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Martha Layne Collins

March 26, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Political history, Research methods

My group and I are working on a web based project designed to honor Governor Martha Layne Collins’ contribution to the Civil Rights history of Kentucky. We are struggling to find footing with a thesis about Governor Collins, because a good portion of the information we are finding about her is in relation to her time as Governor of the state of Kentucky, which is after the time period we are looking at, from 1920 to 1970.

Also, people close to the former governor are extremely hesitant to speak about anything regarding Governor Collins, because of a scandal involving her husband after her governorship. We are not interested in what she did as a governor though, instead, we are looking for any information regarding the work she did to promote fair civil rights for all.

We are aware that she had a lot to do with education reform, due to her background as a teacher, but are having difficulty finding anything about her life before that, aside from the fact that she was in a lot of beauty pageants and a young adult and created an organization called the “Jaycettes”. WE had an interview set up with a family friend of Collins’ but said interview was later cancelled. Our next step is to go to the Woodford County Historical Society, where there is a file about Governor Collins during her time there. Hopefully while there we will be able to form a thesis about why Collins was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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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.

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Mae Street Kidd, Passing for Black

February 21, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Political history, Primary source, Social history

Passing for Black

The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd

Wade Hall

Mae Street Kidd was a determined, independent woman that defied the boundaries of race and ignored the restrictions of gender. To Mrs. Kidd, personal image was significant in presenting who you were and what you wanted to accomplish. She was a tireless force that allowed those around her to keep her motivated to do her best. She demanded the best from everyone, because that is what she gave of herself.

Career

Education: Lincoln Institute

From her first job at the age of 17, Mae Street Kidd took a stand and advertised her skills to the world, demanding that she be given a chance.

Mae worked at Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance Company, which was one of the most popular insurance companies for African Americans of the time. She worked as a saleswoman, selling policies and collecting premiums. Promoted to file clerk, then continued up the ladder, becoming the supervisor of policy issues.

Kidd states in Passing for Black that it does not matter where she lived, as long as she likes her work.

Helped several different companies pioneer Public Relations departments, creating goodwill between the companies and their communities. She was among the first to develop the field of Public Relations, and the skills she gained would help her to later win elections.

Following her return from being stationed overseas with the Red Cross, Mammoth Insurance refused to allow her to take control of the Public Relations Department that she created. She was forced to return to an entry level position as a saleswoman. In this position, she sold more insurance than anyone else ever had.

“I’ve got too many guts in me to let you embarrass me. I will do the dirty job you give me better than anybody ever did it — and better than you ever dreamed I could” (Passing for Black p 51).

Retired in 1966 at the age of 62 before pursuing her political career.

Overall, Mae helped to build up many companies run by blacks for the black community. She helped to turn Mammoth Insurance into the large and profitable company it became, and helped many companies create relationships with their communities through Public Relations.

Social Impact

born to an absent father and a multiracial mother she was led into an ambiguous view of race (in herself and others) and also considered it irrelevant.In the midst of segregation and violence, Kidd’s childhood was presented as wonderful and peaceful (recounts going to hat and dress stores and being allowed to shop there even though her mother was black).

her father not being there created her independence from men which translated to her attitude in her two marriages: “I loved my husbands but I didn’t really need them.” This was obviously unique for the time.

appearance was very important; she was always considered very good-looking and made sure she looked put together at all times. Weird how appearance was so important yet she cared very little about race….She also believed that everyone should be treated the same regardless of gender or race. She was very proud (page 51).

She expected the best work from everyone around her just as she gave her best in everything she did.

Finally, although she respected others, she never let anyone around her allow her to feel inferior. Ex: when she told her brother’s superior officer to relocate him closer to her. or when she decided she wasn’t going to go somewhere hot for her overseas service. Or when she came back to her job at Mammoth and was replaced and she gave her boss a piece of her mind. Never was she intimidated by authority figures, white or otherwise.

“We’re gonna solve today’s problems by strengthening the family first.” page 148 Her interactions with her step-sister shows her encouraging words on acting like a lady.

Political Career

“Lady of the House” from 1968-1975. Served in Kentucky General Assembly in Frankfort as a representative from Louisville’s 41st district.

Reluctantly Joined the world of politics. First black woman in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Open Housing Bill: introduced in senate by Georgia Powers, prohibits discrimination by reason of race, color, religion or national origin in sale or rental of housing, gave Kentucky Human Rights commission power to enforce the law.

1970, bill passed to provide mortgage loans for low income people.

Ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, along with Georgia Powers in 1976. Most proud of this accomplishment. Same year as the Bicentennial- it was important to her that she was American above all else, regardless of race or gender.

Considers her political activities the capstone of her career.

“People are People”: How Political and Social Change Worked Together to Create a Naive Child of the 90’s

May 2, 2011 in 1960s-1970s, Social history

Delores Johnson Brown, along with sixteen others, was one of the first to enter Norview High School in 1959 after the school system had been shut down due to “Massive Resistance”.  It has been said that “[h]er courage…signaled the end of ‘Massive Resistance’ in Virginia and [was] another giant step toward dismantling the separate and unequal educational apartheid that existed in Virginia and throughout the South” (i)  While that is certainly true, perhaps another look, one not centered so heavily on the Civil Rights Movement itself, should be afforded.  (ii)

As a child of the 90’s, I grew up completely naïve to the implications race had once held.  Unfortunately, the elder members of my family were not so lucky.  Hearing their stories sheds light on the “normal” white view of the subject, something long overlooked as a product of political change instead of an important part of how change was accomplished.

In the 1920’s my father’s parents moved to Washington D.C. from rural Kentucky.  My grandfather was, at the time, a racist, but he, as my father is quick to point out, “mellowed out with age” and had “several” African-American friends before he died.  (iii)  Through his family (iv), my grandfather grew to accept members of other races as “friends”, something that, as stubborn as my grandfather was, could not have been accomplished otherwise.

Political change did not greatly affect my mother’s family as it came to racial relations either.  My grandmother was raised “that everyone was the same”, but she knows her “parents were ahead of their time”.  She was fortunate to avoid interaction with the “Massive Resistance” movement since her schools (in Norfolk, VA) were never shut down.  The high school she attended did not integrate until the year after she graduated.  However, her daughter, years later, who lived across the street from her elementary school (also in Norfolk, VA), was bussed to “an all colored school…because the school was not previously mixed like it was supposed to be”.  Political reform perhaps, but without having been “raised that everyone was created equal and the only thing different was the color of our skin” my mother would not have done so well in an all colored school or have been able to make friends there.

The picture, though different, was very-much the same for my stepmother in southern Maryland.  Her experience is similar to that of others, but is still worth noting.  She started school in the early 60’s, a school that was all white until her third-grade year.  Even then, the school only had “one lonely little girl” named Darnella who my stepmother was “fascinated by”.  Despite her parents being on the fence about segregation, she “would always try to share something with [Darnella]” to make the girl everyone teased because she wasn’t “a vanilla” feel better.  By the time she was in high school, “mixed groups, couples and friends” were becoming more acceptable and even expected—a social change mixed with the ever-noted political change.

The political change no doubt worked hand-in-hand with the social change.  Without one the other cannot exist, but without both it would be impossible for me, as a little girl in the 90’s, to have been as oblivious to how much race had meant before.

***** Notes *****

(i)  Winston, Bonnie V. “Massive Resistance.” Crisis 116.3 (2009): 28-34. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 April 2011.

(ii) This is not to say that the Civil Rights Movement was not critical to the improvement of conditions for African Americans.

(iii)  My grandmother, on the other hand, also from rural Kentucky, was “never heard [to] say anything against blacks”.  In fact, despite being a child of the segregated south, she still gets upset when anyone tries to say anything negative based upon race.

(iv)  Both his wife and his children.  My father (and I’m sure my grandfather’s other six children) had African American friends.  He even had someone he considered a good friend who dated “a black girl”, someone he “got along with” and would also consider a friend.  My father also cites that though there were “racial conflicts” there was “nothing bad…and if another school came to start trouble the white and black would stand together to stop any thing”.  Yet another product of social change.

(v)  Other than that which was cited from “Massive Resistance”, all information is derived (and some quoted) from personal interviews with my mother, father, stepmother, and both of my grandmothers.

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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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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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Allie Corbin Hixson

December 10, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Political history, Social history

Allie Corbin Hixson was born in 1924 and is the founding chair of the ERA summit.  She earned her PhD at the University of Louisville in English.  Hixson was the first woman to accomplish this, yet she was denied a full time teaching job.  “The dean of the college said he only had full-time salary for men and that she already had a job as a wife and mother”.  I find this absolutely appalling, it’s hard to believe now that this kind of statement would ever be said without a lawsuit coming out of it.  But, before the women’s movement these kind of statements were almost seen as normal and followed norms of the society.

Hixson co-organized the Kentucky Pro-ERA alliance which helped Indiana ratify the ERA.  She also traveled around the country to give lectures and help organize other state’s ERA groups.  Hixson led the Kentucky’s delegation to the National Women’s conference in Houston, TX in 1977.  Along with many other accomplishments to advance the rights of women in Kentucky.

I gathered most of my information from the book “Feminists who changed America’.  I find it extremely interesting how many great women have come out of Kentucky to help women throughout our history.  The 1970s is an especially interesting decade because of all the other political activities going on throughout our country.  I think it is quite admirable to see how these women have shaped not only our state but also our country to fight for equality.

http://books.google.com/books?id=kpNarH7t9CkC&pg=PA315&lpg=PA315&dq=1970s+Women’s+movement+lexington+ky&source=bl&ots=WmAvo8NEl8&sig=Xr_gn-CL7vQ7xw69Nv4VJ3_5TfY&hl=en&ei=MYQCTciyDMH6lweP7oG9CQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Kentucky&f=false

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by Mary

Pamela Gunderson Miller

December 10, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Political history, Social history

Pamela Gunderson Miller was born in 1938.  She was originally part of the feminist movement in California but then came to Kentucky to become politically active in the 1970s.  She joined the Kentucky WPC , the ERA alliance, and the pro-choice groups in 1972.  She was an advocate for women’s rights all over the country but focused on Kentucky.

Miller became the first women elected to public office in Lexington, KY in 1973 she served as a member of the city council.  In 1993 she was elected as the first woman mayor in the combined city-county government.  She also was a speaker at the “Take back the Night Rallies” from 1991 to 1998.

The “Take back the Night Rallies” are still present today in Lexington, they are rallies where individuals speak out against sexual violence against women.  These have been present for 33 years now and have been a great way to get the message across to the city about sexual violence and the effects it has not only on the victim but also on the community as whole.  The marches this last year had different sites which included the Patterson Office Tower plaza at the University of Kentucky, the parking lot of 3rd Street Stuff on Limestone, and Triangle Park.

I believe that Miller had a very positive effect on the Lexington community and should be recognized for her support against women’s violence and the women’s movement in the 1970s.

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