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Race Matters Training for Fayette County RCCW Initiative

November 7, 2014 in Historiography, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

As part of the training sessions for the Race, Community and Child Welfare (RCCW) Fayette County (see more at the RCCW website)​, I presented on the “History of Racism and Anti-Racist Activism in Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky.” The goal is to provide an historical — and local — context for the understanding of racism here in our community.

This historical context should help to explain why the problem of racism is so deeply ingrained in our cultures and institutions. As anti-racist practitioners we need to be patient and persistent since racism has been an integral part of the creation and growth of Lexington and Fayette County as much as it is the reason for violence, inequities and apathy.

Here is my speech (History of Racism and Anti-Racism in Fayette County) for the participants in the training. I present it here for you to download and read. I invite you to reply and comment on this essay and how I have presented the history of Lexington and Fayette County.

The Work is Far From Over

April 28, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Oral history, Social history

The end of the semester has finally arrived and our final project on Audrey Grevious has been posted (http://www.kywcrh.org/projects/kchr-hall-of-fame/grevious). Without question, I thought rather pessimistically about our contributions to this project for most of the semester. Consistently, I thought in terms of quantity rather than quality in consideration of how much (or rather how little) information we were able to gather about Grevious. While our investigations and connections seemed less than successful at times, I have come to realize that our work has indeed been significant. I have learned SO much about Audrey Grevious and the movement in its entirety throughout this process and also hope that I have helped illuminate her life for others conducting similar research.

After utilizing the internet, texts, and most importantly, oral history interviews, I have observed the transformation of history and its record in just a period of 50 short years. The work my class has done this semester has been incredible – listening to the experiences of brave women, reading and analyzing literature about their lives, and even meeting them personally to record new history. I have never been more impressed with the success of a class.

Something I found very interesting from one of Audrey Grevious’ interviews that I studied closely was the following quote:

“And I feel like the generation now have lost out on that sort of thing. There’s not that closeness. There’s not that interweaving of cultures, of friendships, of anything.”

While this may be true from her perspective, from what I’ve gathered through all our research, today’s generation is better connected and more intertwined than ever. In examining the stories and backgrounds of students in our class alone, the sensitivity of our generation is ever increasing thus constantly embracing cultural difference and promoting friendships every day.

A Day in the Capitol

April 11, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

Kentucky Capitol Building

Without a doubt, our class trip to the state capitol in Frankfort on Tuesday was a valuable experience. Not only did my class have the opportunity to explore an important location in our state history, we were able to witness a revolutionary proclamation that continues to have immense worth in our society. First, our group had the opportunity to meet with Eleanor Jordan of the Kentucky Commission on Women. Ms. Jordan shared with us the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit of notable Kentucky women that hang in the halls of the capitol building. Jordan was quick to address the fact that visitors to the capitol can see the beautiful dolls of the First Ladies upon entering their wing of the building, yet women have made much more valuable contributions within our state than have been previously recognized. Although the portraits are a small token of appreciation to glorify these women’s hard work, the gallery is a unique and crucial development in this male dominated space. Her future plans include the erection of a female sculpture in the building to further illuminate the work of women in our state.

John J. Johnson

Following our meeting with Eleanor Jordan, our group attended the Fair Housing Proclamation in the capitol rotunda. The speakers included John Johnson of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and numerous others who support has brought this legislation to the forefront and given rights to many deserving individuals. The most moving part of the proclamation, for me, was Colmon Eldridge‘s speech at the program’s conclusion. Eldridge, representing the office of the governor, came to announce the proclamation but shared a very moving story about his motivation to work for continued legislation such as this. He shared stories about his grandma and his personal home ownership story and why this proclamation has such a personal meaning to him for an African American male. He also noted that the audience was a blend of all shades of color thus emphasizing the fact that this isn’t just an issue of African American civil rights, but rather, an issue every citizen of Kentucky and the nation at large should take note of.

Our trip ended following the proclamation and we shared a wonderful lunch at the Grey Goose in historic Midway, Kentucky. Though it was a relaxed atmosphere, it was extremely important for us to bond together and reflect on our experiences of the day as we had just seen real legislation that has come from the time period in which we are continuously studying. As we continue to research each of our respective accomplished women, we must go forth with an understanding that their with civil rights is far from complete and we too much be agents of change in our communities to continue their legacies.

I Shared The Dream: Georgia Davis Powers & Others

March 31, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Oral history, Political history, Social history

After reading Georgia Davis Powers’ autobiography, I Shared the Dream: The Pride, Passion, and Politics of the First Black Woman Senator from Kentucky, my group led a book discussion on the most important themes and events addressed in the book. Most prominently, my group agreed that Georgia Davis Powers sought to portray herself as a real woman, someone who faces adversity and obstacles and makes conscious choices regarding her life which may not be seen in the public eye. In the book, Powers addresses her life and achievements but also her personal reflections on situations and relationships that had not been published until this book was written. My class has studied numerous influential women in Kentucky during the Civil Rights Movement and was able to draw important similarities between Senator Powers and other major figures.

The charts below represent a comparison of Georgia Davis Powers, Mae Street Kidd, and one other prominent figure of the student’s choosing. These diagrams intend to show relationships among the female leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky as well as highlight key differences in their tactics and methodology.

Scan0006 Scan0007 Scan0008  Scan0011 Scan0010

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Lead by Subtlety: Viola Davis Brown

February 24, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Intellectual history, Social history

By researching Viola Davis Brown and her accomplishments to publish a Wikipedia page about her life, I have discovered one of the subtle leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Viola Davis Brown, born in 1936, was certainly a pioneer of the movement in Kentucky, although not in the traditional context. The contrast in Brown’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement does not exist in her outward protest and open discrediting of segregation, but rather in her career and her personal accomplishments.

Photo of Viola Davis Brown

Viola Davis Brown

My research, though not complete, has not yielded any indication that Viola Davis Brown was involved with any organization such as NAACP or other traditional movements promoting integration during her lifetime. I found no record of Mrs. Brown openly addressing her race as a limiting factor or protesting for equality. Rather, her achievements and perpetual promotion in the work place has led her to be an extremely prominent figure of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.Viola Davis Brown became the first African American student in Lexington to attend and graduate with a nursing degree. She continued her education at the University of Kentucky, where she became a certified Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.  Mrs. Brown’s career was merely beginning when she was appointed Executive Director of the Office of Public Health Nursing for the Kentucky Department of Health Services in Frankfort, Kentucky. The accolades have not since halted.

Book cover, The Maid Narratives

The Maid Narratives

The most appropriate connection I was able to draw between the life of Viola Davis Brown and the ideas regarding the themes of The Maid Narratives fell among the ideas of Cognitive Dissonance and the Defiance of the Norms to Stand Up against Injustice. Viola Brown did not have to join strident organizations that proudly announced their cause within the movement. Brown’s actions, including the pursuance of higher education and career promotion at her own discretion, represent the subtle ability of an individual to overcome substantial barriers such as those dividing race in Lexington, Kentucky during her lifetime.

The descriptions in the text of The Maid Narratives carefully describes the acknowledgement of racial difference and the societal belief that two races, namely Black and White, are psychologically inconsistent. Viola Brown did not have to address this societal injustice head on. Rather, she committed herself to education and advancement within the sector of public health. Not only did she overcome the customs of her society and traditional role of the Whites to assume positions of medical care, she did so without personally addressing her race as a reason to see justice through. The textual example of the maid employer, Elise Talmage, would directly parallel, I can only imagine, the description of a white observer commenting on Brown’s progress in the field of health management. While it was entirely unheard of for a Black woman to hold such a position of prestige, Mrs. Brown continued to secure these positions and became a representation of triumph over segregation for the community and state, at large.

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Sources:

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

College of Public Health. “Hall of Fame Past Inductees: Viola Brown” University of Kentucky College of Public Health (2011): n. pag. Web. 11 February 2013.

 

Educators for Integrated Education

February 10, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Intellectual history, Primary source, Social history

Book cover, Freedom on the Border

Freedom on the Border

As a result of the constitutional affirmation of Kentucky’s Day Law in 1908, schools throughout Kentucky continued to be segregated. The developing movement to end segregated education, however, came in two distinct waves, according to oral history accounts in Fosl and K’Meyer’s “Freedom on the Border”, with the first beginning in the 1930s, and the second in 1950. Initially, active members of the NAACP made the decision to target the integration of education beginning at the highest level first. Thus, medical education and graduate level integration were of major concern to actions toward segregation.

The second wave of segregation, beginning in 1950, was recognized as “massive resistance” to the numerous, public grade schools that had yet to see reform. Schools began to rapidly desegregate in the coming decade with nearly 92% of all Kentucky schools having been integrated by 1964, however policies of implementing “freedom of choice” plans in schools would not contribute to complete integration. These plans involved students deciding where they would like to attend school and often put African American youths at risk because of deeply-rooted prejudices throughout the White community. These prejudices were not only espoused from major racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan but from within average families. As a result of the Cold War, white supremacists traditions, such as the defense of segregation, could carry on at the familial level as perpetrators eradicated any threat of communism.

During the second major wave in support of desegregation, models for the movement emerged such as Audrey Grevious. Grevious worked at the Kentucky Village, formerly Greendale Reformatory, for delinquent children. This campus was segregated in terms of race and gender. Integration efforts throughout the community had already begun in the form of stand-ins, sit-ins, marches, etc. Grevious, during an oral history interview, discusses the fact that while growing up, she lived under the confines of segregation but wasn’t unhappy because she possessed no knowledge of any other kind of life. Although Grevious “didn’t know any better to be unhappy”, her attendance of a conference in New York drastically changed her perspective and motivated her to become radically involved with the movement for integration in Lexington. Grevious became an educator because the smartest people she had ever known were teachers and she wanted to give back to her community and those who had prepared her “to live in a world that wasn’t split in the middle”. Her goal became to prepare her students in case “the change ever came” – that change being integration. She also acknowledged the fact that she “could not ask others to make a change and while she worked in a segregated environment” herself.

Photo of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious and others share their stories and memories of educational segregation but she illustrates an important point in her interview that no one tries to remember the negative that happened. In summary, Black youths, of both genders, enrolled in public education during the movement for integration were placed under the scrutiny of society yet they received immense support from within their own community and were under the guidance of many strong-willed educators such as Grevious who would continue to work for the permanence of equality for all in Kentucky schools.

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Sources:

Wikipedia contributors. “Cold War.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

The History Makers. “Civic Makers: Audrey Grevious.” The HistoryMakers. Web. 10 February 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.

“KET | Living the Story | The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Glossary, Audrey Grevious. Web. 10 February 2013.

 

 

16th Street Church Bombing

April 22, 2011 in 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history

The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on September 15, 1963. The explosion at the African-American church, marked a defining moment in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and played a part in the support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Even though city officials had reached an agreement in May with demonstrators and began to amalgamate public places, not everyone supported outlawing segregation. Bombings and other acts of hate preceded the settlement, and the church had become an inviting target. The three-story 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama had been a rallying point for civil rights activities through the spring of 1963, and was where the students who were arrested during the 1963 Birmingham campaign’s Children’s Crusade were trained. The place of worship was used as a meeting place for civil rights pioneers such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth. Anxiety was intensified when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Congress on Racial Equality became involved in a movement to help register African Americans to vote in Birmingham. The demonstrations led to a deal in May between the city’s African-American leaders and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to integrate public facilities in the country.

In the early daylight of Sunday, September 15, 1963, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss, members of United Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan group, planted a box of dynamite with a time delay under the steps of the church, near the basement. At about 10:22 a.m., twenty-six children were walking into the basement assembly room to prepare for the sermon entitled “The Love That Forgives,” when the bomb exploded. Four girls, Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Denise McNair (aged 11), Carole Robertson (aged 14), and Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), were killed in the attack. The explosion blew a hole in the church’s back wall, destroyed the back steps and all but one window, depiciting Christ leading a group of kids.

A witness branded Robert Chambliss, an affiliate of the Ku Klux Klan, as the person who placed the bomb under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. He was apprehended and charged with murder and possessing a box of 122 sticks of dynamite while not having a permit. Chambliss was found not guilty of murder and received a one hundred-dollar fine and a six-month jail sentence for having the dynamite.

The case was unsolved until Bill Baxley was voted attorney general of Alabama. He requested the original FBI files on the case and found that the organization had accumulated a great deal of evidence against Chambliss that had not been used in the original trial. In November, 1977 Chambliss was tried once again for the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church murders. Now aged 73, Chambliss was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Chambliss died in an Alabama prison on 29 October 1985.

On 18 May 2000, the FBI reported that the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing had been executed by the Ku Klux Klan splinter group, the Cahaba Boys. It was speculated that Robert Chambliss, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry had been responsible for the crime. Cash was dead but Blanton and Cherry were arrested and Blanton has since been tried and convicted.

www.npr.org

www.wikipedia.com

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/civilrightstimeline1.html

by OneTon

In the footsteps of Ida B Wells

December 11, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Political history

Ida B Wells is remembered throughout American Civil Rights history for many reasons. In this instance, Mrs. Wells is seen through the acts of a Kentucky woman activist. After losing both of her parents to the Yellow Fever Epidemic, Mrs. Wells took the responsibilities of raising her remaining siblings while juggling her two careers of teaching and being a leader in womens rights.

A native of Webster, County, Mrs. Nelda Lambert Barton-Collings (born in 1929) has also strived to enforce equality in America by serving her community, state, and nation as a leader in Kentucky’s fight for equal rights. After her husband passed, she too took the responsibility of raising five children while balancing the fight for womens rights and keeping her deceased husbands business afloat. Over her lifetime she has been appointed by American role models to lead many different government positions such as:

“A five-time Kentucky delegate/28 year Committee woman to the Republican National Committee, she was the first woman from Kentucky to address the RNC and call the meeting to order.  She was the first woman elected Chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Institute of International Affairs.  President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Federal Council on Aging and President George H. W. Bush appointed her to the President’s Council on Rural America.”

by OneTon

Jefferson County Native Shows Determination

December 10, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Social history

Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, I was raised by parents who agreed with equality and justice. My mother, Mary Fitzpatrick Singleton, has taught in Catholic elementary schools for more than ten years, while my father, John Alan Singleton, has a degree from the University of Kentucky’s business school and incorporates his scholarly knowledge into each day of work. Both of my parents are role models in my life and help me lead a more respective life of equality. My mother truly reminds me of another special woman from Kentucky as well.

An educator and advocate of womens rights this woman was an extremely important lady in the fight for equality. Lilialyce Akers is a special woman for all Kentuckians to investigate further. Dr. Akers was born in 1927 and has advanced equality in Kentucky since she arrived! As a particpant in the Equal Rights Association (ERA), Dr. Akers displayed her determination for the right of equality in the United States of America.  Akers was also a representative to the UN Commission on Women, and has presented seminars at the UN’s Third and Fourth World Conferences in Kenya and China.

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