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by mookygc

African American Representation in Fayette County Publications

February 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Social history

Today, I found a copy of a book published by the Fayette County Board of Education in 1955 entitled: “Let’s Go To School”  (pdf link). A very brief book composed primarily of pictures, it appears to have been an informational resource for parents of students. There were several things I found interesting in this book.

The book begins with a quote:

“Your Board of Education believes in your child’s right.”

This book was published at a point in our education history when schools were still mostly segregated. Of over one hundred pictures, only a mere four show an African American student or teacher. I am including these here:

From "Let's Go to School", Fayette County Board of Education

From “Let’s Go to School”, Fayette County Board of Education

From "Let's Go to School", Fayette County Board of Education

From “Let’s Go to School”, Fayette County Board of Education

From "Let's Go to School", Fayette County Board of Education

From “Let’s Go to School”, Fayette County Board of Education

African American students are only shown under the heading of “Sports” and “Music”, and teachers are only shown within a group.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the library, reading old newspapers and looking at any books and pamphlets I could find that even mentioned African American education in Lexington and Fayette County prior to the 1980s. In 1963, Lexington Schools were still segregated, while Fayette County schools were all integrated but for one exception, Douglass Elementary School, which housed 385 students.

Because Douglass School closed in 1971 following integration, there remains little to no information in one location about the school, which opened in 1929. However, after much digging, I was able to find a variety of pictures and newspaper articles about the school, and received a brief history of its changes over time  from an elementary school to a high school back to an elementary school from the superintendent’s office at Fayette County Public Schools .Now, I just have to put all the pieces together and try to complete a history so that in the future all of this information will be in one place.

“The Maid Narratives” and Cognitive Dissonance

February 25, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Political history

Cognitive dissonance is when a person feels different emotions about the same thing. The authors of The Maid Narratives encountered this when they were doing interviews of whites that had formerly had black maids.  They are conflicted with the way they felt when they were younger and the way they feel now.  When whites with maids were growing up they felt a sense of security from their maid.  Now, they feel a sense of remorse after learning the difficult conditions that their maids sometimes worked in.

I am currently researching Florence Thompson.  Thompson was the first female sheriff in the United States that had to carry out a conviction.  She was from Owensboro, Kentucky, where the last public hanging took place.  Rainey Bethea, the man committing the crime, was convicted of raping an elderly woman and was sentenced to hang.  Thompson conferred with a priest before the hanging because of the personal, internal struggle she was having.  She was faced with having to be a strong leader that her position required while still having terrible feelings about having a man’s death on her hands even though the man had already been convicted and sentenced.  Ultimately she decided to have a man from out of town perform the hanging while she supervised from a distance.

When people are placed in a conflicting situations they are required to look within themselves.  This reflection brings out thoroughly thought through decisions, considering the repercussions, particularly personal.  This dissonance sometimes occurs well after the fact, such as the whites in The Maid Narratives.  This is also beneficial because the reflection shows the next generation the flaws of the older generation’s decisions.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

http://www.owensboro.org/

Desegregation in Education

February 11, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

picture of Charles Hamilton Houston

Charles Hamilton Houston

 The Day Law of 1904 mandated segregation between blacks and whites in public schools in Kentucky. Of course, with this segregation came inequality in the quality of schools (and therefore education) between blacks and whites. This was not tolerated by the more prominent members of the black community and by the 1930’s attorney Charles Hamilton Houston and the NAACP began to battle this segregation. This began by his persuasion of the Supreme Court that the Missouri Law school was denying black students equal protection under the law. With this at the forefront, the NAACP continued to fight segregation at a legal level through the 1950’s. The most prominent example in the ’50’s would certainly be the Brown vs. Board of Education case in which Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned.

As far as men’s experiences being different than women, I would argue that any difference was minor. In most cases, being black was enough to isolate these students in an integrated situation. The only differences would be in examples of extracurricular activities, in which boys would be more likely to be bussed to white schools to enhance the athletic departments. Women, such as Alice Wilson, were discouraged from attempting to try to cheerlead or sing because of the already strained relations between her and the other white students.

Pro-segregationists, needless to say, were outrage in general about integration, inciting riots against incoming black students and expressing outrage at the busing options that were offered up. Black students were subjected to ridicule and death threats across the board. However, although the pro-segregationists were upset with integration, not all cases were as dramatic as others, especially since Kentucky was a border state. White supremacy was much more subtle and nuanced in this time, even though KKK was growing. This means that much of the racism that was happening was happening in the quality of materials that black students would get or where they were allowed to sit in public places.

Overall white women and men probably remember these times similarly because they are both viewing this period through the same lens. Stated another way, this being more of a race-focused issue verses a gender focused issue so whether one was a man or woman remembering, the story was probably still the same. If the interest in is difference of perspective, the true comparison would be between blacks and whites, as they were on completely different playing fields.

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

“Ku Klux Klan.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Plessy v. Ferguson.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Brown v. Board of Education.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Aug. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Charles Hamilton Houston.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Separate but Equal: Segregation in the Public Schools.” Separate but Equal: Segregation in the Public Schools. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

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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.

Educators for Integrated Education

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

Book cover, Freedom on the Border

Freedom on the Border

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

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

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

Photo of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

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

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Sources:

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

The History Makers. “Civic Makers: Audrey Grevious.” The HistoryMakers. Web. 10 February 2013.

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

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

 

 

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by mookygc

Segregation in Kentucky

February 5, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

There is a “myth” of sorts in Kentucky that suggests segregation in Kentucky was not as bad as it was in parts of our country further South. Mainly, the example used to support this fact is that buses in most local communities were not segregated, and African Americans never lost the right to vote. Historian George C. Wright called the segregation in Louisville “Polite Racism”. Regardless of these examples, most things about day to day life for African Americans in Kentucky were segregated. For example, most public facilities, such as libraries, bathrooms, water fountains, swimming pools, amusement parks, stores and restaurants were segregated. It was even specified which door of a house you were to use depending on the color of your skin. Anne Butler of Stanford spoke in Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky about a time when she went to get something from her father at a house he was wallpapering, and was told “The next time you come here, you go to the back door.”

Many of the voices in both The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South and Freedom on the Border suggest similar notions that often people on both sides of segregation didn’t know what was going on, or how big of an issue it was. In the Introduction of The Maid Narratives, a white narrator is quoted in saying “That’s just the way things were done; we didn’t really stop to think about it.” Similarly, in Freedom on the Border, Joyce Hamilton Berry explains that she “never knew that they had black and white bathrooms in Kentucky, because I had never been to one.” Parents often shielded their children from the harsh realities of the world, and many African American and White children alike can remember specific moments when they realized something was going on.

Like many things, when you are in the middle of an issue such as the implementation of segregation or the concept of “Separate But Equal” Policy, it is nearly impossible to see the forest for the trees. One might see specific instances of injustice, but not question it or even be able to because that was “Just the way  things were done.”

_______________________________

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

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

Segregation in KY

February 4, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

Segregation in the first half of the 20th century in Kentucky was a tricky concept because it was not the same picture as many people hold within their minds. Although there were plenty of instances of domestic servants or “help” as expressed in The Maid Narratives in this time frame, not all classism was so obvious. Porter Peeples of Lynch, Kentucky remembers, “[Segregation] wasn’t visibly noticable, [because] the town was small and even though we didn’t attend the same schools, all the kids played together,” (Fosl and K’Meyer,31). This certainly doesn’t make segregation in Kentucky seem as aggressive as it may have been in say, Mississippi, but does not imply equality by a long shot. For example, public transportation in Kentucky still had segregated public transportation, theaters and restaurants, even to those blacks that were biracial, meaning they had one white parent and one black parent.  In many cases, blacks were made to walk around to the backs of establishments in order to be served or, in the case of schools, be given second-rate materials and hand-me-downs from white schools. Mentioned further in Freedom the Border, some small, individualized ways people would battle this segregation would be not going to certain establishments to avoid the embarrassment of entering through back doors and quitting jobs in which they were being treated unjustly.

Although not exactly beginning in Kentucky due to the same size of the movements, this environment of segregation was the perfect catalyst of the start of many progressive equality movements, namely the NAACP. This organization worked towards the equality of blacks in schools, restaurants, etc, but also was key in encouraging women’s groups to work towards their own suffrage in later decades. The NAACP worked with the black vote, integrating schools, (who can forget the famous Brown v. Board Supreme court case) and in more modern times has worked to recognize black talent across the country. Because this time period was a hot bed for racial inequality, people like Mary McLeod Bethune, were trailblazers in creating black schools to not only educate black youth, but work towards a more equal education between black and white children. Overall, segregation in the early 20th century in Kentucky was a complex beast, transcending the common ideas of segregation while also creating the beginnings of civil rights movements in Kentucky and across the nation.

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

Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine. K’Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.
“LSU Press :: Books – The Maid Narratives.” LSU Press :: Books – The Maid Narratives. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_discrimination
“NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. NAACP, 2009. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.
“Brown v. Board of Education.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

Kentucky Civil Rights Leaders

April 20, 2011 in 1920s-30s, 1950s-1960s, Political history

This paper discusses the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Kentucky becoming the first Southern state to enact a strong civil rights law, former Governor of Kentucky Ned Breathitt’s role in moving Kentucky’s Civil Rights forward and Audrey Grevious who was born in Kentucky and later become the Lexington Chapter President of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

During President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration Congress passed Public Law 82-352 (78 Stat. 241). The provisions in this civil rights act prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered all executive agencies to require federal contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” This marked the first use of the phrase “affirmative action.” In 1969 an executive order required that every level of federal service offer equal opportunities for women and established a program to implement that action.

Former Kentucky Governor Ned Breathitt was instrumental in Kentucky passing historic civil rights legislation. First elected to the Kentucky State House in 1951, he served until 1958. Breathitt was elected Governor of Kentucky in 1963 and introduced a petition at the 1964 National Governors Conference in which he called for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Later in 1964 Governor Breathitt at a civil rights conference in Louisville pledged his support for a strong civil rights bill addressing employment as well as public accommodations. This pledge from a southern Governor was unheard of in its time. In 1966 the Kentucky General Assembly passed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. This law prohibited discrimination in employment and public accommodations and empowers cities to enact local laws against housing discrimination. The Kentucky Civil Rights legislation also repealed all other state segregation laws and setup the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights which had the statutory authority to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth. Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act went further than its federal counterpart because it prohibited racial discrimination in hiring. The Reverend Martin Luther Kings called Kentucky’s Civil Rights Bill “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state.” Governor Breathitt went on to assist the integration of athletics into the Southeastern Conference which included the University of Kentucky. This website is a timeline of Kentucky’s Civil Rights. From this timeline we can see Kentucky’s progression in the Civil Rights Movement as well as other significant events.

Another important Kentuckian who played a crucial role in Civil Rights is Audrey Grevious. Audrey Grevious was born in 1930 in Lexington, Kentucky. Grevious as a youth attended segregated schools. After earning her bachelors degree in elementary education at Kentucky State University she went on to earn a master’s in administration from Eastern Kentucky University. According to this website which contains Audrey Grevious biography http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_grevious.htm in the later 1940’s Grevious became active in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) as well CORE (Congress on Racial Equality). As the civil rights movement continued Grevious became the president of the Lexington Chapter of the NAACP in 1957. Working with a friend Julia Lewis who was the president of Lexington’s CORE, the two brought the NAACP and the CORE together for the first time. Grevious and Lewis helped organize sit-ins at dime store food counters, pickets of a neighborhood grocery store and protests in Lexington Kentucky theaters for the Civil Rights Movement. These two organizations carefully worked together contributing to the peaceful achievement of civil right goals.

Sources

 http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/16/local/me-breathitt16

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by OneTon

In the footsteps of Ida B Wells

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

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

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

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

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by OneTon

Jefferson County Native Shows Determination

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

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

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

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