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Taking UK to Fisk

October 18, 2016 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

The experience of being a Kentucky black female transfer student from a large, predominantly white public institution to a small, predominantly private one of color during the civil rights era afforded me many unique and multifaceted perspectives.

150 anniversary - Fisk University logoFounding Similarities

Fisk University, the higher education institution to which I transferred and the one from whence I came, the University of Kentucky, were decidedly different in many areas, but certainly not all. Both were founded during approximately the same time period in history: U.K. in 1865 by John Bryan Bowman and Fisk, also, in 1865 by John Ogden, Reverend Erastus Cravath, and Reverend Edward Smith. It was named after General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedman’s Bureau. Fisk U. has remained a small private school while UK located has grown by leaps and bounds remaining large and public. Both, then, as higher level of learning institutions were highly ranked in their respective categories. Both had produced historically notable graduates, and both had achieved the status of University over the years.

Thenceforward, Characteristics Begin to Differ

In my case, starting with the application form for each institution, remarkable differences stood out. U.K. presented a regular run-of-the mill item. Despite their strong emphasis on writing within the curriculum, not one essay was required as they are at institutions of today. (My younger daughter applied to one institution which required six essays by the time one finished the a’s and b’s as additional segments!) Fisk, on the other hand wanted a listing of how many telephones and how many cars one had at his/her home abode. Seriously! Not sure why that was a request on the application form. No essay was required there either.

Whereas, many of UK’s notables centered on basketball sports figures, those at Fisk tended to be makers and shakers in civil rights history. Of course, there were notables outside of these realms, also.

Fisk, a Hotbed of Civil Rights Issues, etc.

Fisk University, located in Nashville, Tennessee was a hotbed of issues, protests, and activities during the 1950’s and 1960’s, with its students historically recognized for fighting injustices. As a Kentucky female of color arriving around 1962, by one year, I had missed the infamous lunch counter sit-ins that landed many females in my age group in jail., but the fumes were still hovering as groups of “Negroes” such as now Congressman John L. Lewis who had been severely beaten several times during such integrative excursions as “bloody Sunday,” went out on almost a daily basis with other young, black male students to integrate eating counters, restaurants, and other facilities in Nashville as they were about the business of breaking down racial barriers and challenging city inequities.

My arrival at the time I did in civil rights history afforded me to share the small campus with young blacks other than Congressman Lewis. One such student was the late Ronald Walters, a leading scholar of the problems race, politics and author of 13 books, one of which mapped a way to the White House for the first-ever black president whenever that should occur. Dr. Walters later became director of the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland and was oft quoted and interviewed on national television. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Congressional Black Caucus. The list of “notable” notables will be continued later in this blog.

Someone once remarked that, “Perhaps no single institution has played so central a role as Fisk University in the shaping of black learning and culture in America.” I agree.

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.

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.

Reflections on an Internship: Women in Kentucky Politics

February 16, 2014 in 1960s-1970s, Political history

Elisabeth Jensen for CongressLast semester, I had the opportunity to intern with Elisabeth Jensen, a woman running to be the next Congresswoman of the 6th congressional district, which includes Lexington, Frankfort, and Richmond. I heard of this opening through the internship coordinator from my summer internship with Congressman John Yarmuth. She had told me about the importance of empowering women in politics and encouraged me to get involved with Elisabeth’s campaign.

I knew that this internship would be different from when I worked with Congressman Yarmuth in Louisville, mainly because Elisabeth was new to politics and had decided to enter the race only in May of last year—a few months before I started my internship. She did not have much experience in politics at all; in fact, she had previously worked with Disney and in merchandising.  Nonetheless, I could tell that Elisabeth was passionate about running and it seemed that she believed in helping the district. Currently, she is the director and president of Race for Education, a non-profit in Lexington that provides scholarships and educational services for those in financial need. Elisabeth was also a graduate of Emerge Kentucky, a program in Louisville that provides classes and workshops for women interested in running for a political position.

Elisabeth Jensen and son Will

Elisabeth Jensen, at home with her nine-year old son, Will

Since women are underrepresented in politics, I wanted to know if Elisabeth had dealt with any negativity during the campaign. Interestingly, she explained that the Lexington Democrat community has been very supportive of her and she has not faced any animosity because she is a woman or because of her lack of political experience. She also said she was aware of the feeling towards women in politics and has actually faced more sexism while working in the business world.

Women in Kentucky politics have been increasing in recent years. Programs like Emerge have been instrumental in training and empowering women to take on government jobs. During the civil rights area, African-American women such as Georgia Davis Powers and Mae Street Kidd were part of the few who dared to go down a predominately white, male-dominated career path in which very few women, or African-American women at that, seemed bold enough to do. Nonetheless, the charisma these women had certainly helped to influenced the civil rights in Kentucky. Currently, there aren’t very many African-American women in politics, but women such as Governor Martha Layne Collins and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes are representing a new generation that can continue to serve as torchbearers and role models for younger women hoping to one day make an impact in politics.

Alison Lundergan Grimes

Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes (photo from Wikipedia)

It is interesting that Elisabeth was running with two other Democratic candidates—both of whom dropped out of the race in November of last year—who were men, making her the only woman running on the Democratic ticket for Andy Barr’s position. I think it takes much audacity and strength for her to continue in the race and it is clear that Representative Andy Barr’s experience and expensive campaign certainly won’t scare her away.

In terms of the internship itself, I learned a lot about the campaigning side of politics. I think it is probably the toughest part, especially when it is your first election, which makes fundraising a bit more challenging when trying to make a name for yourself. It is helpful that other women before Elisabeth have made the effort less taxing, perhaps providing motivation and encouragement knowing that even African-American women were capable of achieving feats that no one ever thought could be accomplished.

Alice Dunnigan on Elizabeth R. Fouse

September 22, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, Political history

Dunnigan, 1982

Alice A. Dunnigan’s portrait in The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians (1982)

One of the most useful books to have on your bookshelf is The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Traditions, by Alice Allison Dunnigan (The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, 1982).

Fouse, 1931

Lizzie Fouse, 1931

Here is her short biography of Kentucky activist Elizabeth R. Fouse (p. 374) under the section “Women in Politics.” We present this subsection in full for your consideration. It is curious to us to think that this greatjournalist – who broke so many barriers in her own profession – would give such an important woman’s biography a mere mention of a political appointment, and leave out so much more political work Fouse had taken on through the years. Is this an oversight on her part? The paucity of this entry is puzzling. What does Dunnigan know that she’s not telling us?

***

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beatrice Cooke Fouse (1875–1952) “Elizabeth R. Fouse, a prominent Lexington educator and club woman moved into the political arena as early as 1944 when she was appointed by Governor Simeon Willis to serve on the Kentucky Commission for the Study of Negro Affairs, a commission which he had recently created for the purpose of study the problems of black people. “This group soon acknowledged that the greatest barrier to the advancement of colored people of Kentucky was segregation. It, therefore, recommended legislation to abolish Jim Crow practices. This included the abolition of segregation in transportation, an amendment to the State Day Law so that black students could attend professional and post graduate schools, and the inclusion of non-discrimination clauses in state contracts and public projects. “Kentucky became the first state in the South to make any such recommendations. “This bi-racial commission was co-chaired by J. Mansir Tydings and William H. Perry. The latter was Secretary of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association (KNEA) at the time. Robert E. Black, former Secretary of the Louisville Urban League was appointed Secretary.”

****

Wikipedia logoWhy does Dunnigan choose to add the last three sentences highlighting three men’s names when the topic is women and the focus was to be on Fouse? Dunnigan left out so much of Fouse’s leadership and other political actions, e.g., her work with the NAACP, her leadership in founding a YWCA for black youth in Lexington (named after the poet Phyllis Wheatley) her founding of a segregated branch of Lexington’s WCTU (named after the abolitionist Sojourner Truth). Was this because she, like so many others, believed that descriptions of political actions could only entail electoral or commission work? See more on Fouse in a Wikipedia article started by a History student at the University of Kentucky. The civic activism of this brave and intelligent Kentucky woman deserves a full-length biography to place her squarely in the middle of our state and national political history — a history that she helped to create.

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

EXTRA EXTRA Anne Braden Headlines

April 25, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Political history

What would YOUR newspaper headline be?

 

Little woman, big heart, megaphone voice for Civil Liberties…

Anne and Carl Braden promote unity within the community…

Braden continues to defy all social norms…

Anne Braden revolutionizes civil rights communication with newspaper southern patriot…

The Other America, reflecting on a lifelong activist who break social norms…

 

 

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.

New Wikipedia Articles on Kentucky Women’s History

April 9, 2013 in Oral history, Political history, Religious history, Social history

With congratulations to the terrific UK Honors Program students who wrote them, I list the newest Wikipedia articles on Kentucky women’s history below:

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