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KY Governors for Desegregation

April 19, 2011 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Research methods, Uncategorized

Until I started researching on the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and KET websites, I never knew that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson (of the Brooklyn Dodgers)stood on the steps of Kentucky’s State Capital building during the Civil Rights Era.  Civil Rights in Kentucky isn’t taught in many schools like the National Civil Rights movements of the 1950‘s and 60’s. Therefore, I found it interesting to know that people like Happy Chandler and Bert T. Combs made substantial contributions to the Civil Rights movements in Kentucky.

Happy Chandler served as Governor of Kentucky for two separate terms along with serving as a U.S. Senator and as the commissioner for the MLB, where he allowed the integration of blacks such as Jackie Robinson to play professional baseball.  Chandler, as governor faced some disgruntlement with Kentuckians when desegregation came into the Bluegrass; however he stated that “when the Governor takes office, he puts one hand on the Bible and takes an oath before God to protect the humblest citizen.  What we did today is in keeping with the oath I took.” This was after some trouble in two western Kentucky counties where he sent Kentucky State Guards to protect the African American students from the harm of white farmers.  Though Chandler was unsuccessful at keeping these two schools desegregated because they did not have an “orderly process” of desegregation, the children had to wait till the following year when the courts forced the school engage in desegregation.

Bert T. Combs, who succeeded Happy Chandler, also favored desegregation.  Combs appointed Galen Martin as the first Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.  The CHR was designed to supervise the legal rights of minority groups in Kentucky, looking for civil solutions for racial problem across the state.  Combs also emitted two executive orders that reviewed the states procedures and contracts to eliminate discrimination and also to discourage discrimination in public places including restaurants, hotels, and etc.  The bill did not pass the committee though thousands of people rallied in favor of this bill in Frankfort including Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson; however, after the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Rights Act of 1964 the bill was reinstated into the committee and passed.

I find it amazing how like Bert T. Combs and Happy Chandler have influenced this great state into what it has become.  Kentucky’s desegregation might have not been as harsh as those seen in Alabama or Mississippi, but all-in-all it makes me proud to live  in a state where people like this try to make a difference for the better good.  From my family that grew up in Versailles I have heard many good things about Happy Chandler, but I never heard about his time as the commissioner for MLB.  It makes me wonder that if he wasn’t the commissioner, how long it would’ve taken for the MLB to allow African Americans to play, and if Jackie would’ve still been on the steps of the Capital rallying for the desegregation in Kentucky.

 

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by kcjohn2

“Lukey” Ward

December 10, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Political history, Social history

Lucretia “Lukey” Ward was different from most affluent, white women in Louisville, KY. Ms. Ward took a stand against the inequalities in Louisville, KY and all over the South. Like her friend, Senator Georgia Davis Powers, Ward believed in the equality for all; African Americans, women, children, and the poor. She became active in politics, vying for the candidates who believed in the same equalities as she did and also in many activist groups. Together, Ward and Senator Powers founded the Allied Organization for Civil Rights, along side Alfred Daniel (A.D.) Williams King, the brother of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Throughout her career as an activist, she participated in countless marches, which were fundamental to bringing change to Kentucky and the United States. The two most mentioned marches she was a part of were the march on Frankfort taking place March 4, 1964 in which Martin Luther King Jr. and J. Robinson were in attendance of, as well as the March in Selma, AL in March of 1965. Ward continually devoted her time to local marches in Louisville, in which their main goal was to grant open housing for all. Along with co-founding the Allied Organization for Civil Rights, she also co-founded the Louisville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Nationally, the organizations first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, who she had knew personally in the last several years of his life. Lukey Ward continued her activism for equal rights all throughout her life. Her son, Mike Ward, became a U.S. Congressman.

She Shared A lot More Than The Dream

December 6, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

Georgia Davis Powers is and forever will be one of the most remarkable persons to have held a seat in the Kentucky Senate. She was honored for her contribution to the State by having a part of I-264 named after her earlier this year. Her push for equality in the state of Kentucky and by extension, the country is legendary but her connection to the noted civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King jr is what many would remember. Her book “I Shared The Dream” was written to clear up some misconceptions and misinformation about her relationship with Dr. King among other things.

In the book Senator Davis Powers is quite candid on a number of issues, the least of which are her past infidelities. Not many autobiographies are written with such candor. She warded off advances that she deemed inappropriate and succumbed to others that she knew was not the best thing to do. What some believe is still a question in many hearts and minds are how close her relationship with Dr. King was.

The book leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe there is more to come in the future because having heard from and spoken to this 87 year old firebrand, there has to be more in store for the eagerly awaiting public.

Senator Georgia Davis Powers has been honored with at least two honorary degrees from universities in Kentucky and there are more honors on the way.

To get a glimpse of her life, listen to her story on KET’s website and read her book.

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by Mary

The Common Goal of Civil Rights

December 1, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Political history

Front cover of "I Shared the Dream"I think that when looking at civil rights activists and important women and men in history, sometimes their personal life gets in the way of what they were/are fighting for.  Senator Powers is a very influential woman for many reasons, other than just her affair with King, that led to the publishing of I Shared the Dream.  Yet, we seem to focus in on the fact that she was in the midst of an extramarital affair.  The fact that they were working towards a common goal of civil rights and equality should be the focus of their affair.  The fact that they decided to further that relationship should be their own business and not overshadow the accomplishments that either of them achieved.

Senator Powers served 21 years in the Senate and was the first African American woman to achieve this.  She also continuously fought to pass legislation for equal rights.  Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Powers were allies working for the same cause to better our nation.  I think as a nation sometimes the work that individuals do for the good of the people is not as interesting to some as a sex scandal.  This isn’t the nation’s fault, it’s just how our media and society portray events and tell us what should be significant in our culture.  I would like to think that most individuals see how truly influential these two people are to our society and overlook other factors that have a small significance when looking at achievements.

~~~

See also

“Georgia Davis Powers,” Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, Kentucky Educational Television <http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_powers.htm>.

“Georgia Davis Powers,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, University of Kentucky Libraries <http://www.uky.edu/Libraries/NKAA/record.php?note_id=1148>.

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by Syle

A Successful Activist: Ella Baker

October 14, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Ella Baker was a very prominent and successful leader. She was part of many important groups and worked along side many of the biggest names during the civil rights era. Her grandmother was a slave, and growing up she would listen to stories of slave revolts. She graduated college from Shaw University, as the valedictorian of her class. Afterwards she went on to do great things as an activist and became a great leader.

Ella Baker was part of many well known groups that were essential to the Civil Rights movement. She did much of her work behind the scenes and was even responsible for some of these groups starting in the first place. She started her work with teh NAACP and spent much of her life working with them. Much more noteworthy however, she was part of the reason the Southern Christian Leadership Conference even began. She became the first staffmember for the SCLC and was so for long time. While working with the SCLC she worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King who was the first president of the organization. During her career she also helped jumpstart the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and began working with them for many years.

Ella Baker was a very important woman for the Civil Rights Movement, even though she did much of her work behind the scenes. Starting these organizations shows the kind of leader she was and her desire to make things equal. She worked with many people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, W.E.B. Dubois, and Anne Braden. But has also been noted as being a mentor for other people such as Rosa Parks. Ella Baker was an amazing woman with a lot of drive and was a very key part of the Civil Rights Movement.

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by dawn

A Lady with Gumption

October 8, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Political history, Social history

Georgia Davis Powers was born in a two room wooden shack to Ben and Frances Montgomery. She was born in Springfield, Kentucky. Georgia’s parents did not have a high school education her parents expected her to get married and start a family and that is it.

She was once told by one of her mother’s friends that she was going to grow up and be just like her mother and have a house full of kids. Georgia was furious knowing that was not what she wanted and thought to herself “ How do you know what I’m going to do when I don’t even know yet myself? I do know I’m not gonna be just a house wife with a house full of kids, though!” (I Shared the Dream, 46)

Senator Georgia Davis Powers, 1968

Senator Georgia Davis Powers, 1968, from KET "Living the Story" Picture Gallery

She first got involved with politics when she was hired to help with Wilson Wyatt’s campaign.  Next she became a leader within the Allied Organization for Civil Rights (AOCR), whose purpose was to lobby for a law against discrimination in places of public accommodation. With AOCR she helped organize a march on Frankfort which was attended by both Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964 to support the passing of this law.

Powers became further involved with politics when she was elected in to the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee. She was then appointed chairman of the Women’s Committee.

In 1966 she decided to campaign to become a Kentucky senator. She was able to get full endorsement from the previous senator Norbert Blume. She ran for Louisville District thirty three that was 65% white. Powers won the primary and then the Senate seat.  Powers was the first African-American (man or woman) elected to the Kentucky Senate. Powers stated before she became a senator that she would like to show that she could do what was good for all people.(I Shared the Dream, 132)

The woman had gumption and nerve not backing down on what she believed in. She was able to pass an open house bill. She proposed and amendment to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination in the work force based on age or sex.

Georgia Davis Powers is a wonderful woman. She is humorous and does not let anyone keep her down. She fought for what she believed in. Powers was a real person who has faults but was strong. She started off small as a community leader working for campaigns getting to know the people in her community and the leaders. Powers then saw that she could make a difference and she set out to do it even though it seemed such a daunting challenge. She had gumption and did what she thought was right regardless of what people thought.

~~~~

Powers, Georgia Davis. I Shared The Dream. New Jersey: New Horizon Press, 1995.

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