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

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

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

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

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

Diddle Arena, WKU

E.A.Diddle Arena, Western Ky. University

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

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

Poster regarding Jonesville replaced by WKU's Diddle Arena

Click on poster to see larger image.

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

Visit to the Capitol

April 15, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

picture of Eleanor Jordan

Eleanor Jordan

This week I visited Kentucky’s state capitol, Frankfort.  The reason for this trip was to attend the Fair Housing Proclamation which commemorated the signing of the Fair Housing Act forty five years ago.  Prior to the proclamation, my class and I met with Eleanor Jordan, Kentucky’s Commissioner on Women.

Our meeting with Eleanor Jordan was quite insightful.  Speaking with her made me realize that although women are considered entirely equal legally and most of us do not think about gender discrimination being prominent in the workplace and other circumstances we encounter daily.  Jordan told us about her office’s attempts to get two statues of women in the capitol building and the troubles they were facing.  She also brought up a very important point.  When touring the capitol there are not statues or busts of women, nor were there any exhibits in entire building highlighting the accomplishments of the state’s women prior to the exhibit begun by past women holding her current office.  Prior to having the Kentucky Women Remembered Exhibit, the only time women were highlighted in the capitol was in the cases displaying the first ladies’ dresses.  Their contributions to the state were not mentioned.  After our discussion, Jordan led us through the exhibit and highlighted her favorite portraits.

We then moved to the rotunda of the capitol building where we heard several people speak on the importance of the Fair Housing Act.  Again, I learned how important that act was, not only when it originally came out, but now as well.  I have learned about the bombing of the Wade house and the discrimination they faced, but failed to realize acts of discrimination still occur.  Some of the speakers had actually encountered acts of discrimination in the past which made the presentation really come to life.

Overall, my trip to the capitol was very educational and insightful.  I appreciate being given the opportunity to visit the capitol and all of the people I was able to meet.

Celebrating the Fair Housing Law 1968 in Frankfort today

April 9, 2013 in Political history

232 222 223 224 225 227Remembering today the bravery of all the Kentuckians who protested and put their own lives (and the lives of their families) on the line for the freedom to choose where they wanted to live.

We traveled to Frankfort today to help celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Law of Kentucky (the first of its kind in the South).

Commissioner Eleanor Jordan treated us to a tour of the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit and talked with us about her work to keep women’s history alive and to celebrate those unsung heroines on whose accomplishments we depend everyday. She also talked about her personal interactions with Mae Street Kidd who mentored her in her first run for political office out of Louisville.

During the proclamation ceremony, Commissioner John Johnson acknowledged the work we’re doing in partnership with the KY Commission on Human Rights.  It was a great adventure, and I was proud of my students and the very positive impression they made on everyone there!

by Syle

House Bill 27 – The Mae Street Kidd Act – Fair Housing

December 12, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Political history, Social history

Mae Street Kidd in the Kentucky General AssemblyMae Street Kidd was a major activist in Kentucky for a long time, and was a major political voice as well. One of most important bills that she was involved in during his political career however, was originally known as House Bill 27. This bill was what she has said was one of the most important bills of her career. In 1972, the Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) was passed. This bill, promoted by Kidd, was to promote and finance low-income housing in Kentucky.

This bill was very important at the time for people who were still not able to afford proper housing. People that were still denied proper jobs because of their skin color or because of their gender were the ones that truly benefited from this bill. People that Mae Street Kidd said that she wanted to be their voice, and give them the rights that they deserve, which is why she got into politics to begin with. In 1974, the bill was officially renamed as “The Mae Street Kidd Act”.

When the bill was passed to create KHC, it was awarded a $150,000 appropriation, and by1973 had its first bond issued for $51.2 million. Also, they had built 623 new housing units for $1.9 million. Since then KHC has grown more and more, and still exists today building housing and helping those that are less fortunate and cannot afford proper housing. “House Bill 27” was a turning point during civil rights, where equal rights were truly starting to be awarded, thanks to people like Mae Street Kidd.


Listen to the oral history interviews by Kenneth Chumbley of the University of Louisville’s Oral History Center in October, November and December 1978 with Mae Street Kidd.

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