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by mookygc

Segregation of schools in Kentucky

February 10, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Oral history, Political history, Primary source, Social history

The Day Law of 1908 required the forced segregation of schools in Kentucky, and it was in place for nearly fifty years. With the argument that separate was not the same as equal, the NAACP organized resistance against the Jim Crow laws in the 1930s. They began fighting for African American entrance in to higher education institutions. In the 1950s, a mass resistance began, and people all over the state began entering previously segregated schools. I found it very interesting that the first African American student to enroll in a previously segregated high school, Lafayette, was in fact female, in 1955, and she faced little to no resistance.

There were many lawsuits filed in the state of Kentucky, which were met with difficulty by many white communities. Unlike many states in the further Deep South, the school board and state government were more or less committed to abide by the desegregation laws. By the mid 1960s, nearly all of Kentucky’s schools were in fact desegregated. The first African American person to attend the University of Kentucky was male, but both males and females received somewhat equal discrimination. Different accounts in the oral histories in “Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky” describe different experiences of different students attending the University of Kentucky. One narrator describes harsh reactions from other students, but rather levelheaded reactions and attitudes from professors, who seemed to discourage unfair treatment from other students. George Logan of Lexington described a time when the students in one of his classes put rope around a chair that said “For Colored Only”, and the professor that promised “Tomorrow you will be treated as a human being.” Iola Harding recalled “Nobody spoke to you, nobody engaged you and stuff like that. But after I was around there a while, a few people did.” There were boycotts and mobs in many parts of the state, and many faced very difficult opposition and had to be escorted by police to and from school.

In general, the feeling I got from the oral histories that both men and women were treated equally unfairly in terms of desegregating the education in Kentucky.

Citizenship – Emma Guy Cromwell

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

Emma Guy Cromwell wrote Citizenship to explain to teach recently franchised peoples the process and importance of voting. She believed that with the right to vote came great responsibility – the responsibility to vote with intelligence, to understand one’s rights and to exercise them with logic, reason, and intelligence rather than with blind passion. While Cromwell respected the passion of new voters and old voters alike, she recognized that passion can inhibit people’s rationale, and can be dangerous when spread to wide audiences. By combining the logic of suffragist groups and maternalist groups, Cromwell appealed to a larger audience and was able to reach more people.

Cromwell wrote this manual for the everyman (and everywoman). With clear language and great care, she explains what it means to be a citizen of the United States. She details how this nation functions, as well as the importance and qualifications for voting. She is unbiased, and gentle in her writing. She clearly has the best interest of the people at heart, and is dedicated to helping the people of the United States best serve their nation. Citizenship is exactly the thing she advertises – a manual for being a conscientious, dedicated, and proper citizen. In this manual, she explains how one can best make use of the rights, freedoms, and liberties provided to us by our government.

My father, a Veteran of the United States Air Force, has always expressed to me the concept of civic duty. I grew up knowing how important it was to pay your taxes in full, take your turn for the most insufferable stints of jury duty, and especially to vote. While my father stresses the importance of voting, he, much like Cromwell, passionately believes that the best kind of voter is an informed voter. If one is ignorant of their own rights, as guaranteed in the Constitution, they cannot, with due conscious, make decisions as important as voting. A voter must be informed, not only about their rights as citizens of this nation, but they also must be informed about current issues and policies in order to make the best possible decisions as they enter the voting booth.

Today, many young people are ignorant of the issues that plague our nation daily, and many are unconcerned with the infrastructure of our government. Emma Guy Cromwell fought against people like this – she fought for intelligent, informed, and passionate people who were dedicated to understanding the system they had the chance to be a part of. Today’s youth are both ignorant and indifferent to the fact that they have the right, and the responsibility, to take interest in the governing of our nation. Disinterested and misinformed or uninformed voters are a detriment to our nation, even today, and Cromwell’s Citizenship is a guide and a plea to these people to educate themselves and take part in the democratic system by which we are privileged to be governed.

by mookygc

Cromwell and Citizenship

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

In 1920, a booklet was published by a female activist named Emma Guy Cromwell. The booklet was entitled “Citizenship: A Manual For Voters“. I found Cromwell’s definition of citizenship quite accurate: “A citizen is one who has the rights and privileges of the inhabitants of the community, state and nation, and as a duty should equip himself so as to render the best citizenship possible.” The part of her definition I agree with the most is the specification that a citizen has a “duty to equip” themselves.

There are many ways I believe a citizen can be “equipped”. The most important of these, which Cromwell outlines, is the ability to educate oneself about your government. Cromwell states: “The citizen who does not possess some knowledge of his government and its workings will become a prey to the demagogue, or of individuals who are anxious to advance their own interest at the expense of the people.” It was important for women in the beginning of the twentieth century to be informed, because they were fighting for the right to vote, and voting without knowledge undermines the purpose of a government ruled by the people.

I have always believed that as citizens we are provided with so many rights and privileges, and as Cromwell states, it is our duty to give back to our government by informing ourselves and doing what we can to further promote democracy. I think that if you aren’t willing to do something to change a situation, you shouldn’t be allowed to complain about it, and we are lucky to live in a country that provides the right to speak our minds.

Citizenship

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history

Citizenship in the context of Kentucky women’s  history is a complex issue because it creates a division with women about their roles in society; namely whether women deserve the right to vote on a human rights basis, or whether, because women are mothers and have a different and natural sexuality to them that the voting booth is not a suitable place for respectable, gentlewomen.

In Emma Guy Cromwell‘s “Citizenship” she takes another look  into what  a women’s role is not only as it pertains to suffrage but also her role as a citizen of her country. While she speaks generally at first of more basic ideas such as naturalization versus  natural born citizens and the idea of civil rights that are available to all citizens of a nation, in reference to America specifically, she says,” Our country is a land of freedom and opportunity, and it is our duty to help uplift the government, and as citizens we must study  conditions and know how to govern and be governed. We must be familiar with our national and state Constitutions, for they are the fundamental principles by which we are governed. We must know how to make laws and how to have them executed. We must keep posted on the issues of the day, and know something of the standing and character of our public men and women” (Chapter 1). With this she calls men AND women to become better informed of the nation and its inner workings in order to be the best citizen possible. In that way all people can vote in the most educated maner.

This ties into other things that help to better classify citizenship. Among these are also the ability to give an informed vote, paying taxes and natural birthright to the nation. Cromwell identifies in  her introduction an interesting idea that women should be involved in the election process while still understanding their role as women. Said another way, women should utilize their vote to instill in Americans what the most important unit  is in America, the family in the home. With this, it can be seen that as long are women are informed (just as it would be assumed that men were) then their vote would  help them fit the mold as American citizens, just as their birthright and contribution to society grants them their citizenship.

In light of Cromwell’s ideas on the woman in the household, one could one could easily argue that with the women being mothers to the “great citizens of tomorrow,” as denoted in the  separate spheres theories in both America and Western Europe, that women’s contribution to society might even be greater to that of men because they are molding the minds of the future. That said, as long as American women remember that the unit of the home, offering intelligent and well-informed loyalty to the statehead, is the most important function of a woman, then the right for women to vote to extend their citizenship should be given. Overall, Kentucky women had a delicate balance to reach between their maternal expectations and their rights as US citizens.

Votes for Women

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

After reading Emma Guy Cromwell’s Manual for Voters, I now understand that my duty to vote is much more of a big deal than previously thought.

I already knew that voting is a right that comes with our citizenship to the United States and that it is important to take part in deciding who our leaders will be, but as a woman, I see that it is more important for me to take advantage of an entitlement that was once reserved solely for men.

The issue of women’s suffrage first gained recognition with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. At this landmark gathering of prominent women—including Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—there was much discussion centered on the exclusion of women in society. Because the struggle for women’s rights was long-fought, I think it fitting to show appreciation for the perseverance and diligence these women had by participating in elections. It is a privileged to be able to vote and we as women should not ignore our past or be indifferent to the choosing of our country’s governors.

According to Cromwell’s Manual, our citizenship to this nation gives us many freedoms and protection from the government, but our relationship with America should not be one-sided. In exchange for the rights we are entitled to, we must do our duty by voting in return. Cromwell stated that, “we must be familiar with our national and state Constitutions.” I will not pretend that I know the Constitutions very well, but reading the Manual made me realize how important it is to stay informed when it comes to politics. When one is ill informed, it becomes more difficult to form a personal opinion or even understand the truth to “government and its workings.”

I think that many Americans do not have all the facts when it comes to making political decisions. Some choose not to participate at all or vote based on the little information they do know. I believe that it is important to stay objective when entering the political sphere because bias can easily sway one’s views toward a certain direction.

To conclude, I will end with a personal story. I voted in my first presidential election last November. I have always heard that one vote really does not make a difference in the outcome, but I still believe it does. I especially believed it when I watched the second inauguration of our president this past Monday. Seeing the man I voted for made me proud that I could be part of a milestone moment as a woman voter and as a citizen of the United States.

Resources:

Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25598/25598-h/25598-h.htm.

 

A Logical Explanation Against Voting Restrictions

January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Our Declaration of Independence stated that “men are created equal” and that they are protected by the law and if the law, for some reason goes against these guaranteed rights, we as a people have the right to abolish the law. This was and is the foundation that our country is laid upon. However during the 1920’s these laws and rights that every U.S. citizen has seems to have been forgotten. Women and African Americans were not allowed to vote. While many sought to change this through peaceful and not so peaceful protests, showing the country how emotionally taxing not being a citizen can be, Emma Guy Cromwell sought a different approach. She set out to write a manual, entitled Citizenship, to tell the logical side of the story.

“Let us train ourselves for good citizenship and serve our nation, state, county, city and town in every way possible to make our government one of high ideals and the best in the world.” (47)

Cromwell formally states what is needed to be considered a citizen of the United States and the rights and privileges that come along with this. One of the privileges that she stresses is the right to vote. In fact she calls it “not just a privilege but something that is imposed by the law to be a good, active citizen” (45). In her opinion, voting allows us to make sure that our country is standing by what it said it would do for every citizen in the Declaration, and that if voting is restricted for some reason then our country has stopped becoming the place of freedom that it was meant to be.

As Cromwell looked at the world around her, she saw a place where these standards were not met. African Americans and women were not allowed to vote and actively participate in society. In her manual, though, she points out that these restrictions are against the law and should be changed immediately. Taking a logical rather than emotional approach, she shows in her manual why all citizens can and should vote.

“Men and women without regard to race, color, or social condition must take their turn exactly alike at the polling place” (45).

Many of the laws that were put in place during this time period were actually illegal according to the law. Laws such as having to be literate to vote and having to pay a certain polling tax are actually against the law. Cromwell logically explains why laws such as these are actually unconstitutional by stating the laws that govern whether or not someone is eligible to vote. Along with many other suffragists at the time, such as Laura Clay, Emma Guy Cromwell works to end the segregation and unlawful rules and regulations imposed on who can and can’t vote.

 

*******

Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell

Speech on Partial Suffrage (Kentucky Constitutional Convention, December 12, 1890). (2012, August 16). In Wikisource, The Free Library. Retrieved                       03:35, January 24, 2013, from http://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php title=Speech_on_Partial_Suffrage_(Kentucky_Constitutional_Convention,_December_12,_1890)&oldid=4021282

United States Department of State, “The Declaration of Independence, 1776, 1911.

Citizenship

January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Religious history, Social history

Image of the pamphlet, Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Without question, the definition of citizenship is continuously modified in America to suit those who identify themselves as United States citizens. The residents of this nation have continuously sought out representation and have constructed a governmental institution for support and stability and thus guidelines developed regarding conduct within the nation. In Emma Guy Cromwell’s Citizenship: A Manual for Voters, citizenship largely refers to the duty of citizens to vote, particularly an appeal to women who had recently received the right. Additionally, women of this time were encouraged to have a political opinion and to apply their skills and abilities to aid the community. Today, citizenship encompasses similar trends which particularly parallel the history of women in Kentucky.  Today’s understanding of the term acknowledges civic activity while coming to relinquish national religious sentiments in order to uphold the rights of both genders recognized by the government.

Cromwell undoubtedly believed in the value of defining a model citizen in the effort to construct an ideal society. Her values however, included duties “to improve and protect the home, the church and the community” (Introduction). She includes men and women in this scope but does not neglect the inequalities in representation as she plainly states the division of labor within the state and national governments. Voting has been largely expanded since the publication of this document, however, the ideals Cromwell establishes hold much weight in today’s society in term of political apathy. When women earned the right to vote, Kentucky established the League of Women Voters which encouraged women “to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy”. While the discrepancy of Cromwell’s era fell among racial tensions, the complex issue today is separated by age groups. The youth are seen as the most likely group to invoke change in today’s society but also compose the most apathetic group. Cromwell suggests, “We are not patriotic unless we respond to the call of our government” and that “a person with no opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic” (Chapter V). Citizenship is recognized as the “rights to have rights” (Citizenship in the United States) and encompasses the duty of all eligible people to exercise their political rights including the power of electing officials.

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Furthermore, an emphasis on strong community involvement and an encouraged plea to promote relevant global issues has taken root in addition to the existing promotion of local civic issues. Environmental concern has been factored into the national political agenda today and has also come to be part of the definition of citizenship as the right of a citizen to take up interest in issues of national concern. For example, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization promotes women who “are empowered as decision-makers and leaders, especially in environmental and sustainable development arenas”.

Most notably, Cromwell consistently acknowledges the governmental body’s commitment to religion as it should defend the church. She explains, both the state and national conventions are “opened with prayer” (Chapter VI). This has largely been abandoned in today’s definition of citizenship because the ideal citizen would respect the differences that define Americans and various communities. Kentucky’s government, in particular, has revised its documents to acknowledge and respect the separation of church and state especially as it pertains to the sector of public education, to which all students are entitled. (See Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky).

Resources:

Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25598/25598-h/25598-h.htm.

History, League of Women Voters of Kentucky

Women’s Leadership, WEDO

 

Helen Matthews Lewis, Appalachian activist and teacher

September 24, 2011 in 1960s-1970s, Political history, Social history

Dr. Helen Matthews Lewis

Dr. Helen Matthew Lewis speaks at Berea College's 2010 Midyear Graduation Service

Congratulations to Judi Jennings, Executive Director of Kentucky Foundation for Women, co-editor of a new book Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia which is due to be released on the University of Kentucky Press in January 2012.

Helen Matthew Lewis shaped the field of Appalachian Studies by emphasizing community participation and challenging traditional perceptions of the region and its people. Co-editors Judith Jennings and Patricia D. Beaver highlight the achievements of Lewis’s extensive career, examining her role as a teacher and activist.  The book begins with her job in 1943 on the yearbook staff at Georgia State College of Women with Mary Flannery O’Connor.  Her role as a teacher and activist at East Tennessee State University in the 1960s is described as well.  Lewis participated in many social justice struggles including opposing strip mining and the broad form deed, and supporting the civil rights movement.  The book provides a personal glimpse into the history of progressive activism in Appalachia.

Lewis served as the director of the Berea College Appalachian Center from 1993 – 1995, Appalshop‘s Appalachian History Film Project, and the Highlander Research and Education Center.  She is coauthor of Mountain Sisters: From Convent to Community in Appalachia (see a review from The Journal of Southern Religion Reviews, 2003) and Colonialism in Modern America: The Appalachian Case.  Lewis currently lives in Morganton, Georgia.

For more information on this book, see the University Press of Kentucky’s catalog.

Perspectives of Teachers on Integration in Kentucky

April 25, 2011 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Perspectives of Teachers on Integration in Kentucky

The integration of the nation’s public school systems, as mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, caused a furor among most Southern states.  The general strategy that was established early on was to comply with the decision as slowly as possible through delay after delay, and violent incidents were not uncommon.  One Southern state that escaped the resulting upheaval was Kentucky.

From the outset, the outlook for integration in Kentucky was one of cautious optimism.  According to A. Lee Coleman, even the governor of the state predicted that Kentucky’s schools would be the easiest to integrate in the South; this sentiment would have arguably been political suicide had it not been correct, especially in states such as Alabama or Mississippi.  In his article in the Journal of Negro Education, written in 1955 – and which also gives the impression of being written for the purpose of encouraging his fellow educators – Coleman echoes the governor’s optimism, stating a number of compelling reasons as to why he believes this to be the case, which include the blindingly fast integration of colleges in Kentucky and the general lack of strong feelings among the white population.

Even in the “easiest state to integrate,” however, integration would not be without its challenges.  The main worry that Coleman seemed to have was that progress, while more substantial than the rest of the South, would prove to be positively glacial.  Legal wrangling over several state laws and their interaction with the Supreme Court decision, along with an administrative decision to ease the state into integration slowly to allow the population a chance to adjust, promised to slow the process to a painful crawl.  All of this can likely be attributed to the normal operating speed of a governing body whose capitol building is not under threat of being razed by angry citizens, rather than a concerted effort to delay the process as in the other Southern states.

Twelve years after Coleman had published his hopeful piece in the Journal of Negro Education, Eddie W. Morris published his own article regarding integration in the same publication.  By then, the integration of the student body of the public schools in Kentucky had been achieved very smoothly, with no especially major incidents.  Unfortunately, a problem which had not been predicted by Coleman had arisen:  the integration of the teachers and faculty.

Those Black teachers that had not lost their jobs outright – which effectively included most of those without training or tenure – had almost all taken a demotion when they were integrated with White faculty at other facilities.  Additionally, new Black teachers had not been hired in a number of years.  While budgetary concerns may have been to blame for at least some of these incidents (due to an effective surplus of teaching staff), the fact that the Black faculty members were being treated in such a manner almost exclusively indicated that integration had not been fully completed for everyone involved in the public school system.

Morris blamed this lack of faculty integration on several factors.  He asserted that administrators believed that black teachers in positions of power over white students would cause an uproar amongst parents – even though he says that there was no indication whatsoever that this would be the case – as well as a belief that black teachers were less qualified than their White counterparts.  He also said that prejudice among leadership councils on a community level who influenced the people on the school board played a part.  His plea was to keep qualified teachers in the Bluegrass, as many Black teachers were leaving for other states and better opportunities due to this treatment.

While Kentucky was easily the most open and accepting of the Southern states of integration, it was most certainly not integrated without its share of problems, as indicated by the continuing discrimination against Black faculty members over a decade after the initial decision.  Even though the violence, chaos, and terror that marked the event in other Southern states did not surface in the Bluegrass, it is important not to allow the dramatic events elsewhere to overshadow the challenges and triumphs of integration in Kentucky.

References:

A. Lee Coleman, “Desegregation of Public Schools in Kentucky – One Year Afterward,” The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 1955: 248-257.

Eddie W. Morris, “Facts and Factors of Faculty Desegregation in Kentucky,” The Journal of Negro Education 36:1 (Winter, 1967) 75-77.

 

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

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