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Evelyn Williams, a great role model for us all

February 11, 2017 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Oral history

Appalshop In 1995 the great Appalshop filmmaker Anne Lewis featured Mrs. Evelyn Williams (October 31, 1915 – December 13, 2002), a Kentucky woman whose wisdom and heroism continues to teach us great lessons in patriotism, love of land and community, and for equal rights. The film (available for viewing free online at the Appalshop website) is worth watching again if you’ve seen it before – and certainly worth sharing with others if you are seeing it for the first time.

Evelyn Williams

Evelyn Williams on her farm near Redfox, in Knott County KY

Born in the mountains of Tennessee, Mrs. Williams remembers her family moving back to eastern Kentucky to coalmining camps near where her ancestors had lived and extended family owned land together in Perry County. She tells of how the actions of white supremacists in the 1920s affected her even later in life, and she warns us to pay attention how racist violence today touch and change our youth today. You will be fascinated by her stories of motherhood in the mountains, working as a domestic servant in West Virginia, going for a college degree at age 50 and what it meant to her as she learned what it takes to create a positive community spirit in the midst of despair and powerlessness. The death of her son and the inhumane way the military establishment treated his remains led her to a new appreciation for those around her who were struggling. Unlike so many other histories, the narrative kept its focus on this woman’s life — keeping true to Mrs. Williams’ own assertion that the long history of Blacks in Appalachia is mostly the story of women and children who far outnumbered the men. We need to remember this as so much more is learned and understood when we see our work in the world from the eyes of women and children.

This short film (about 25 minutes long) is powerful in drawing in its audience. I appreciated the loving and respectful way that Lewis shows us how Mrs. Williams holds herself, her home furnishings while she is being interviewed about her family, and her interactions with old friends in New York or with KFTC activists on her land as they negotiate with the mining company.

Thank you, Anne Lewis. Thank you, Appalshop. And even heartier thanks to Mrs. Evelyn Williams for sharing her powerful and important story.

Oral history interviews with Black women in Kentucky

March 10, 2015 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Primary source, Social history

While indexing interviews for the project on oral histories featuring Black women in Kentucky it’s hard not to become fascinated with a particular person or story. While every interview is, of course, valuable in its own right, some interviews are more detailed than others, and some interviewees have interesting perspectives or personal stories to add. These are the interviews I found particularly interesting while indexing the first batch of oral histories:

Dorothy Perkins

Dorothy Perkins during her interview with Joan Brannon in 2009

Dorothy Perkins grew up in Lexington during the 1930s and ’40s. One of my favorite things about this interview is that she describes the neighborhoods of Lexington at this time in great detail, including businesses, schools, and churches once located in the East End of Lexington. She not only paints a vivid picture of Deweese Street in its heyday, but also describes the fashion and clothing styles that were popular at the time. Perkins gives great detail in her description of Lexington theaters and what it felt like as a child only being allowed to watch shows from the balcony. Perkins’ life was full of interesting stories, including the one about being expelled from school for fighting another girl by attacking her with her fingernails.

Valinda Livingston

Valinda Livingston in an interview with Brannon 2009

Valinda Livingston grew up in the East End of Lexington and discusses attending both Constitution Elementary School and Shiloh Baptist Church in the neighborhood. Livingston describes Lexington during her childhood in great detail, including parks, restaurants, drugstores, and funeral homes. She also talks about being warned to stay away from Deweese Street, which makes for an interesting comparison with Dorothy Perkins’ description of the area. Livingston attended college at Kentucky State before becoming one of the first African American students at the University of Kentucky when integration began. She became a teacher and later, principal at Russell Elementary School. Livingston provides a great deal of information on the founding of Russell School, her time as principal, and the closing of the school.

Mattie Jackson was a teacher at George Washington Carver School from 1914-1960. In her interview with Edward Owens, Jackson gives a first-hand account of the experiences of an African American teacher working in schools prior to integration. She discusses the conditions in all-Black schools, from the lack of equipment to the lower salaries for Black teachers. She talks about the students’ reactions to White teachers at the school, including a story about a music teacher who made racist comments to the students.

Wilhelmina Hunter was the wife of Dr. Bush Hunter, an African American doctor in Lexington. Mrs. Hunter grew up in Boston, Massachusetts where she studied business in college before moving to Washington, D.C. to work for the IRS. Hunter talks about the discrimination she and her family faced when they moved to Lexington, and discusses her involvement in organizations dedicated to improving conditions for Blacks in Lexington. Throughout the interview Hunter paints a picture of race relations in Lexington from the perspective of someone who not only lived it, but of someone who had also experienced different ways of life in Boston and Washington, D.C. An interesting side note from the interview: Mrs. Hunter mentions her relationships with famous entertainers Duke Ellington and Marion Anderson, both of whom gave performances in her home in Lexington.

Elizabeth Harris describes her childhood community and discusses the close-knit relationships between neighbors, who she says often disciplined each others’ children. I feel like this interview is unique among most of the others in this collection because Harris expresses an opinion that may often be felt but is not often mentioned in discussions on race relations: opposition to integration. She also discusses what happened to Black businesses in Lexington after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. One of the most interesting parts of the interview for me was not only hearing about Harris’ experiences with segregation in movie theaters, hotels, and other Lexington businesses, but also her story about refusing to sit at the back of a bus.

As I said, these are not the only interesting interviews in this collection (nor even the only interesting parts of these particular interviews). Each woman interviewed offers a unique perspective on childhood, schools (both all-Black and integrated), race relations in Lexington, discrimination, and their own role in the civil rights movement, from the perspective of a Black woman in Kentucky.

Award winning website: resource on Anne Braden

October 20, 2014 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Oral history, Political history

In April 2012 at Kentucky’s District 3 finals for National History Day, Katy Campbell and Nick Tehrani from the Academy for Individual Excellence in Louisville won first place for their website: “Anne Braden: Advocate, Radical, and Revolutionary.”

The website opens with a slideshow and a recording of “Anne Braden” by the Flobots, an American rock and hip hop musical group from Colorado (the Flobots online radio segment “White Flag Warrior” is available free at Jango) – you can see the powerful lines of the song at AZ Lyrics.

Anne Braden

Click image above to go to the students’ award-winning website on Anne Braden

The website contains the following segments:

  • Young Life
  • Escape Route
  • The Wade Case
  • Continued Activism
  • Legacy
  • Media
  • Credits

This is a terrific resource for young readers and highly recommended by Dr. Cate Fosl, director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research in Louisville.

New Project in the Works – Indexing Oral History Interviews of Black Women in Lexington

July 25, 2014 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Oral history, Political history, Primary source, Religious history, Social history

SPOKEdb logoGood news alert! The Kentucky Oral History Commission of the Kentucky Historical Society has awarded us funding for a project to index the oral history interviews from the “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project.” The interviews will be placed in the Oral History Metadata Synchonizer (OHMS) of the Oral History Collection Management System here at the University of Kentucky. After the interviews are indexed in OHMS, geo-tagging linked to the digitized segments of the oral histories will provide an important digital humanities geo-spatial component to these resources. They will be viewable via the ExploreUK Kentucky Digital Library.

About the interviews

The women who contributed their voices to the collection of “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project” come from all walks of life. Their ages and backgrounds are highly diverse, providing a sort of prototype for a good micro-history of Kentucky in the twentieth century. The interviewers for this whole collection are highly regarded educators and oral historians whose work in the 1970s and ‘80s even up to the present day. The oral historians, Ann Grundy, Edward Owens, Emily Parker, Gerald Smith, and George C. Wright are respected local community activists, scholars and authors. The resulting interviews are nuanced in ways that evoke strong passion for the role of place and community in history, and the questions based in a strong historiographical methodology worth raising up for others to learn from them.

Similar to other twentieth century local history collections, this series has a wide scope of perspectives and serves as a good sampling of the many different types of backgrounds and occupations of the interviewees. However, Lexington’s history has traditionally been written from the perspective of its men – or at least a male-dominated political history. This project will use selected interviews from this collection to provide access to a unique and valuable overview of twentieth century Lexington from a female perspective. Most all of the women in this collection were wage earners and a solid majority of the interview time is voiced by women professionals: educators, clerks, administrators and managers, librarians, nurses and dentists, social workers and politicians. Several women represent the entrepreneurs and technical workers that fuel a thriving local economy: beauticians, cooks, housekeepers, and even a “Dorm mother” at a residence hall at UK. A few well-to-do women are identified as homemakers and a couple of women explain their views on Lexington from their work as a pastor’s wife.

This collection of interviews is an important component of statewide documentation of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Interviewees in this collection are typically older than those women whose interviews are archived at the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) and made accessible by the Online Media Database and the Kentucky Educational Television website. By providing greater access to these interviews from Lexingtonians, a more balanced narrative (not just highly publicized events in Louisville) could expand the scope of the evidence presented in published scholarly monographs such as the highly useful book Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, edited by Catherine Fosl and Tracy K’Meyer (University Press of Kentucky, 2009).

Out of 189 oral history interviews (a total of 194.25 interview hours) in the UK Oral History collection, “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project,” only 56 were of women. Those interviews, while less than a third of the total collection however, made up nearly half of the total interview time (almost 64 hours or 3,832 interview minutes). The interviews average 68 minutes (from one as short as 10 minutes to one as long as 180 minutes). Only 9 of the interviews’ audio are in poor condition.

Women Interviewees, Occupation

Viola Greene, Teacher
Marilyn Gaye, Civil rights activist
Virginia McDonald, Librarian
Alvinia Newell, Dentist
Ann Miller, Teacher
Kay and Reverend Lamont Jones, Pastor’s wife
Ella Bosley, unknown
Abby Marlatt, Professor
Lulla Riffe, unknown
Faustina Cruise, unknown
Roberta Laine, Teacher
Estelle Tatman, Community activist
Mattie Jackson, Teacher
Mary D. Muir, Laundress
Mary Jones, Pastor’s wife
Mary Porter, unknown
Grace Cooper, Community Center Director
Laura Wendell Moore and Clara Wendell Stitt, Homemakers
Lillie Yates, unknown
Anna McCann, unknown
Helen Noble, Teacher
Sadie Reid Brown, Homemaker
Dorothy Pumphrey, Teacher
Bettye Simpson, Social worker
Loretta Nickens, Teacher
Wilhelmina Hunter, unknown
Mattie Johnson Gray, unknown
Elizabeth R. Harris, unknown
Patricia R. Spencer Laine, Beautician
Joanna Offutt Childress, Teacher
Laura Wendell Moore, unknown
Mrs. Charles Chenault Jones, Teacher
Grace Potter Carter, Cook
Virginia Hawkins Anderson, Housekeeper
Jennie Bibbs Didlick, Principal
Grace Grevious Coleman, Teacher
Florence Young, unknown
Verna Bales Williams Clark, Teacher
Frances A. Smallwood, Nurse
Dorothy McCoy Cooper, Principal
Ann Brewer Black, Teacher
Edythe Larcena Jones Hayes, Teacher
Delores Vinegar Oderinde, unknown
Cordie Wilkerson Briggs, Hotel Laundry Manager
Charlie Mae Brooks, Switchboard operator
Edna Unson Carr, Dorm mother at UK
Ruby Ragsdale Morris Benberry, Teacher
Sophia Dotson Smith, Teacher
Susie E. White, Beautician
Georgia Montgomery Powers, Politician
Helen Route Smith, Housekeeper
Elizabeth Parker Thomas, Teacher
Daisy Carolyn Bishop, Notary Public
Virginia Case Shelby, Housekeeper
Katherine Hardin Rollins, Teacher
Mary Edna Page Berry, Dental assistant
Additions to the collection since 1990:
Evelyn Livisay
Madeline C. Jones
Harriet B. Haskins
Elizabeth Beatty
Ann Hunter
Elenora L. Smith
Annie B. Coleman
Lillian B. Gentry
Alice J. Alexander
Martha L. Edwards
Eula Tatman
Sandra Richardson
Lilia Garrison
Mrs. Sidney Bell Johnson

What’s Happening Next?

I’m partnering with the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History to get the digitization and indexing done, and I am glad to bring Danielle Gabbard on board as the indexer. Ms. Gabbard will be blogging here about her work as she goes, so you can follow along too as the work progresses.

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

August 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1960s-1970s, Political history

Women’s Equality Day is on August 26th – a date selected by Congress in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting all women the right to vote across the nation. As you can tell from this series of video clips of Bella Abzug (D-NY), the Congresswoman who led the campaign to create this celebration, it took an outspoken woman to make this happen.

The observance of Women’s Equality Day also calls attention to our continuing efforts toward full equality (see more at the National Women’s History Project website).

This year the Kentucky Commission on Women (KCW) is sponsoring the showing of “Makers: Women Who Make America.” The PBS film documentary (3 one-hour segments) is narrated by Oscar-winning actress and activist, Meryl Streep, and gives an in-depth, bi-partisan examination of the women’s movement in America over the past 50 years.

Makers: Women Who Make AmericaThe film has 3 parts:

  • Part One: Awakening (the start of the post-WW2 women’s movement)
  • Part Two: Changing the World (1970s feminism and backlash)
  • Part Three: Charting a New Course (focusing in on the workplace and the “glass ceiling”)

According to the KCW’s website, the following celebration events took place across Kentucky this year:

August 19, 2013

  • The Greater Hardin County Women’s Network, 458 Congress Drive, Radcliff, KY 40160
    Contact: Nancy Chancellor-Cox 270-272-2281
August 25, 2013
  • All Nation Worship Ministries, 110 Wisely, Radcliff, KY 40160
    Contact: Jeannette Stephens 270-300-5728
August 26, 2013
  • Morehead State University Student Activities, 150 University Blvd., Morehead, KY 40351
    Contact: Shante Hearst 606-783-2668 or Laken Gilbert 606-748-4864
  • League of Women Voters of Louisville, 115 S. Ewing, Louisville, KY 40206
    Contact: Pat Murrell 502-895-5218
  • Midway College Student Affairs, 512 E. Stephens Street, Midway, KY 40347
    Contact: Jessica Combess 859-846-5390
  • Lexington Public Library, 140 East Main Street, Lexington, KY 40507
    Contact: AnnaMarie Cornett 859-231-5501
  • Gateway Community & Technical College, 525 Scott Blvd, Covington, KY 41011
    Contact: Kathy Driggers 859-442-416
  • Campbell County Library, 1000 Highland Avenue, Ft. Thomas, KY 41075
    Campbell County Library Event Flyer.docxCampbell County Library Event Flyer.docx
    Contact: Joan Gregory 859-802-8785 or Karkie Tackett 859-781-1844
  • University of Kentucky, Main Building, Visitors Center UK Women's Equality Day Flyer.pdfUK Women’s Equality Day Flyer.pdf
    Contact: Randolph Hollingsworth 859-257-3027
  • JCTC-Downtown, WIN Committee and Women’s & Gender Studies, Louisville
    Contact: Jill Adams 502-213-2364
August 27
  • Coalition of Labor Union Women MLWPC FLYER.doc MLWPC flyer 2013 (4).doc
    UAW Local 862, 3000 Fern Valley Road, Louisville, KY 40213
    Contact: Virginia Woodward 502-541-5526 or Vera Newton 502-364-3973
  • University of Kentucky Panel of Scholars: Discussing the Status of Women Today—Local, State, National and Global  Women's Equality Day 2013 - Tuesday.pdfWomen’s Equality Day 2013 – Tuesday.pdf
    Contact: Randolph Hollingsworth, RSVP Institutional Diversity 859-257-9293
  • Women of Daviess County, Owensboro Area Museum, 3870 W 2nd (60W), Owensboro, KY 42301
    Contact: Rachel Foster 270-314-1226

WPA Pack Horse Library Project, 1936-43

July 22, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Primary source, Social history

Though Kentucky politicians today and in the past have regularly bemoaned intervention from outside state, women and minorities  benefit from the influx of federal funds.  One of the most interesting projects that the federal government subsidized in Kentucky is the Pack Horse Library Project of the Works Progress Administration. The WPA hired women in Appalachia to deliver books and other reading material to remote mountain schools and homes from 1936-1943.

The usual library extension services in the mountainous region had declined by the 1930s, but the wonderful work of Cora Wilson Stewart and the brave teachers of the Moonlight Schools before World War I had whetted locals’ appetite for literacy. The Pack Horse Library Project eventually reached nearly every resident in the nearly 10,000 square mile region of Appalachian Kentucky. More details about this library project can be found in Donald C. Boyd, “The Book Women of Kentucky: The WPA Pack Horse Library Project,” Libraries & the Cultural Record, Vol. 42, No. 2 (2007): 111-128. You can see some of the wonderful photographs in a project by Angelia Pulley, now a graduate student in UK Library Sciences program. The images and their captions come from the Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection in the Goodman-Paxton papers (PA64M1,Special Collections, University of Kentucky).

Visual Display of Packhorse Librarians in Kentucky - a WPA Project

Packhorse Librarians in Kentucky, 1936-1943

Audrey Grevious: A Project of Obstacles

March 24, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Photo of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Without question, our project on Audrey Grevious has presented numerous challenges in obtaining information about this woman’s life and work.  According to Belinda Robnett’s classifications of women leaders in the civil rights movement (see her book How Long? How Long?, I believe Audrey Grevious falls in between the categories of Professional and Community bridge leaders. Grevious, though an extremely successful woman in her endeavors in the local civil rights movement, worked largely out of the public eye and utilized her community resources well in order to accomplish her goals, thus making much information about her specific work unavailable.In regard to internet searches of Audrey Grevious, many web pages have yielded the same information.

We are certain of her attendance at segregated schools (Dunbar, a city high school in Lexington, Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University), involvement with the NAACP and CORE organizations within Lexington and her work at Kentucky Village Reform School. These facts are crucial to creating the framework of her life and accomplishments; although, we feel we owe more to the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame than what is already in existence.  In an effort to learn more about Grevious’ specific involvement within these organizations, we have reached out to all of the local chapters of the organizations listed about with little luck. We have been referred to her church in Lexington, in which she was an active member, but have not yet received a response.

CORE logo

CORE logo

The Louie B Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky has been helpful in releasing the transcripts of two of her oral history interviews. From these documents, we can hear Grevious’ voice and understand her personal motivation for participating in the local civil rights movement. The oral histories have thus far been our most important source of information regarding Grevious’ life deserving of publication in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Flamenco dancer clappingFlamencoclap and I would like to find pictures of Grevious from this time period as well, if at all possible, to build the context of her work. After searching through archived documents in the Special Collections at the King Library, we have gathered a few articles that feature information on Dunbar High School but nothing directly pertaining to Grevious’ attendance.  Alexis is in contact with EKU and Kentucky State University to obtain any information that has been saved regarding Grevious in the schools’ archives.

Selection in the Louie B Nunn Center for Oral History

Without a doubt, Grevious’ work is deserving of publication but it has been extremely difficult to locate details that delve beyond her surface involvement in the local civil rights movement. Because Grevious is elderly and loved dearly by many members of the community, many are trying to protect her from being bothered or any negativity that could arise regarding her work. This complication has proved very challenging but Flamencoclap and I will continue to persevere in search of photographs and other details to elevate Audrey Grevious’ life and work.

Scientific Racism, Germ Theory and Segregation – A Woman’s Story

March 10, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

Segregation blossomed in the U.S. not just from a rigid adherence to codes of behaviors but also from so-called scientific findings based on race. In the early twentieth century, new disciplines of the social sciences (such as anthropology) and the sciences (such as new research in evolutionary biology, racially based pathology and genetics) promoted scientific racism. Public intellectuals, politicians and educators began attributing “race” or “culture” to the reasons for the disparities between the health of people of color and whites. By blaming the victims of injustices such as disproportionate access to healthcare and proper nutrition, leaders could avoid addressing the difficult, systematic social inequalities of their times.

Scientists, bolstered by scientific racism, undertook unethical studies that would never have been allowed with white subjects. While many emphasize the horrors of Nazi-supported science, white supremacists in the U.S. conducted their research and published their findings with impunity. While working as the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a controversial report in 1965 (The Negro Family: The Case for National Action) using sociological methods to define a “pathology” inherent to families of African-Americans — that black mothers caused their own poverty and destroyed their own progress toward economic and political equality. Another federally supported study took place at the Tuskegee Institute, where black men (many were sharecroppers without formal education) infected with syphilis were followed in a 40 year study, 1932-1972. Even after penicillin had been found to treat syphilis and ethical standards had been created for medical research, researchers in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study continued to deny those infected with syphilis any medical advice or treatment. In all areas of the U.S., public health policy followed racist interpretations of heredity by promoting involuntary sterilization and abortion to address black women’s ill health.

The Maid NarrativesGerm theory influenced by scientific racism came to influence public policy for segregated water fountains, bathrooms even public transportation waiting rooms. Casual contact between the races could, in this racist interpretation of germ theories, transmit the illnesses from blacks to whites. In the clip below (from the BackStory episode “Rinse and Repeat,” broadcast in February 2013), Charletta Sudduth –co-author of The Maid Narratives — talks about the contradictory ways cleanliness was understood. A black woman worker was not allowed to use the same wash basin as her white employer, even if she was about to prepare his meal.

**** Additional Resources ****

Semmes, Clovis E. Racism, Health, and Post-Industrialism: A Theory of African-American Health (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996).

Solinger, Rickie. Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade (Psychology Press, 2000).

Washington, Harriet A. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present (Random House, 2006).

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African American Representation in Fayette County Publications

February 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Social history

Today, I found a copy of a book published by the Fayette County Board of Education in 1955 entitled: “Let’s Go To School”  (pdf link). A very brief book composed primarily of pictures, it appears to have been an informational resource for parents of students. There were several things I found interesting in this book.

The book begins with a quote:

“Your Board of Education believes in your child’s right.”

This book was published at a point in our education history when schools were still mostly segregated. Of over one hundred pictures, only a mere four show an African American student or teacher. I am including these here:

From "Let's Go to School", Fayette County Board of Education

From “Let’s Go to School”, Fayette County Board of Education

From "Let's Go to School", Fayette County Board of Education

From “Let’s Go to School”, Fayette County Board of Education

From "Let's Go to School", Fayette County Board of Education

From “Let’s Go to School”, Fayette County Board of Education

African American students are only shown under the heading of “Sports” and “Music”, and teachers are only shown within a group.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the library, reading old newspapers and looking at any books and pamphlets I could find that even mentioned African American education in Lexington and Fayette County prior to the 1980s. In 1963, Lexington Schools were still segregated, while Fayette County schools were all integrated but for one exception, Douglass Elementary School, which housed 385 students.

Because Douglass School closed in 1971 following integration, there remains little to no information in one location about the school, which opened in 1929. However, after much digging, I was able to find a variety of pictures and newspaper articles about the school, and received a brief history of its changes over time  from an elementary school to a high school back to an elementary school from the superintendent’s office at Fayette County Public Schools .Now, I just have to put all the pieces together and try to complete a history so that in the future all of this information will be in one place.

“The Maid Narratives” and Cognitive Dissonance

February 25, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Political history

Cognitive dissonance is when a person feels different emotions about the same thing. The authors of The Maid Narratives encountered this when they were doing interviews of whites that had formerly had black maids.  They are conflicted with the way they felt when they were younger and the way they feel now.  When whites with maids were growing up they felt a sense of security from their maid.  Now, they feel a sense of remorse after learning the difficult conditions that their maids sometimes worked in.

I am currently researching Florence Thompson.  Thompson was the first female sheriff in the United States that had to carry out a conviction.  She was from Owensboro, Kentucky, where the last public hanging took place.  Rainey Bethea, the man committing the crime, was convicted of raping an elderly woman and was sentenced to hang.  Thompson conferred with a priest before the hanging because of the personal, internal struggle she was having.  She was faced with having to be a strong leader that her position required while still having terrible feelings about having a man’s death on her hands even though the man had already been convicted and sentenced.  Ultimately she decided to have a man from out of town perform the hanging while she supervised from a distance.

When people are placed in a conflicting situations they are required to look within themselves.  This reflection brings out thoroughly thought through decisions, considering the repercussions, particularly personal.  This dissonance sometimes occurs well after the fact, such as the whites in The Maid Narratives.  This is also beneficial because the reflection shows the next generation the flaws of the older generation’s decisions.

****

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

http://www.owensboro.org/

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