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Kentucky Women in Civil Rights after WWII

March 5, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s

At the beginning of the 1940s, the suffering and unemployment created by the Great Depression created nationwide protest movements, which continued after WWII. One of the issues that invoked protest was the treatment of African-American soldiers. Those these men were traveling overseas to fight in the war just as white soldiers were, when they came home they were still not allowed to eat at the same counter as whites in a restaurant or sit in the same section on a bus. This segregation created national movements that are well known, such as the 13month bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, however efforts to stop the segregation were also taking place in Kentucky.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the NAACP Youth Council would host sit-ins and pickets in an effort to desegregation Louisville. This council was led by Lyman Johnson, who had earlier helped desegregate the University of Kentucky in 1949.

Other organizations such as CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality, and SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also help protest efforts. CORE was an especially active group in Central Kentucky. The organization help regional workshops on non-violence for students, which helped students prepare to handle the abusive language they might face.

NAACP members protest against segregation.

Not only did organizations play a large role in addressing racial discrimination, but Kentucky women did as well. Anne Braden lead a hospital desegregation drive in Kentucky, and was arrested in 1951 after she protested the execution of an African-American man who was convicted for raping a white woman. She is most famous for her attempt to purchase a house for the Wades, a black family who was unable to purchase a home on their own because of the Jim Crow laws.

Another outstanding woman, Helen Fisher Frye, worked to organize the Danville chapter of the NAACP and worked to desegregate public housing as well as hosted sit-ins with students.

These women, though not made famous by history books, played a key role in creating a desegregated America. Often times their efforts are looked over, however it is important that we realize what a large role Kentucky women played in desegregating America.

***Resources***

“Anne Braden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Apr. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Braden. 04 Mar. 2013.

Fosl, Catherine, and K’Meyer, Tracy Elaine. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.

Frye, Helen Fisher. Interviewed by David R. Davis.   Eastern Kentucky University. 1980. http://nyx.uky.edu/oh/render.php?cachefile=keu1981oh065-Frye.xml. 04 Mar. 2013.

“Notable Kentucky African Americans – Frye, Helen Fisher.” University of Kentucky Libraries. University of Kentucky. http://www.uky.edu/Libraries/NKAA/record.php?note_id=764. 04 Mar. 2013.

1 response to Kentucky Women in Civil Rights after WWII

  1. The segregation in the community concerning the soldiers that you brought up is a really interesting one. I think that a lot of people don’t think of these when they first think of when they hear why the civil rights movement took place. I really like the way you connected the bigger civil rights movement to a more localized one and how the women in those communities helped the movement out.

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