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A Contrast in Paths to Achievement: Daily Routines and Social Lives

November 7, 2016 in 1950s-1960s, Social history

At Fisk University many female students arose early to eat breakfast, apply tons of makeup, arrange their hair in neatly manicured styles, and head off to class-most in the highest of heeled shoes! Very few did not wear heels all day long. Dress codes—self mandated I supposed—were very strict, and during pledge season very, very strict. A single run in hosiery would send a pledgee to scrub the cafeteria floor with a toothbrush I was told by the returning students. Guys were well-groomed, also, as they were “decked” in nice sweaters, highly polished shoes and creased pants. . If students were not careful to use the proper silverware in the proper order, they were privately ridiculed.

To the contrast, UK students were more relaxed. All females did wear dark brown, shiny weejuns with tassels the first year I was there. Seemed to be a uniform foot dress code, but the regimen ended there. I had to adjust to both scenes as my mother had to purchase a new shoe wardrobe for me, since none of those shoes were a scene at the high school to which I had gone. I was not privy to talk of any existing hazing incidents, but then I wouldn’t have been because of my minority status.

In all fairness, UK was a large sprawled out campus which was not conducive to heels whereas Fisk was more compact to accommodate the kinds of shoes that almost all of the females wore. But thank goodness, both were flat terrains, unlike Western Kentucky University in my hometown which is nothing but one big hill. I huffed and puffed my way through graduate classes there and longed for the days that I had the flat walk strolls to class at both Fisk and UK. (I am digressing, I know, but still in keeping with being a Kentucky Woman during this era.)

Diddle Arena, WKU

E.A.Diddle Arena, Western Ky. University

Discussing a different Kentucky college such as Western Kentucky University, painfully reminds me of my home birthplace right on the spot where the Diddle Arena Sports Complex now exists and how WKU had Urban Renewal come through and practically just take the homes of African-Americans without adequate compensation or time to even shop around for commensurate housing.

My church was leveled and my aging grandmother and other aging relatives had to move. They fought, but to no avail. (See more on this issue at the Notable Kentucky African Americans database – and see a museum poster about Jonesville below.) As a matter of fact, those memories in addition to my mother’s desire for me to attend UK drove me away from WKU. Mom was a Tennessee native who married my dad (a Bowling Green native) and moved to Bowling Green.

Poster regarding Jonesville replaced by WKU's Diddle Arena

Click on poster to see larger image.

Back to student dress. All of the other clothing on both campuses was pretty much the same as today with skirts, sweaters, blouses, shirts and pants except at Fisk, coats and sweaters for females were often fur-trimmed. The preceding differences speak volumes for the school cultures during that era, and any reader should make the determination as to why, keeping in mind that one was a private institution whose ancestors were removed by approximately eight decades from slavery years, while the others consisted of students whose forebears had always been free. The latter had less to prove.

A Tale of Two Universities

October 22, 2016 in 1950s-1960s, Primary source, Social history

A tale of two universities during the civil rights era — one black, one white as told by a Kentucky woman who attended both during the same time period.

Kith of the Famous, Student-Identified Notables

Before the regular routine of classes began and immediately after we transfer students had met our roommates and settled in, small gatherings of returning student hall mates toured us through the Oval, the Fisk yearbook.  They gave us a brief run-down of just who was who on campus.  On my floor, just two doors down were Jackie Barrow, daughter of Joe Louis (Barrow) “the brown bomber,” legendary boxer who was world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949. She was a quiet freckled-face student who pretty much stayed to herself.  Next door was Valerie Grant, niece of the triple threat entertainer, Earl Grant, talented as a vocalist, organist, and pianist. Valerie was a petite really small, student who spent most of her time with her boyfriend, my “homeboy.” (People from the same town were referred to and greeted as “homes,” “homey,” or “homeboy,” or “home girl,” as a way of feeling less isolated.) He was really responsible for my getting interested in the social life at Fisk that I was missing at UK, having shown me his yearbook the year before I decided to transfer. Then they pointed out others on other floors such as Judith Jamison a celebrated American dancer and now Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  Across the driveway in the WEB Dubois male dormitory was Bobby McCans, great-grandson of WEB Dubois (who needs no description).They pointed out all of the leaders in the fraternities and sororities and whom they dated. They discussed the teachers one should avoid; especially prejudiced white ones who concurrently dualized the teaching between Fisk and Vanderbilt just down the boulevard.  They seemed to know which students were from families of means and which ones weren’t.

Miss Fisk, Majorie Patricia McCoyMiss Fisk Material

One picture of particular interest was that of Miss Fisk and her court.  In that yearbook, Miss was a statuesque, chocolate-and crème, wavy haired, very attractive young lady, but my particular tour guides mentioned that she was not Miss Fisk material.

Huh?  Well they explained that she was not light-skinned enough, and her hair was not long or straight enough. Since I had been at UK where all of the females on the various courts reflecting a degree of beauty looked like that because they were white, I thought that almost every one there would make it on a Fisk Court.  Remember the “Black is Beautiful,” “I’m proud” mentality was a year or two to come when I was at Fisk. (Note: Before that, even most black schools of all types tended to exhibit the same mentality of trying to mimic and/or appease their former oppressors in many ways. And curiously enough in many instances, if even a brown-skinned “Negro” called a darker one “black,” he or she had a fight on hand.)  Kudos to the Black Pride movement, but  still more curious was that after the realization of  that movement set in, some lighter-skinned female “Negroes” sometimes had difficulty winning black beauty contests and riding on floats because they were not black enough!  Those were the times preceding the rare finding of black dolls for little girls at Christmas, lack of any black pictures in mainstream magazines other for sports, or entertainment, etc  Definitely an era when being black was associated with all kinds of negativities, heaven forbid.

Back to the yearbook. As I looked further through the Oval of that year, what my tour guides were trying to tell me was corroborated on quite a few other pages where most of the queens and their courts were light-skinned and had straight hair.  Only a very few have escaped those stringent requirements. (Sm.) I surmised that the ones who did survive either were very, very smart, had familial status, or were very wealthy.  Some one had hinted earlier that to make it at Fisk, a female had to be rich, high-yellow or very smart.  Not meeting any of those criteria, I am not sure to this day how I fit in as well as I did, but then, again, and somehow or other, I always seemed to make long-lasting  friends in any environment. Maybe it was that I didn’t try as hard.

Kramer, Sara Jane

Sara Jane Kramer, UK – “Look Girl”

University of Kentucky’s Sara Jane Kramer

Back at my UK college home, I did not see a yearbook until my senior year as I had no home boy or girl on campus, and yearbooks, therefore, did not seem to be an issue in the all freshman dormitory in which I dwelled. And since I was not Greek with an access to one of their “houses,” I was not privy to any yearbook touring.  There, in my freshman year, the notables were discussed by name.  They were cheerleaders, basketball players, teachers, and Sara Jane Kramer.  Sara, or Miss Kramer, as some of her teachers referred to her was a wisp of a young girl whose picture had been chosen by Look Magazine from the files of entering freshmen across the country as “most photogenic.” This gave her quite a status across the UK campus.  Females and males alike stared at her, male teachers deferred to her and the limited media that we had back then such as radio and newspapers did endless interviews with her. She, too, was a thin, wispy rather reticent but friendly young model type young lady who never smiled much.  She did blink her eye lids almost incessantly as what I considered was a sort of nervousness.  One can Google her in UK Portrait Archives as Kramer, Sara Jane “Look Girl.”

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.

Oral history interviews with Black women in Kentucky–Part 2

April 16, 2015 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Primary source, Social history

While listening to oral histories featuring Black women in Kentucky I’ve gotten to hear some amazing stories directly from the women who lived them: women who marched in demonstrations in Lexington during the 1960s, women who taught at integrated schools, women who faced discrimination daily no matter what job they held. It is so important that these stories not only be saved, but also passed on. So I’d like to share a few with you.

Picture of Julia Etta Lewis (1932-1998), from 2001 Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame

Julia Etta Lewis (1932-1998), leader in Lexington chapter Congress of Racial Equality

Marilyn Gaye‘s interview in 1978 by the great historian George Wright (now President at Prairie View A&M University) is one of my favorites out of the entire collection. Gaye grew up in Lexington and was a teenager during the civil rights movement. In her interview she talks about what life was like as a child living in Lexington under segregation, describing her experiences of having to sit in the balcony of the Ben Ali Theater to see shows. She talks about how she became involved in civil rights demonstrations in Lexington and describes the experience of a march from the very beginning, waiting in a basement for a phone call from Julia Lewis, the head of Lexington’s chapter of CORE, to tell them it was time to go.

She describes what it was like to march through downtown Lexington and talks about the songs they sang as they marched. She discusses the reactions of white Lexingtonians to the march, and what the demonstration accomplished. I think this is one of my favorite interviews because the perspective it offers is so uncommon. Of all of the interviews in this collection there are actually very few with women who actively participated in the civil rights movement in Kentucky, and to have done so as a teenage girl makes Marilyn Gaye even more unique.

RosettaBeatty

Rosetta Beatty during her interview with Joan Brannon on February 2, 2009

I found the Rosetta Beatty interview interesting mainly because of her detailed descriptions of the East End area of Lexington during the 1960s. The East End encompasses an area north and east of downtown Lexington, between Main Street and Loudon Avenue. Beatty describes many of the streets in the neighborhood and lists the businesses, churches, and restaurants along each street, including Shiloh Baptist Church, Club Hurricane, and the Lyric Theater. Listening to her describe the neighborhood gives you such a clear picture of the area that you feel like you’re walking along it with her. She talks about which businesses were owned by African Americans, and also describes the relationships between neighbors on Elm Tree Lane, stating that everyone looked out for each other’s children.

Lillian Buntin

Lillian Buntin during her interview with Joan Brannon on April 9, 2009

Like Rosetta Beatty, Lillian Buntin grew up in the East End area of Lexington. Her interview also provides a great description of the neighborhood, focusing mainly on Ohio Street where Buntin lived as a child, as well as local churches, restaurants, drugstores, and the Lyric Theater. Along with her descriptions of the area, Buntin’s interview is also interesting because she talks about attending a segregated school as a child before becoming a teacher at an integrated school. Her interview provides a personal account of not only what it was like to be a student under segregation, but also what it was like to be a teacher throughout the changes of integration in Lexington, including discussion of her relationships with students, parents, principals, and her fellow teachers.

Patricia R. Laine talks with Emily Parker about her family history, including her ancestors who were once slaves in Kentucky. Her interview (August 6, 1986) also provides an interesting look at the role of the church in the Black community and how it has changed since her childhood in the 1940s. One of the most compelling parts of Laine’s interview were her stories of the discrimination she faced both in her job as a domestic worker for a white family near Midway, but also throughout her employment at the National Institute of Mental Health Clinical Research Center (then known as “The Narcotics Farm” or “Narco,” now called The Federal Medical Center, Lexington). Narco housed both prisoners and self-committed patients attempting to overcome drug addictions. Her discussion of the treatment of Black employees is eye-opening, and Laine says that because there was also gender discrimination, Black women received the fewest promotions. Her description of the treatment of the patients is also fascinating, especially when she discusses the facility becoming a federal prison. Laine also discusses the impact of the civil rights movement in Lexington, stating that racism has not been reduced, it has only become more covert, and that many Black businesses closed because of desegregation.

Mrs. Charles Chenault Jones was the first African American teacher at Arlington Elementary School in Lexington after integration. During her interview she describes what it was like being the only Black person at PTA meetings, and discusses her interactions with school staff, students, and parents. She talks about witnessing discrimination against the Black students. Jones also discusses the effects of integration on Lexington businesses, neighborhoods, and, most interestingly, attitudes in the Black community. She gives her opinion on the decline of ministers’ and churches’ involvement in the community since her childhood days in Madison County of “basket meetings.”

These are not the only interesting interviews in this collection, just a few I personally enjoyed or considered particularly important.  There are many more in the collection worth checking out that provide different perspectives and experiences.

Oral history interviews with Black women in Kentucky

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

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

Dorothy Perkins

Dorothy Perkins during her interview with Joan Brannon in 2009

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

Valinda Livingston

Valinda Livingston in an interview with Brannon 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Indexing Oral History Interviews of Black Women in Lexington

November 11, 2014 in Oral history, Social history

Recently, Randolph Hollingsworth asked if I would be interested in indexing a collection of oral history interviews from the “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project.” The interviews selected for Randolph’s project focus on women in the community from a variety of different backgrounds, and many discuss conditions in Lexington before and after the Civil Rights Movement. One of the goals of the project is to provide greater access to the stories these women have to tell; stories that were often overlooked by traditional mainstream media sources. (For more information on this project, check out Randolph’s blog post here.)

Indexing is the process of making an oral history interview more accessible to users through the addition of searchable keywords, subjects, summaries, and other information. This enables users to locate points of interest within an interview, saving them the time it would take to listen to the interview in its entirety. Indexers use OHMS, the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, a system which allows textual information to be assigned to audio or video recordings at a fraction of the cost of creating transcripts. (For more information on the OHMS system please visit www.OralHistoryOnline.org.)

Screenshot 2014-11-10 16.27.08

 

To index an interview, an indexer listens to the interview, breaking it down into 5-10 minute segments based on common topics. Each segment is given a title based on the topics covered. Within these segments keywords and subjects are chosen based upon the topics covered in the segment and upon the interviewee’s own words. The indexer writes a summary for each segment, informing the users of the content of each section. Additional information, such as GPS coordinates, links to other websites, and partial transcripts may also be added, depending on the needs of the project.

Screenshot 2014-11-10 16.21.46

Beginning to index a new oral history project is usually the most difficult part. It takes time to learn and understand the purpose, tone, and topic of the project. Sometimes the best place to start is by listening to an interview to get a feel for the types of questions asked, the main subjects of the interviews, and the pace or structure of the interview. Though these can vary between interviews within the same collection, the interviews generally follow a similar pattern and it can be useful to listen to one interview to get a feel for the entire collection. While listening to the interview I like to write down important words or phrases that the interviewee uses, the main topics of the interview, and any keywords or subjects that I think may repeat throughout the collection. From this list I can begin creating my keywords thesaurus and my subjects thesaurus. The keywords thesaurus is generally less formal and is made up of names, places, and other topics mentioned in the interview. The subjects thesaurus is made up of Library of Congress approved subject headings. These are generally more broad and cover the overarching topics within the interview. As I listen to more interviews within the collection I add the new keywords and subjects for each interview to the list, while also checking each interview’s content against the existing list. This ensures that I am using the same version of a word throughout all interviews within a collection, maintaining consistency for users.

For the Blacks in Lexington project I also added GPS coordinates to many of the segments. These coordinates allow users to see a map of the locations mentioned within the segment, for instance the Lyric Theater, or the Charles Young Community Center. This gives users a better sense of the community discussed within the interview. This collection in particular has been challenging in regard to locations due to the fact that the landscape of Lexington, especially the East End area, has changed greatly over the years. In a future post here I will be chronicling these challenges and my efforts to find maps depicting the streets of Lexington from the 1940s to the present.

As this project progresses I am learning more about my hometown of Lexington as well as some of the people who have lived and made history here and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with everyone at the KYWCRH.

 

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.

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.

WPA Pack Horse Library Project, 1936-43

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

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

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

Visual Display of Packhorse Librarians in Kentucky - a WPA Project

Packhorse Librarians in Kentucky, 1936-1943

Wrapping up the Semester

April 30, 2013 in Oral history, Social history

Picture of Suzy Post

Suzy Post

As the semester comes to an end, I can’t believe all of the work I have done and the knowledge I have gained. To look back and see the wonderful pieces that my classmates and I have accomplished, is incredible. I have truly learned so much about the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky and the women who participated in it. Finding out about what the women that were apart of this Movement did and how influential they were, was something I wouldn’t have gained anywhere else.

My partner and I are finishing up our final project on Suzy Post, and are working hard on making sure that all of the details are there. After being able to interview Ms. Post, we wanted to make sure that we covered all of the major points in her life, the organizations she was apart of, and the great significance that she made towards the Movement in Louisville. She was a truly remarkable woman.

In order to do this, we are putting the final touches on our webpage that focuses on the important organizations that she contributed to as well as other aspects of her life. We have pages dedicated to her Civil Rights activism, work with the women’s movement, involvement in the anti-war movement, and her family life. We are so excited to get all of the information out and allow everyone to see how wonderful a woman she truly is.

 

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“Civil Rights Movement.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Apr. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_rights_movement. 30 Apr. 2013.

“Suzy Post.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Feb. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzy_Post. 30 Apr. 2013.

“Suzy Post, Hall of Fame 2007.” Kentucky: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. http://kchr.ky.gov/hof/halloffame2007.htm?&pageOrder=0&selectedPic=10. 30 Apr. 2013.

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