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Segregation of schools in Kentucky

February 10, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Oral history, Political history, Primary source, Social history

The Day Law of 1908 required the forced segregation of schools in Kentucky, and it was in place for nearly fifty years. With the argument that separate was not the same as equal, the NAACP organized resistance against the Jim Crow laws in the 1930s. They began fighting for African American entrance in to higher education institutions. In the 1950s, a mass resistance began, and people all over the state began entering previously segregated schools. I found it very interesting that the first African American student to enroll in a previously segregated high school, Lafayette, was in fact female, in 1955, and she faced little to no resistance.

There were many lawsuits filed in the state of Kentucky, which were met with difficulty by many white communities. Unlike many states in the further Deep South, the school board and state government were more or less committed to abide by the desegregation laws. By the mid 1960s, nearly all of Kentucky’s schools were in fact desegregated. The first African American person to attend the University of Kentucky was male, but both males and females received somewhat equal discrimination. Different accounts in the oral histories in “Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky” describe different experiences of different students attending the University of Kentucky. One narrator describes harsh reactions from other students, but rather levelheaded reactions and attitudes from professors, who seemed to discourage unfair treatment from other students. George Logan of Lexington described a time when the students in one of his classes put rope around a chair that said “For Colored Only”, and the professor that promised “Tomorrow you will be treated as a human being.” Iola Harding recalled “Nobody spoke to you, nobody engaged you and stuff like that. But after I was around there a while, a few people did.” There were boycotts and mobs in many parts of the state, and many faced very difficult opposition and had to be escorted by police to and from school.

In general, the feeling I got from the oral histories that both men and women were treated equally unfairly in terms of desegregating the education in Kentucky.

2 responses to Segregation of schools in Kentucky

  1. I think that you did an excellent job at looking at the kind of and magnitude of the discrimination that both black males and females faced as schools in Kentucky began to be desegregated. I really like though that you focused a lot on the fact that in many cases in Kentucky many people didn’t meet great resistance and that the school boards didn’t necessarily try and stop desegregation from happening. I thought that this was an extremely cool way of setting up your blog and an awesome idea to bring up.

  2. I think it’s interesting that you claimed that men and women were both treated unfairly, but equally unfairly, especially during a time when all people who were different were abused. Interesting commentary.

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