Defining a Movement Through Two Bold Kentucky Women

February 18, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

If I were to formulate a definition of Kentucky women based on the lives and work of Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd I would start by saying, Kentucky women were strong, independent, self-motivated, and hard working.

Passing for BlackIf you can wade through the vain portrayal of Kidd in Passing for Black­, you will see a highly self-motivated woman. Kidd faced a peculiar situation, because she was not quite white and not quite black.  To quote her directly, she was “too white for this situation and too black for that one.” However, she truly seemed to take her circumstances and use them to suit her own interests. Much of this stems from her unique upbringing. Although raised as a black woman, Kidd’s mother never allowed her to work as a maid, to develop a “servant mentality.”

Kidd was career driven, constantly making moves which she thought would further her career. Upon a quick glance at her life and accomplishments, one can easily see that this mentality served Kidd well.

Kidd considers her successful career her greatest asset to the civil rights movement. She clearly articulates in Passing for Black, how it never suited her to lead rallies or sit-ins. Instead she stated that her “most important service to my sex and my race is my life, which I have tried to live as an example of what a black person could achieve- not just a black person- but a black woman.” This idea, that making progress in the movement by simply living a driven, successful life struck me as being simply brilliant. What a better way to promote progress than by taking life by the hands, and showing you could make change happen.

Kidd best illustrates who she was in page forty-one of the book. “I never made an issue of my race. I let people think or believe what they wanted to. If it was ever a problem, then it was there problem, not mine. I never, ever advertised my race, and I still don’t. The Declaration of Independence says we’re all created equal, and I believe it.”  When reading the book, I never took Kidd’s work as being some push for justice as much as a strong will to lead a good life, and to use that life as an example of what others were equally capable of.  Kidd does not exceed any other Kentucky women, in fact she exemplifies the work-ethic that continues in the state today.

Grevious speaks of a segregated Kentucky that Kidd does not as thoroughly mention. However, Kidd had the advantage of being able to pass for white, and Grevious did not. Grevious was much more aggressive in her activism, participating in picketing and other activities with the NAACP.

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“Audrey Grevious.” The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Kentucky Historical Society. 13 April 1999. <http://205.204.134.47/civil_rights_mvt/util.aspx?p=1&pid=14984>. 16 Feb. 2013.

“Oral History Interview with Mae Street Kidd.” Interview by Kenneth Chumbley on November 11 and December 5, 1978. African American Oral History Collection. University of Louisville Libraries Digital Collections. <http://digital.library.louisville.edu/cdm/search/field/creato/searchterm/Kidd,%20Mae%20Street,%201904-/mode/exact>.

Hall, Wade H. Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.

 

2 responses to Defining a Movement Through Two Bold Kentucky Women

  1. I found it interesting that she identified more with her black side than her white side, though she could easily be mistaken for being white. It may have been because her dad–who was white–never acknowledged her during his lifetime.

  2. I appreciate how you suggest that the two women, Grevious and Kidd, experienced segregated communities differently due to their appearance. I think the differences in these women’s experiences greatly influenced their impact on Kentucky.

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