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Alice Dunnigan on Elizabeth R. Fouse

September 22, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, Political history

Dunnigan, 1982

Alice A. Dunnigan’s portrait in The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians (1982)

One of the most useful books to have on your bookshelf is The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Traditions, by Alice Allison Dunnigan (The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, 1982).

Fouse, 1931

Lizzie Fouse, 1931

Here is her short biography of Kentucky activist Elizabeth R. Fouse (p. 374) under the section “Women in Politics.” We present this subsection in full for your consideration. It is curious to us to think that this greatjournalist – who broke so many barriers in her own profession – would give such an important woman’s biography a mere mention of a political appointment, and leave out so much more political work Fouse had taken on through the years. Is this an oversight on her part? The paucity of this entry is puzzling. What does Dunnigan know that she’s not telling us?

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Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beatrice Cooke Fouse (1875–1952) “Elizabeth R. Fouse, a prominent Lexington educator and club woman moved into the political arena as early as 1944 when she was appointed by Governor Simeon Willis to serve on the Kentucky Commission for the Study of Negro Affairs, a commission which he had recently created for the purpose of study the problems of black people. “This group soon acknowledged that the greatest barrier to the advancement of colored people of Kentucky was segregation. It, therefore, recommended legislation to abolish Jim Crow practices. This included the abolition of segregation in transportation, an amendment to the State Day Law so that black students could attend professional and post graduate schools, and the inclusion of non-discrimination clauses in state contracts and public projects. “Kentucky became the first state in the South to make any such recommendations. “This bi-racial commission was co-chaired by J. Mansir Tydings and William H. Perry. The latter was Secretary of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association (KNEA) at the time. Robert E. Black, former Secretary of the Louisville Urban League was appointed Secretary.”

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Wikipedia logoWhy does Dunnigan choose to add the last three sentences highlighting three men’s names when the topic is women and the focus was to be on Fouse? Dunnigan left out so much of Fouse’s leadership and other political actions, e.g., her work with the NAACP, her leadership in founding a YWCA for black youth in Lexington (named after the poet Phyllis Wheatley) her founding of a segregated branch of Lexington’s WCTU (named after the abolitionist Sojourner Truth). Was this because she, like so many others, believed that descriptions of political actions could only entail electoral or commission work? See more on Fouse in a Wikipedia article started by a History student at the University of Kentucky. The civic activism of this brave and intelligent Kentucky woman deserves a full-length biography to place her squarely in the middle of our state and national political history — a history that she helped to create.

by dawn

Lucy Harth Smith

November 13, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s

Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith, an African American activist and educator, was born in Virginia in 1888. She moved to Kentucky where she worked to improve the school systems for the black community and aimed to include black history in historical textbooks. She attended Hampton Institute, graduated from Kentucky State College, and then got her master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith was the principal of Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Lexington, from 1935 to 1955.

Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith worked diligently to acquire textbooks for African American schools and libraries. She was involved with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History is an organization that researches, preserves, and promotes black history. Preserving and promoting black history was a passion of Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith; she worked ardently to include black history in school textbooks, primarily in the elementary schools.
Smith was also a speaker who lectured about civic, racial, and social improvements. She also served as the president of the Kentucky Negro Education Association, a powerful group that lobbied for educational improvements. Among her many accomplishments, Smith helped raise funds to establish The Colored Health Camp. This camp was free to parents of undernourished and frail children for two weeks with the goal of improving the children’s health.

During the remodeling of the Booker T. Washington School, the architects designed the building so the entrance was on the side of the building. Lucy Smith would not stand for that, she took the matter to the Lexington Board of Education and had the door moved to the front.

Selected resources:
“Famous Kentucky Women” pamphlet by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, revised May 1997,   http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/PUBS/fcs1/fcs1323/fcs1323.pdf

Notable Black American Women, Book II. Jessie Carney Smith, editor. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1996. [NOTE: this book is available in many local libraries; here is a search in WorldCat – http://www.worldcat.org/title/notable-black-american-women/oclc/24468213]

“Lucy Harth Smith,” Journal of Negro History 41 (Apr 1956): 177-179.  Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/2715588.

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