“All’s Well That Ends Well” Or Is it?

September 6, 2016 in 1950s-1960s

Fall of 1961.

It was during the days of the University of Kentucky’s legendary Wildcat Coach Adolph Rupp (who wanted no Negroes* on his team) and one of the most famed players of all time: Cotton Nash.

On the eve of school opening, UK’s incoming freshmen at Boyd, Patterson, and Jewell Halls combined into one huge sea of young white female faces—excepting one–in the lobby of Boyd Hall. That one exception was a little dark, shy girl from south-central Bowling Green, Kentucky, who had never before been away from home, who had never before gone to an integrated school, who had never before been in a class with more than 25 students, who had never before been intimidated by students putting on such airs, posturing, using terms such as “rush” and names of connected sororities that she had never before heard. That poor wretched little creature who had survived the long ride from her safe home haven to this large formidable institution, who had bravely wished her family goodbye without encountering a single kith of her color, and who had unpacked to join the others in a university-planned welcoming event, my dears, be me.

They were singing lyrics to a melody that I had only heard but never really listened to that closely. As this was the state Flagship school, the song was the Kentucky State Song “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night.” Yes, I had heard the melody and knew the first fifteen words, but as the 13th word approached me, and I looked around that lobby filled with people not like me at all (the face of the students hadn’t been changed yet as it was only 1961 at UK), I suddenly had a horrible, paralytic realization. People had been singing “darkies” all this time. And
as hard working, underprivileged, abused people, they were supposed to be gay? And as the only darkie I had seen all day and the only darkie in that surrounding, I was supposed to understand and respect their assumed mindset of feeling gay?

Today, I can’t believe that I was the one that was embarrassed, though I can’t believe that I should have been. I was certainly humiliated to the point of tears as I stumbled back up to the third floor at the end of the hallway to my unoccupied room with the names Angela Alexander and Anna Catherine Scott written on the side of the door. All of the other rooms had two or three persons entering as occupying roommates; I had no one but myself. My thoughts were that the other name was made up, that there was no such person as this Anna C. Scott. My fears were substantiated by the fact that there was no Anna C. Scott the next day either, but I would not divulge to my mother when she called (and who wanted me to attend UKin the first place) as I did not want to worry her as the adult pleaser that then I was.

Finally on the second school day, a tall, attractive Negro young lady and her father rapped at the door. When I opened it she said, “Hi, I am Anna Catherine Scott from Mount Sterling and this is my father Reverend Scott. I am sorry that I am late.” That was the upside; the down side was that I would have 303 Boyd Hall all alone on Fridays, Saturdays and half the day on Sunday as Anna’s Mom was very ill and she had to go home to tend her and to church on Sunday, her father being the minister and all.

Angela Townsend, UK dorm room with hall mates

I had adjusted so well by the end of that sorrowful and horrible beginning that I am pictured here with hall mates after a date that I returned from and shared the experience with them. Pictured (l-r) are Linda, Angela, Maureen, and Kate.

Small guess that I did not mind that small inconvenience as I was just so glad to have a roommate to accompany me down to the cafeteria which served all three freshman dorms on the bottom floor of Boyd, and to talk to, to complain to, and to share experiences with. (Anna Catherine shared her experience with me that as she and her father were walking toward the dormitory, a group of Caucasion young men shouted nasties at them and her father admonished her to “just keep walking.”)

Though I was painfully shy, I seemed to garner attention from almost everyone else in the dorm, and I soon made many friends. Plus, there were two senior Negro girls who were transfers from Paducah Junior College: Mary Catherine Broady and Kay Grimes (now Jones). Mary and Kay joined me in making a total of three of us females on the whole of the UK dormitory campus. They lived across two yards in Holmes Hall and sort of took me under their arms to make certain that I attended a Negro Church, find the fast food establishments within walking distance of UK, and had dates. Also, the young Negro males from Louisville became my friends as there were more of them than there were females. So, by the end of my freshman year, I was pretty well entrenched again as a Negro social being with many white friends. “All’s well that ends well…” Sometimes. (To be continued.)

I wonder whether similar racial greeting experiences still slip through in our multicultural society of today.

~~~ Footnote ~~~
* The time was a few years before black activist Stokely Carmichael in a national march called for an unthinkably unheard of “Black Power,” which made previously “colored” people recently called Negroes suddenly “Black” people, and a time when renowned soul singer James Brown stomped and bellowed: “I’m Black and I’m Proud” etc., etc., and it seemed as though we newly named Black people were on the cusp of some sort of revolution. Click here to return to narrative.

4 responses to “All’s Well That Ends Well” Or Is it?

  1. This was breathtaking. I felt so alone on behalf of this young girl, entering hostile territory. Such an important read in an age where Civil Rights struggles are far from over.

  2. Great blog. Very eye opening.

  3. Thanks for writing it, it was very interesting to read about your time at UK.

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