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Persistence of Inequalities

January 28, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

As a student, I’ve heard and read many different accounts of the civil rights movement, but listening to an oral history interview seemed more personal and intimate. I could see how emotional Jennie and Alice Wilson became when they told their stories and somehow, the struggles that African-Americans endured during the days of extreme racism and segregation became more of a reality to me. I doubt the effect would be quite the same if I were reading a book or watching a fictional account in a movie.

The fact that these women came from Kentucky also made the interviews more poignant. As an African-American with very protective parents, I was very much shielded from racism and thankfully never had any overt racist encounters growing up, but it is interesting to learn Kentucky’s history of racial relations and see how things have changed since then.

I felt like I could relate the most to Alice because of her personal struggles when she went to high school. She and her small group of friends were the only African-Americans at her school, making it difficult for them not to feel out of place. I didn’t always think about this, but there were moments when I would count the number of African-Americans in my classes. Often times, I would either be the only one or there would be a small handful of us.

Young girl protesting segregation

The 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine, which was the main focus of the civil rights era. Schools and other public places were segregated, allowing overt racist encounters to become a common occurrence. Jim Crow laws also legitimized segregation as a normality in American society. There were separate schools for whites and African-Americans, but by no means were these different groups getting the same education.

My high school wasn’t exactly predominately white, but there was an overwhelming number of African-Americans in the lower Comprehensive classes compared to higher Advanced classes, which I took. Interestingly, the Honors classes—which were one level below Advanced and one level above Comprehensive—were much more diverse, but for some reason, the number of minorities dwindled when it came to Advanced classes. I had a diverse group of friends anyway and no one was racist at my school as far as I could tell, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a way to fix this sort of separation.

I think this stigma further perpetuates the idea that African-Americans are sometimes seen as inferior to other races. This hits home for me because I feel like I am constantly trying to surpass the expectations society has for us. Even though racism is not quite as huge an issue as it used to be, the stereotypes still exist in hidden forms. I can’t help but ask: Is there a way to expose the inequalities that underlie our institutions? And if so, how do we get rid of them?


“KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson.” Living the Story: The Rest of the Story. Web. 28 January 2013.

Patterns of Violence

January 27, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Primary source, Social history

Picture of Jennie Wilson

Jennie Wilson

Listening to Jennie Wilson and her daughter, Alice Wilson, on what they went through while living in Kentucky, a pattern shows up. A pattern of actions that the white population took on the African Americans living there at the time appears. The white Americans had no problem being mean to the black community; anything and everything was okay. Through the stories told by Jennie Wilson and her daughter it is seen that these actions were repetitive and can be seen throughout history and throughout Kentucky.

Jennie tells of the third Monday of every month being a time of fear. On these Mondays, the whites in the community would get drunk and come around to where Jennie, her family, and other black families lived. They would come drunk and with guns prepared to kill those who they especially didn’t like. Shootings and brutal acts against the black community occurred all over Kentucky. In Corbin county whites have a long history of blaming blacks for events that didn’t happen and in Frankfort alone there were 116 accounts of beatings, shootings, hangings, and tarring and feathering.  Just as these occurrences on the third Monday were repetitive, so were the hangings. As Jennie explains in her interview, the hangings were mostly blacks with only one or two white men being hung. Sometimes black men were even taken to the city limits to be hung there instead of at the court house.

Alice explains the history of violence occurring against black students that began to be integrated into white schools. Her and many other students experienced hatred from the white community because of their actions. While Alice encountered name calling on a daily basis and one or two greater disturbances

from the other children going to school, violence across the state, in varying degrees, was constantly occurring. Lloyd Arnold had rocks thrown at him on his way to school and many students who went to college were harassed by dogs and other students, especially those in fraternities.

The violence that occurred to the African Americans in Kentucky can be traced throughout this time period and all of the state. Many people can tell stories of the violence and fear they experienced on behalf of the white community that wanted no part in integration. Jennie and Alice Wilson’s stories and so many more bring to light the pattern of the kind and intensity of the violence that they experienced.


“Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson.” KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.” Notable Kentucky African Americans. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013



Citizenship – Emma Guy Cromwell

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

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

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

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

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

Votes for Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



January 24, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Historical Decades

Citizenship by Emma Guy Cromwell is a pamphlet describing what it means to be a citizen of the United States and an overview of how our government works on local, state, and federal levels.  Cromwell stresses the importance of understanding the system to be better involved in the system.  The pamphlet is a guide to being a responsible citizen.


Cromwell strongly believes in the responsibility of voting.  She even writes

“Every citizen should study the ethics of his government, think for himself, and form his own opinion.

A person with no public opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic.”

Women have earned the right to vote and if they don’t utilize their right there is no point in having it.  As a responsible citizen, everyone should vote to express their opinion so the political leaders that are chosen represent the entire population.


Cromwell’s primary audience are new voters and since the 19th amendment was newly ratified, women were her main targets.  Cromwell believed that women should be rational when making political and public decisions, but should also consider their past experiences in the home.  Cromwell writes that

“…the chief end of all good government is to improve and protect the home, the church, and the community…”

With that idea, women would be perfect voters because they have the greatest experience in the home.  Approximately 27 million women were eligible to vote so the vote of women should greatly propel the nation.


Cromwell stresses that the United States Constitution is the supreme law.  On several occurrences she explains that the federal laws are above state laws.  Many states tried to keep women and African Americans from voting and this pamphlet taught new voters that the do in fact have the right to vote, regardless of what their state says.


The pamphlet has a four part call to action.  This call to action is directed primarily at women but includes all voters.  The first part is that everyone with the right to vote should.  Second, citizens should help manage public affairs and if they are elected, they should be ready to hold that office.  Her third point is that citizens should understand public questions so they can vote intelligently and criticize justly.  Finally, all citizens should pay their taxes.


Emma Guy Cromwell’s pamphlet was important at the time of publication to guide the new voters and citizens of the United States.  The information found in the pamphlet is still pertinent.  Some of the information is dated, however, chapters that give overviews of the government systems, particularly federal government, is still useful and many current citizens could learn a great deal about our system of government.


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

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

Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

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

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

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

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

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


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

History, League of Women Voters of Kentucky

Women’s Leadership, WEDO


Dr. Grace Marilynn James: Serving the Underserved

April 20, 2011 in 1950s-1960s, Social history

Just this year, on March 16, Dr. Grace Marilynn James was inducted into the Kentucky Women Remembered Exhibit in Frankfort, an honor given to outstanding women in Kentucky history by the Kentucky Commission on Women.  While relatively unknown to many, Dr. James was an important figure in the struggle against both racial and economic injustice.

Grace James was born in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1923. She was a very educated woman, beginning her post-secondary education at West Virginia State College.  After completing her post-graduate work there and at the University of Chicago, she entered Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated with an M.D. in 1950.  Upon earning her M.D., James moved to New York City and completed an internship and pediatric residency at Harlem Hospital; while there, she also became a clinical fellow at both Babies’ Hospital and the Vanderbilt Clinic.  James further expanded her formal training by studying child psychiatry at Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens Village and by becoming a fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University’s Jacobi Hospital, where she practiced caring for children with disabilities.(1)

In a fellowship application addressed to the National Urban League, James explained that she had wanted to go to medical school because she had an “interest in human suffering,” that of African Americans in particular.  She further noted that she had been inspired by a visit to Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx to help “the ones who needed to be taught, educated and given a chance to learn sound principles of health.”(2)

James moved to Louisville in 1953, where she began teaching at the University of Louisville in a non-paying, part-time post; she was the first African American woman on the faculty at Louisville’s School of Medicine, and she continued teaching at the university for twenty-five years.(2)  When James moved to Louisville, the city hospitals were segregated by law.  Although James became the first African American woman to be granted membership in the Jefferson County Medical Society, she still had to defend her status to the medical community.(3)  Not only did she face discrimination from white practitioners because she was black, she was criticized by both white and black men for being a woman in this field and for choosing to serve the poorest clients.  James realized that there were many people other doctors were hesitant to serve because they were too poor to afford services.  James also saw that many doctors would not serve single mothers and their children.

Soon after moving to Louisville, James opened a private pediatrics practice and a walk-in clinic that would serve the impoverished residents of Louisville’s West End neighborhoods.(4)  She accepted all patients that came through her clinic, regardless of whether they could pay.  James became an advocate for both preventative care and universal health care, and spoke about the growing infant mortality rate among black babies and about the medically underserved black community.  At her own expense, James kept items such as diapers, blankets, clothes, and books on hand for the poor mothers that needed them, all at her own expense.(3)

Dr. James’ career was long and distinguished.  She headed the Council on Urban Education and established the West Louisville Health Education Program.  She founded the Teen Awareness Project, its purpose to reduce the teenage birth rate among blacks.  James also became president of the Louisville chapter for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.(1)  Eventually, she became affiliated with eight Louisville-area hospitals and became the first African American woman on the staff of Louisville Children’s Hospital.(4)



(1)  Kleber, John.  The Encyclopedia of Louisville.  (Lexington:  University Press of Kentucky, 2001).  Pp. 430-431




James Meredith and The Battle of Ole’ Miss

April 20, 2011 in 1960s-1970s, Social history

On September 30th, 1962, 127 U.S. Marshals stood guard in front of the central administrative building on the campus of the University of Mississippi.  Armed with hand guns and tear gas grenade launchers they looked across the campus greens to a growing crowd of threatening, aggravated and hostile students. Alongside the students stood members of the Mississippi Highway patrol with order of their own that contradicted that of the increasingly overwhelmed Marshals. What was the reason for these battle lines being drawn? September 30th was the registration day for a man named James Meredith, the first black student to attend Mississippi University and a major step toward the end of segregation.

That day will be forever remembered in the timeline of segregation history not only for the fact that James Meredith did in fact register but also the battle that ensued due to it. In an act of defiance against federal law, Ross Barrett the governor of Mississippi at the time had ordered his patrolmen to stop the registration of Meredith. The U.S. Marshalls had received their orders from President John F. Kennedy who had also given them the order not to fire their lethal weapons. The mod steadily intensified until around 7p.m. the tension broke a full on riot transpired. From bricks to birdshot the U.S. Marshalls were pummeled and by the end of the night 79 were seriously injured. It took the implementation of the teargas which the Marshals had to wait for permission to use as bricks smashed into their helmets and the arrival of reinforcements in the form of the newly federalized Mississippi National Guard before the rioters and students could be restrained. The Marshals had succeeded in integrating the University of Mississippi.

From the severity of the battle over James Meredith two U.S. Marshals were commissioned to escort Meredith everywhere he went, making sure that no harm came to him while attending the university. That night would be one of the most brutal nights of resistance towards integration and there are many significant points in the story. The most important being James Meredith himself with the perseverance to continue his fight for higher education, even against a force that nearly overwhelmed federal troops. The second is that of the U.S. Marshals who, had if not stayed true to their orders to not use deadly force, even when they were being fired upon themselves, could have been part of a truly devastating and bloody battle.

The story of James Meredith and the U.S. Marshals that defended him, along with the testimonies of Robert F. Kennedy and many other that were involved can be found in the U.S. Marshals history archive. It is a wonderful source for understanding the battle of “Ole Miss” and the surrounding factors.






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 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.


by Mary

Women and Politics (Kentucky)

November 17, 2010 in Political history, Social history

Can you see much diversity in this picture of the House of Representatives?

The United States as a whole ranks 84th in the world for gender diversity in the government.  Kentucky does not refute these statistics, because it is diversity challenged just as the nation is.  The argument that women are not in politics because they just do not run for offices, is a lame excuse, it goes beyond just not running in elections.  It starts out that we live in a white male patriarchy society, when women run for offices it is seen as unusual and does not go along with the norms.  They are also subject to scrutinity because shouldn’t they be taking care of families and be at home while the men do all the work?  This is a traditional way of thinking that is still present in much of the United States, especially in the southern states.  If we look at the history of women in politics it is not a very long list of names compared to that of men because women did not gain the right to vote until much later and the traditional roles in our society did not back up women running for offices.

In Kentucky’s House of Representatives currently serving there 13 females and only six black members (not females).  There are no black females serving.  “Of the top 7 leaders in the state of Kentucky, all are white and only one is a woman.”  In comparison to other states, Kentucky only accounts for .01% of African Americans elected officials throughout the country.  The only states that have less African American elected officials are North and South Dakota and Montana.  Also, Kentucky is actually ranked as one of the lowest in the country for female elected officials, right along with Albama and Louisiana. (See the “Political Participation” research report on the Kentucky Commission on Women website,

The recent statistics that show barely any diversity throughout the state of Kentucky, shows that there has truly been little change when it comes to equalization of politics, gender and race.  I think it is sad that so many individuals during the civil rights movement fought hard for equal rights and representation, yet this state has done little to implement these changes.

I got most of my statistics from this handout by by Emily McKenzie, Christopher Perkins, and Anda Weaver (Berea College students in “PSC/WST/AFR 202, “Women and African Americans in Politics”) for a workshop on November 22, 2008 for the League of Women Voters of Berea and Madison County, “Gender and Racial Diversity in Kentucky’s Public Offices? Running for Office: How About You?” Accessed November 17, 2010.

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