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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.



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.



Segregation in Kentucky

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

Researchers are given an ever evolving view of segregation in Kentucky, and the rest of the United States, as more and more information comes to light. Recently, I have read two books highlighting women during the civil rights era, some of which are in Kentucky.  Freedom on the Border and The Maid Narratives both give insight to the life black women coming out of slavery faced.  Also included in these books are narratives from whites that lived at the time.

I am most fascinated with the role of African American women during the 1920’s at this point in my research.  My interest began when watching the movie The Help and further research continues to intrigue me.  Black maids were responsible for much more than just caring for the white home.  They were role models and status symbols.  (You can read more about post civil war black women and their contributions to white society in one of my past blogposts.)  Although black maids were imperative to white women, they were not always treated as well as maids today are.  Even after the civil war and the freeing of slaves, having a colored person working for you was a status symbol, particularly when that person was for help around the household.  Relationships between whites and blacks did not change until much later and after a lot of hard work.  Whites were highly attached to having a black maid but did not treat their maids like they were important to them or their children.

Being able to read stories from my hometown in Freedom on the Border rekindled my interest for the topic as a whole.  History becomes much more intriguing when it can be placed somewhere that is personal.  I had heard stories about some of the things that happened in my hometown, but seeing it written in a book and told by a notable person from my town helped to solidify details and an understanding of why the event was such a big deal back then and still is today.  Also, I came across a name that was very familiar to me while reading Freedom on the Border.  The father of one of my previous employers wrote one of the narratives.  The man died before I knew him, but knowing his family extensively and being able to picture the land that the atrocities was happening on makes me proud to know that so many people were standing up for what is right.

“Hope is a dream as the soul awakes.”  This quote from The Maid Narratives describes the time so well to me.  All of the stories told in these books are of men and women facing oppression or seeing oppression happening.  Their hope that the world will change is what keeps them fighting for equality.  The stories they tell display their passion and dedication to the cause.


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