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by mookygc

Trip to Frankfort, Kentucky

April 23, 2013 in 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Social history

A couple of weeks ago, April was declared “Fair Housing Month” by the governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, in honor of the Fair Housing Proclamation’s 45th anniversary. Luckily, my honors professor decided that it would be beneficial for our class to attend the remembrance ceremony.

On our trip to the capital, we got the privilege of meeting Eleanor Jordan, the director of the Kentucky Commision on Kentucky Women. Jordan walked us through the “Kentucky Women Remembered” exhibit, a series of portraits that honors the many varied accomplishments of strong Kentucky Women, that hangs on the capital’s walls. It was inspiring to hear her talk about all the future plans she has for the exhibit, and the long and strenuous process for selecting each year’s nominees. It was wonderful to hear that they have a very difficult time choosing which portraits to commision, because they have such a wide range of women to choose from.

At the Proclamation rememberance, it was very powerful to hear John Johnson, the Director of the Kentucky Commision on Human Rights speak about discrimination and equality and fairness. I believe we were all very moved by what he had to say. Most interesting were the comments shared by Mr. Colmon Elridge, the executive assistant to Gov. Beshear. It was amazing to heaar him talk about how much the Fair Housing Proclamation meant to him, as he is a young African-American man, and his wife is caucasian with a disability, yet they were faced with no difficulties when purchasing a house, which meant quite a lot to him.

Overall it was a wonderful day speaking with wonderful people about the amazing things happening in Kentucky, and I am grateful we were able to attend.

Trip to Frankfort

April 15, 2013 in Primary source, Social history

picture of Frankfort Capital Building

Capitol Building

This past week, our class had the opportunity to take a trip to our state’s Capitol in Frankfort. This trip was a great experience, and we were able to see a lot of things that related to our course’s curriculum. We spoke with Eleanor Jordan, who took us on a tour of the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit. It was very wonderful to see the women we’ve been studying immortalized on the walls of our Capitol.

It was enlightening to speak with Eleanor about her dreams for including Women in Kentucky history. The passion and fire we witnessed in these women, along with that of the attendees of the Proclamation signing, was inspiring to witness. It truly brought to light the fact that our work for this course matters. People dedicate their lives to this cause, and to us, these project may seem like just another thing on our to-do list, there are people who truly care about these women and their lives. It was humbling to witness, and it has provided me with a new-found dedication and the final push necessary to end our semester strong.

The Proclamation signing was also fascinating. Men and women who have dedicated their lives to obtaining rights for people of all colors, all genders, and all walks of life spoke to us about their passions and dreams for the Commonwealth. These wonderful people simply overflow with passion, and it was inspiring to be able to spend time with them. I am so pleased that our class had this opportunity, and I hope that our work continues to thrive and develop as the end of the semester quickly approaches.

 

References:

“Frankfort”, magazineUSA.com (3 July 2007) http://www.magazineusa.com/images_st2/ky/ky_frankfort_capitol.jpg

 

The Women Behind the Movement

March 4, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, Economic history, Social history

Most people recognize the civil rights movements as the 1960’s, a time characterized by Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful movements, Malcom X, sit ins, protests, and many more actions like these. However, the civil rights activists of the 1940s and the 1950s are the people who paved the way for such great and momentous actions that occurred later in the movement. While the 1940s and 1950s played a great role in the civil rights movements there was a lot more behind the scenes and smaller actions compared to the big mass movements that were organized later. These actions were largely made possible through the efforts of many women of the time. Many petitions and advancements for African Americans were directed by and gained respect for women across the state of Kentucky.

Many women organized the efforts that were made to gain equality during this time period. Petitions were huge during this

Picture of Anne Braden

Anne Braden

time period and women played a great role in making sure that people signed them and that they were presentable to the government. Anne Braden is an excellent example of a woman who organized one such petition. Braden and several other people worked towards getting a law passed that made hospitals accept everyone who was brought to their doors. However, this couldn’t happen unless Braden was able to show the benefit of this law and how many people supported this new law being put into action. So she organized a petition and went house to house and business to business getting people to see what injustice was happening and sign the petition to stop it. This is just one example of women taking control and moving the fight towards justice one step further.

Another way that women participated in gaining better and equal opportunities was by using their own personal skills and talents and putting the law on their side. They knew that they were great at what they did, deserved the same opportunities that white women received and were determined to work hard enough to get it. Helen Fisher Frye knew this and showed this through the hard work that it took to put on an African American concert at Centre College. Everyone at the school, especially the white male supervisors, doubted that she could get it done and do it in a professional manner. However, despite all of their doubts, she organized the concert, which ended up drawing people from all over the state and even from Cincinnati. The officials of the school were so impressed that they promoted her to being on their concert committee and opened up all concerts to African Americans. Frye showed through her great skill and talent that Blacks deserved the same exact rights that Whites did and gained that for all African Americans in Danville. Another woman that did this was Vallateen Virginia Dudley Abbington. Abbington was an African American teacher in Louisville who was getting 15% less pay than the white teachers in the area. So she took to the court to show and change this injustice. The school board was so shocked that this happened and wanted to change it so badly that they agreed that if Abbington withdrew the lawsuit all African American teachers would receive equal pay. By standing up for her and all other African American’s rights, she gained the equality in pay for teachers in the Louisville area.

All three of these women stood up for what they believe in, in their own ways. They didn’t organize mass movements to get the attention of everyone in the nation or in the state but rather worked on a smaller level to achieve smaller but equally as important milestones in the fight for equality in all areas of society. These movements paved the way for the bigger movements that were to come. Thanks to these women and many others like them the 1940s and the 1950s were first steps in making our society one that was fair and safe for everyone to live in.

***************************************************

“Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.” Notable Kentucky African Americans –. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

“Anne Braden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

“Civil Rights Movement.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Mar. 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.

Cognitive Dissonance in the Jim Crow South

February 25, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Primary source, Social history

 

The Maid Narratives is a fascinating book that details the lives of servants and other domestic workers under the precedent of the Jim Crow laws in the South. The section of the book that focuses on the white folks’ narratives of the same time and in general the same experiences from a different vantage point, was very difficult for the authors to obtain. The reason for this lies in the difficult emotions that surround this hot topic.

A poem written by Elise Talmage, found on pages 254-255 of The Maid Narratives demonstrates well the sentiments and difficult memories that come with the knowledge that one (or in some cases, one’s parents) contributed to such oppression as occurred in the Jim Crow south. The poem begins:

 Were our sins so scarlet?

 Were our virtues so few?

We remember, we remember

Yellow heads on warm black arms

“Doe doe lil baby

Doe doe lil baby”

Rocking and rocking to soothe little hurts

But did you hurt too and did we know it?

This poem encapsulates the confusion and guilt that accompanies the fond memories of nannies and maids that white folk had as children. As adults, looking back, they can begin to understand that the people they remember fondly as someone who took care of them as they grew up were actually people being underpaid, mistreated, and generally oppressed. There is a cognitive dissonance between the fond memories they hold of their past and the truth that they now know as adults.

Cognitive dissonance is a term that refers to the difference between two ideas that a person holds. For example, frequently, it is difficult for people who were children in the Jim Crow era to comprehend that their parents, especially those whom they viewed as kind hearted Christians, took part in such a systematic oppression of Blacks. There are such stark differences between the ideas of segregation and Christianity, that many are unable to understand how someone could support both. Many whites in the Jim Crow South who supported the Civil Rights Movement did so because of the cognitive dissonance between their religion and segregation.

“The mother who taught me what I know of tenderness and love and compassion taught me also the bleak rituals of keeping Negros in their place.”

– Lillian Smith

Even for those who were not children in the South during this period, there is still a level of cognitive dissonance that occurs. Actions that people viewed as the status quo of the time period can now be viewed as criminal oppression of a race. The guilt associated with this realization is too much for some to handle, and many refuse to speak on the subject. For this reason, the interviews with white families for The Maid Narratives were difficult to obtain.

Anne Braden

Anne Braden came to the realization that segregation was not acceptable quicker than most of her white counterparts, but even she did not challenge the system that bothered her so until she arrived at college at Randolph-Macon Women’s college in Virginia. Her cognitive dissonance was found in the difference between the way she had been raised, in a strictly segregated community, and the teachings of her religion. Anne, a devout episcopalian, eventually realized she could not ignore the differences between what she knew was right and how the world she lived in, the Jim Crow south, functioned. This realization led her to become an activist and supporter of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the rest of her life.

Resources:

Wormer, K. S., & Jackson, D. W. (2012).The maid narratives: black domestic and white families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Braden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

http://news.iowapublicradio.org/post/maid-narratives

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

(2)  http://louisville.edu/uofltoday/campus-news/kentucky-commission-on-women-honors-former-faculty-member

(3)  http://women.ky.gov/about/kwr.htm

(4)  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_165.html

Josephine Henry; dedicated activist

December 9, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

From her earliest days Josephine Henry worked for human rights, especially for women. One of her goals was to get the state of Kentucky to recognize women as their own person once they were married. In 1890 Kentucky was the only state left in the United States where a married women had no right to own any property. This includes clothes, land property, and even wages that a married woman made. Unfortunately this was actually still a law in Kentucky so she worked hard to change that.

In 1894 she succeeded in her many years of lobbying when the Kentucky legislature passed the Married Woman’s Property Act. This act gave women in Kentucky who were married the right to purchase property, keep their own wages and to be able to write a will of their own. Josephine Henry was able to accomplish this task by attending and speaking in front of the General Assembly and even the members of the 1890 Constitutional Convention. After getting attention spread throughout the state, the act was able to be formed and passed into law for the state of Kentucky. This is so important because of the new laws that allowed women more rights and control of their own lives and continued the larger national efforts for woman’s suffrage.


For more information, see the University of Kentucky Libraries, Special Collections and Archives
Laura Clay papers accession #46M4
Madeline McDowell Breckinridge papers accessing #52M3 and #60M49

See also:
– Close, Harriet M. (23 February 1908). “Mrs. Josephine K. Henry”. Blue Grass Blade (Lexington, Kentucky): pp. 2. Retrieved 16 March 2010. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069867/1908-02-23/ed-1/seq-2
– Dew, Aloma. “Josephine Kirby Williamson Henry,” pages 80-81 in Kentucky Women: Two Centuries of Indomitable Spirit and Vision. Eugenia K. Potter, ed. Louisville: Big Tree Press, 1997.
Marylynn Salmon, Women and the Law of Property in Early America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

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by becca

55th Anniversary of Rosa Parks brave choice

December 1, 2010 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move seats in order to accompany a white passenger and to move to the back of an Alabama bus, as the law stated she must since she was African-American. She was promptly arrested for this action, a small price to pay for the change she brought on.

After that night, there was a 381 day protest of the Montgomery bus system in support of Rosa’s brave decision to stand up for her rights. This boycott almost led to the demise of the buses in Montgomery due to the mass amounts of people refusing to ride. Churches and homes in the black community were often attacked during this time when people felt they weren’t cooperating. Finally, in 1956, the Supreme Court banned segregation on public transportation.

Rosa Parks, along with her husband Raymond, were active in the Montgomery branch of the NAACP and she was appointed secretary in 1943. She later served as the advisor for the NAACP Youth Council. She was also hired as a staff assistant to House of Representatives member John Conyers, Jr.

55 years later, it is incredibly important to remember the actions Rosa Parks did in order to make a necessary change in our society. Although she passed away in October of 2005, Rosa Parks will forever be remembered and honored for her brave achievements.

This website has a great biography on her life and accomplishments: http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/par0bio-1

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by becca

Lyda “Gertrude” Ramey

October 1, 2010 in 1940s-1950s, Social history

I decided to research women in Kentucky’s history who have made some sort of impact, whether big or small and came across Lyda “Gertrude” Ramey.

When Lyda was a little girl her entire family died of influenza, leaving her alone and having to go from home to home as a foster child. As she got older she spoke out to legislatures about having a place for abandoned children to go other than jail or the poorhouse.

In 1944, Lyda opened the Ramey Home, housing 50 children who were abandoned. Over the years, over 3,000 children have stayed at the home. I found a great website that tells the true stories of some of the children that stayed at the home, so if you want to look at it here’s the link:

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~justiceedwards/

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by rjones

Yuri Kochiyama [Mary Yuriko Nakahara]

September 28, 2010 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Military history, Social history

We too often think of civil rights activists as black or white. There were persons of other races and ethnicities who were very much involved in the civil rights movement, one being Yuri Kochiyama (born Mary Yuriko Nakahara) a Japanese-American. She was born in San Pedro, CA. Her father, an immigrant, was arrested in 1941 by the FBI after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during WWII. Kochiyama’s family was sent to an internment camp in Arkansas. The prejudice Kochiyama witnessed against Japanese Americans, led to her becoming a civil rights activist. She was present when Malcolm X was killed; she held his head as he was dying. Kochiyama was not new to the civil rights movement when Malcolm X died in 1965.

She is the author of ”Passing it On”.

To read more about Yuri Kochiyama, visit the following links:

Civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama

Her devotion

Yuri Kochiyama

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