjoyed reading your analysis of Jennie and Alice Wilson’s struggles with equality while living in Mayfield. I also liked how you related Alice’s struggles with the broader history of what was going on at that time in other US schools, showing how Alice’s treatment was not the result of just one prejudice community, but the response of many communities across the south.

  4. I appreciated that you pulled out the quote about having to deal with society. This shows how far the younger generations had to come from the acceptance older generations had of their subservient position.
    I also think it is important that you pointed out that all of Jennie’s children went to college. These children were just two generations away from slavery, and received full educations, a true tribute to the hard work of so many.

  5. I liked that your main focus was on Alice’s experience in high school. It wasn’t too long ago that we were all at that point in our lives, which is what makes her story so relatable and poignant. It’s also very interesting how inequalities still exist despite it’s obvious step back in society.

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