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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.

by mookygc

Trip to Frankfort, Kentucky

April 23, 2013 in 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Social history

A couple of weeks ago, April was declared “Fair Housing Month” by the governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, in honor of the Fair Housing Proclamation’s 45th anniversary. Luckily, my honors professor decided that it would be beneficial for our class to attend the remembrance ceremony.

On our trip to the capital, we got the privilege of meeting Eleanor Jordan, the director of the Kentucky Commision on Kentucky Women. Jordan walked us through the “Kentucky Women Remembered” exhibit, a series of portraits that honors the many varied accomplishments of strong Kentucky Women, that hangs on the capital’s walls. It was inspiring to hear her talk about all the future plans she has for the exhibit, and the long and strenuous process for selecting each year’s nominees. It was wonderful to hear that they have a very difficult time choosing which portraits to commision, because they have such a wide range of women to choose from.

At the Proclamation rememberance, it was very powerful to hear John Johnson, the Director of the Kentucky Commision on Human Rights speak about discrimination and equality and fairness. I believe we were all very moved by what he had to say. Most interesting were the comments shared by Mr. Colmon Elridge, the executive assistant to Gov. Beshear. It was amazing to heaar him talk about how much the Fair Housing Proclamation meant to him, as he is a young African-American man, and his wife is caucasian with a disability, yet they were faced with no difficulties when purchasing a house, which meant quite a lot to him.

Overall it was a wonderful day speaking with wonderful people about the amazing things happening in Kentucky, and I am grateful we were able to attend.

Fair Housing Proclamation Trip

April 11, 2013 in Economic history, Primary source, Social history

John Johnson speaking about the fair housing proclamation

John Johnson speaking about the fair housing proclamation; photo from @rhollingsworth twitter feed

Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure about what to expect in our trip to Frankfort, but I think overall it was an enjoyable trip and a great way to see what we are studying come to life within the rotunda of the capital.

When we first talked to the Commissioner of Kentucky Women, we got a really good glimpse of what the struggle was in Kentucky for powerful women in Kentucky and how it was not uncommon for these amazing women to be overlooked simply because they were women.

dolls of first ladies of Kentucky

First Ladies In Miniature

The exhibit of the portraits of the women and even with the dolls of the women are wonderful tribute to their impact, but even the commissioner called for more; more portraits, statues, and recognition.

The proclamation of the 45th anniversary of the fair housing act was also a powerful thing to witness because we were able to see the level of pride that both blacks and whites who have grown up in the fair housing association in Kentucky had for the progress that has been made here in Kentucky. It was also amazing to hear the references of the powerful women that influenced the movement, like Georgia Davis Powers and Mae Street Kidd, completely unprompted. It really made history come alive for me. It also increased my awareness of the impact that woman made in the lives of future generations. Although we saw that these women were constantly under-appreciated, their impact on Kentucky today is entirely clear.

The Women Behind the Movement

March 4, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, Economic history, Social history

Most people recognize the civil rights movements as the 1960’s, a time characterized by Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful movements, Malcom X, sit ins, protests, and many more actions like these. However, the civil rights activists of the 1940s and the 1950s are the people who paved the way for such great and momentous actions that occurred later in the movement. While the 1940s and 1950s played a great role in the civil rights movements there was a lot more behind the scenes and smaller actions compared to the big mass movements that were organized later. These actions were largely made possible through the efforts of many women of the time. Many petitions and advancements for African Americans were directed by and gained respect for women across the state of Kentucky.

Many women organized the efforts that were made to gain equality during this time period. Petitions were huge during this

Picture of Anne Braden

Anne Braden

time period and women played a great role in making sure that people signed them and that they were presentable to the government. Anne Braden is an excellent example of a woman who organized one such petition. Braden and several other people worked towards getting a law passed that made hospitals accept everyone who was brought to their doors. However, this couldn’t happen unless Braden was able to show the benefit of this law and how many people supported this new law being put into action. So she organized a petition and went house to house and business to business getting people to see what injustice was happening and sign the petition to stop it. This is just one example of women taking control and moving the fight towards justice one step further.

Another way that women participated in gaining better and equal opportunities was by using their own personal skills and talents and putting the law on their side. They knew that they were great at what they did, deserved the same opportunities that white women received and were determined to work hard enough to get it. Helen Fisher Frye knew this and showed this through the hard work that it took to put on an African American concert at Centre College. Everyone at the school, especially the white male supervisors, doubted that she could get it done and do it in a professional manner. However, despite all of their doubts, she organized the concert, which ended up drawing people from all over the state and even from Cincinnati. The officials of the school were so impressed that they promoted her to being on their concert committee and opened up all concerts to African Americans. Frye showed through her great skill and talent that Blacks deserved the same exact rights that Whites did and gained that for all African Americans in Danville. Another woman that did this was Vallateen Virginia Dudley Abbington. Abbington was an African American teacher in Louisville who was getting 15% less pay than the white teachers in the area. So she took to the court to show and change this injustice. The school board was so shocked that this happened and wanted to change it so badly that they agreed that if Abbington withdrew the lawsuit all African American teachers would receive equal pay. By standing up for her and all other African American’s rights, she gained the equality in pay for teachers in the Louisville area.

All three of these women stood up for what they believe in, in their own ways. They didn’t organize mass movements to get the attention of everyone in the nation or in the state but rather worked on a smaller level to achieve smaller but equally as important milestones in the fight for equality in all areas of society. These movements paved the way for the bigger movements that were to come. Thanks to these women and many others like them the 1940s and the 1950s were first steps in making our society one that was fair and safe for everyone to live in.

***************************************************

“Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.” Notable Kentucky African Americans –. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

“Anne Braden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

“Civil Rights Movement.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

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

Awareness of Black life apart from White life

February 26, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Economic history, Social history

The Maid Narratives

In the Maid Narratives there are a lot of reference to black life apart from white life and the barriers between race. As stated within the book, although there were definite ties between the white families and their black servants, there was certainly a distance that upheld the ideas of class within the home, which translated into the differences in society.

For me personally, this ties into my research about the West End Community Council. This organization was very prominent in the 1960’s and it worked towards open housing for blacks  all over, but especially in the south. The connection comes into play because even in cases where blacks could afford the same housing as whites, there was a lot of dissent when it came to them actually being able to purchase that housing. The Ku Klux Klan and other white segregationist groups would utilize scare tactics in order to prevent blacks from moving into the “white” neighborhoods. Another approach that was carried out was what is now deemed as “white flight” wherein white families would all move away when a black family moved into their neighborhood. All of these show that although blacks were finally finding small ways to move up in the world, in this case financially, there was this barrier that was being upheld by society to keep blacks and whites apart, even when the times were moving towards equality.

Referecnes:

Van, Wormer Katherine S., David W. Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth. The Maid Narratives: Black Domestic and White Families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2012. Print.

“The Encyclopedia of Louisville.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <http://books.google.com/books?id=pXbYITw4ZesC>.

“Ku Klux Klan.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan>.

“White Flight.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight>.

Carl D. Perkins: Appalachia’s Voice in Washington

April 20, 2011 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Political history

Carl Dewey Perkins served the people of eastern Kentucky as their 7th Congressional District U.S Congressman from 1949 until his death on August 3, 1984 and during those 36 years the Knott County Democrat became one of the most powerful voices in Congress. Born in Hindman, Kentucky on October 15, 1912, Perkins attended local schools and later would go on to earn his law degree and hold several local and state political offices, but it was his time in Washington D.C and his service to the people of his native eastern Kentucky and Appalachia that he will be forever best known for.

Described as a ‘iron horse” for the people of Appalachia it did not take Perkins long to gain national recognition. After taking office as Kentucky’s 7th District Congressman on January 3, 1949, Perkins became an early supporter of civil rights by backing President Harry Truman’s attempt to establish a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission (FPEC) in 1950. A permanent FEPC called for anti-lynching legislation and the abolishment of the Poll Tax among others. The bill was passed by the U.S House but the U.S Senate’s Southern Democrats “filibustered” the bill and it failed in the U.S Senate. Over the next decade Perkins continued to support the call for civil rights in America and he was one of only eleven Southern Democrats to support and vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Also in 1964 Congressman Perkins became a central part of the Lyndon Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty in the U.S Congress. One of those bills was the creation of the U.S Job Corps under the Economic Opportunity Act, the Job Corps provides a free education and training program that helps the youth of America learn a career, earn their high school diploma/ GED, and find a good paying job once completed. Since 1964, Job Corps has served over 2 million young people and currently serves around 60,000 youths throughout the U.S each year. Perkins’ legacy while in Washington would have to be his relentless work for the under-privileged in America, especially eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. He became chairman of the U.S House’s Committee on Education and Labor in 1967 and held that position until his death in 1984. During that time he sponsored and backed many of the modern public schools federal legislation like the free school lunch program and vocational education which is currently known as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006. The federal student loan program or better known as the Perkins Loan also honors his name and has given the opportunity for thousands of Americans to attend college in the U.S. Also Perkins was seen as a strong advocate of the Head Start program in America.

Another lasting legacy that Perkins created was perhaps felt most by the people he served for  those 36 in Congress and that was he never forgot where he came from or who he worked for. He made frequent trips from Washington to the area and knew many of his constitutes by their first name. He stood up for his mountain people and the oppressed in America and never quit until he was satisfied that everyone was getting a fair shake no matter their economic status or background. Congressman Perkins has been decreased for nearly 30 years now, but the impact he made in America, especially in Appalachia will live on for generations to come. Carl D. Perkins’ personal and political papers are stored in the Archives section of the library at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY.

Works Cited

Photo Courtesy of WSGS Radio Station, Hazard, Kentucky  www.wsgs.com

www.kentuckystewarts.com/JasperByrd/HTMDocs/CarlPerkins.htm

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/sectech/leg/perkins/index.html

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=SRMhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=YHMFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3614%2C817641

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XfAaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UUcEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6492%2C746650

by Syle

House Bill 27 – The Mae Street Kidd Act – Fair Housing

December 12, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Political history, Social history

Mae Street Kidd in the Kentucky General AssemblyMae Street Kidd was a major activist in Kentucky for a long time, and was a major political voice as well. One of most important bills that she was involved in during his political career however, was originally known as House Bill 27. This bill was what she has said was one of the most important bills of her career. In 1972, the Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) was passed. This bill, promoted by Kidd, was to promote and finance low-income housing in Kentucky.

This bill was very important at the time for people who were still not able to afford proper housing. People that were still denied proper jobs because of their skin color or because of their gender were the ones that truly benefited from this bill. People that Mae Street Kidd said that she wanted to be their voice, and give them the rights that they deserve, which is why she got into politics to begin with. In 1974, the bill was officially renamed as “The Mae Street Kidd Act”.

When the bill was passed to create KHC, it was awarded a $150,000 appropriation, and by1973 had its first bond issued for $51.2 million. Also, they had built 623 new housing units for $1.9 million. Since then KHC has grown more and more, and still exists today building housing and helping those that are less fortunate and cannot afford proper housing. “House Bill 27” was a turning point during civil rights, where equal rights were truly starting to be awarded, thanks to people like Mae Street Kidd.

***

Listen to the oral history interviews by Kenneth Chumbley of the University of Louisville’s Oral History Center in October, November and December 1978 with Mae Street Kidd.

by becca

F. W. Woolworth Building

December 8, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Social history

Downtown Lexington has a long history of economic and social importance.

Woolworth was a department store in Lexington from 1946 to 1990. Woolworths were located all over the country and became the first 5&10 cent store. 

In 1960, at a North Carolina Woolworth, four African-American students sat at the counter to eat lunch. They were refused service which snowballed into six months of boycotts and sit-ins at many Woolworth buildings, including the one in Lexington. This eventually caused economic strain on the company, but made an impact in the civil rights movement.

It is little instances like this that helped change our country from a severely discriminatory place to live to a country that made huge strides, thanks to brave people, such as the four African-American students, in the civil rights movement.

Abby Marlatt, University of Kentucky professor and civil rights activist
Video clip
Abby Marlett, civil rights activist,
describes CORE sit ins by University of Kentucky students
Kentucky Historical Society’s Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky

Unfortunately, the Lexington Woolworth building was demolished in 2004 and is now a parking lot.

More than Just a Senator

December 6, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Intellectual history, Political history, Primary source, Social history

Georgia Davis Powers was extremely influential for all women and the African American community through her actions and life. She became the first African American to hold a seat in the Senate and she became the first women to hold a seat in the Senate. Powers had to cross not only the racial barriers of the time, but also the gender barriers because she is a black women. Georgia Davis Powers was born in Springfield, Kentucky on October 19, 1923 and she was born a natural leader.

Prior to her political careear that begun in 1967, Georgia Davis Powers was extremely involved in the civil rights movement for all African Americans. She led many small movements through out Kentucky for several years until 1964. In 1964 she was able to convince Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson to come to Kentucky for a march on the state capital of Frankfort. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s brother was a minister in Louisville and was able to help organize the march on Frankfort with Georgia Davis Powers.

Three years after the march, Powers was elected to the United States Senate, where she remained a senator for five consecutive terms, or for 21 years. She is quoted in saying that she looked at her senate years as a “mission” to accomplish as many things for equality among all people. She also credits god for giving her the strength to continue on through her mission for equality throuhg out her life and political careear.

Senator Powers also traveled to Memphis in April of 1968 at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was present at the hotel when he was shot. In an interview of Senator Powers she retells the story and speaks of the iincident in which she was standing over the body and King and realized that he was dead. She has forever been a living example of how people should live their lives. Her devotion for equality amongst races and gender took her to heights few people have been to. Georgia Davis Powers was and still is a great leader for equality and for the civil rights movement and she will forever be remembered as one of the most influential and great women of all time.

http://www.womeninkentucky.com/site/public_service/g_powers.html

 http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_powers.htm

Information also gathered from December 2, 2010 meeting with Mrs. Powers at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center on the University of Kentucky campus for  the “Sisters in the Struggle” video demonstartion.

Women Using Business to Reach Equality

December 6, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Economic history, Political history

An argument about how women would receive equality during the early 1900’s and before the beginning of the civil rights movement and the womens rights movment, some women believed it could be reached by acquiring equality in the finiancial world first. This meant women owning businesses, running bussiness and operating equally on an economic scale with the men in local society. This would be no easy task to accomplish, but many women continued to follow their dream until they either were respected wealthy women who were seen as equal to the men around them or until they failed and were forced to leave the business world for the common lifestyle led by most women in Kenucky during the first 70 years of the twentith century.

One such women that attempted and succeded at acquiring respect and equality among the men in her town of Kentucky was Nelda Barton-Collings from Corbin, Kentucky. With some help from her husband, the couple became wealthy and became owners of numerous businesses in Corbin. Once her husband died, she continued to control all of their businesses herself, but continued collaboration with a business partner that she and her husband had already been associated with prior to her husbands death. She was a natural leader and was the Republican National Committee Woman from Kentucky for 28 years and was the first woman to chair the Kentucky Chambers of Commerce. She recived no college schooling until after her husband passed, but learned mostly through the extended period of time in which she owned businesses. Today she owns with her business partner, nuring homes, newspapers, banks, and a pharmacy in the Corbin, Kentucky area.

Through business and economics, Nelda Barton-Collings was able to achieve equality in her daily life.  She is looked up to by many local women in the area and was able to live life as a equally respectable member in the community, not just as a women from Corbin, Kentucky whose husband owned a lot of businesses. She was able to distinguosh herself from the rest of the women in her town and raised herself above the norm for women from this time period.

http://www.womeninkentucky.com/site/business/n_bartoncollings.html

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