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Women as the Foundation, not the Face

March 3, 2013 in 1940s-1950s

NAACP Logo

NAACP Logo

According to the book, Freedom on the Border, the conclusion of World War II initiated the return of nearly twenty thousand African Americans from Kentucky who had served overseas. These soldiers had heightened expectations for social equality when they returned to the States, however, they soon faced the unfortunate reality that equality had not yet been leveraged. To promote the radical change demanded by society in order to uproot long-standing traditions of prejudice and discrimination, mass action had to be taken. The key to success during the 1940s-50s was organization. Groups supporting these causes already existed but the masses observed that no change would come if national campaigns were not launched.

CORE logo

CORE logo

In order to open public accommodations to all citizens of the United States, professional groups such as the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee were formed to promote progress. The SNCC held a much stronger following within the Deep South, while CORE made significant strides in the Bluegrass State.  Alongside the NAACP, members of CORE began planning – they were planning for the attention-grabbing actions and protests of the early 1960s. While leaders of this time for these organizations were predominantly men, women composed overwhelming majorities of membership within each organization. Women, such as Audrey Grevious, would hold membership within these organizations and work actively within chapter projects in order to promote local change. These women gathered petitions and plan sit-ins while men within the organization rallied support throughout the region in the public eye. This example also unfortunately showcases another form of discrimination and stereotype that has traversed racial boundaries – gender equality.

One crucial action of the local NAACP and CORE organizations within Lexington, Kentucky prompted the integration of the University of Kentucky in 1949. While this is largely credited to Lyman T. Johnson’s successful case against the state’s Day Law, many women of color, who were part of these organizations, played a crucial role in gaining support for Johnson’s case. Upon integration, many women of color capitalized on the opportunity to attend the University of Kentucky as well. Two of their stories can be heard here, via oral history interviews regarding their experiences at the University of Kentucky upon the era of integration.

UK Logo

UK Logo

Without question, Kentucky women supported the official mobilization of organizations and movements within the state during the 1940s-50s. Their activity, however, is largely overshadowed by their male counterparts who often represented the face of campaigns. It should be noted, however, that women’s roles within this portion of the movement are not insignificant as their membership and commitment to the cause gave way to radical demonstrations during the 1960s that finally demolished the barrier preventing equality in Kentucky and in the United States.

Sources:

Wikipedia contributors. “Congress of Racial Equality.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Racial_Equality>. 3 Mar. 2013.

Wikipedia contributors. “Lyman T. Johnson.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyman_T._Johnson>. 3 Mar. 2013.

Wikipedia contributors. “University of Kentucky.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Mar. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Kentucky>. 3 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.

Defying the Norms of Racial Etiquette

February 25, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Oral history, Social history

In the 1960s, there was an unspoken protocol as to how African-Americans should act around whites. As maids or “help”, African-Americans were segregated, to an extent, in the homes where they worked. They were often confined to the kitchen, entering and exiting only through the back door, and use of a separate toilet or none at all.

Despite the binding rules maids adhered to in the decades after slavery, these African-American women sometimes overstepped the boundaries. In an experience by Elise Talmage in The Maid Narratives, she told an account of one of the maids who ate lunch with her and her friends and would often come into the house through the front door. In another account, a man recounted when his father allowed their maid to sit in the family pew during his brother’s wedding. Though these two stories were of maids who were either unaware of the rules or were helped by their white family, in each case, the norms often created by whites were shattered. This is especially shown in the reactions of whites being “absolutely aghast” or “completely stricken” by the unusual events.

The Maid Narratives

The Maid Narratives

Although Audrey Grevious never worked as a maid, she also experienced segregation, but in the schools where she taught. Growing up, Grevious had not noticed the harsh effects of segregation, until she visited New York for a convention. The differences between New York—where there was more tolerance—and Lexington were made very clear in the treatment African-Americans received from whites.

As an educator, Grevious first decided to overstep the norms of segregation in the integration of the Kentucky Village in Lexington. At the time, the lunchroom was separated into two different dining rooms: one for whites and one for African-Americans. After about 6 months after joining the teaching staff in the late 1950s, Grevious decided to sit in the lunchroom designated for whites.  The reactions of the white workers were comparable to that of the whites who witnessed African-American maids defying the rules: they “threw their food in the trash can and on the floor […] and marched on out.”

Interestingly, looking at these two different stories of Grevious and the “help”, things did not change much in the treatment of African-Americans. Though they were no longer in subservient roles, African-Americans were still segregated in the workplace. The steps they took to defy the norms of racial etiquette were not in vain, however. Each bit of progress was but a stair in the walkway to equality.

Sources

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. 25 February 2013.

Van, Wormer Katherine S., David W. Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth. The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2012. Print.

Lead by Subtlety: Viola Davis Brown

February 24, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Intellectual history, Social history

By researching Viola Davis Brown and her accomplishments to publish a Wikipedia page about her life, I have discovered one of the subtle leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Viola Davis Brown, born in 1936, was certainly a pioneer of the movement in Kentucky, although not in the traditional context. The contrast in Brown’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement does not exist in her outward protest and open discrediting of segregation, but rather in her career and her personal accomplishments.

Photo of Viola Davis Brown

Viola Davis Brown

My research, though not complete, has not yielded any indication that Viola Davis Brown was involved with any organization such as NAACP or other traditional movements promoting integration during her lifetime. I found no record of Mrs. Brown openly addressing her race as a limiting factor or protesting for equality. Rather, her achievements and perpetual promotion in the work place has led her to be an extremely prominent figure of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.Viola Davis Brown became the first African American student in Lexington to attend and graduate with a nursing degree. She continued her education at the University of Kentucky, where she became a certified Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.  Mrs. Brown’s career was merely beginning when she was appointed Executive Director of the Office of Public Health Nursing for the Kentucky Department of Health Services in Frankfort, Kentucky. The accolades have not since halted.

Book cover, The Maid Narratives

The Maid Narratives

The most appropriate connection I was able to draw between the life of Viola Davis Brown and the ideas regarding the themes of The Maid Narratives fell among the ideas of Cognitive Dissonance and the Defiance of the Norms to Stand Up against Injustice. Viola Brown did not have to join strident organizations that proudly announced their cause within the movement. Brown’s actions, including the pursuance of higher education and career promotion at her own discretion, represent the subtle ability of an individual to overcome substantial barriers such as those dividing race in Lexington, Kentucky during her lifetime.

The descriptions in the text of The Maid Narratives carefully describes the acknowledgement of racial difference and the societal belief that two races, namely Black and White, are psychologically inconsistent. Viola Brown did not have to address this societal injustice head on. Rather, she committed herself to education and advancement within the sector of public health. Not only did she overcome the customs of her society and traditional role of the Whites to assume positions of medical care, she did so without personally addressing her race as a reason to see justice through. The textual example of the maid employer, Elise Talmage, would directly parallel, I can only imagine, the description of a white observer commenting on Brown’s progress in the field of health management. While it was entirely unheard of for a Black woman to hold such a position of prestige, Mrs. Brown continued to secure these positions and became a representation of triumph over segregation for the community and state, at large.

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Sources:

Van, Wormer Katherine S., David W. Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth. The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2012. Print.

College of Public Health. “Hall of Fame Past Inductees: Viola Brown” University of Kentucky College of Public Health (2011): n. pag. Web. 11 February 2013.

 

Passion for Justice

February 18, 2013 in 1940s-1950s

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Two of the most prominent women during the era of desegregation in Kentucky were Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd. Grevious pushed for integration in the educational system, while Kidd seemed to defy the boundaries of color everywhere she went.

Grevious was inspired to be a teacher while attending segregated schools as a child. Initially, she wasn’t aware of the segregation, saying, “things were different, but not so unpleasant.” It wasn’t until she reached adulthood and attended a convention in New York that Grevious realized how different things were in Lexington, KY.

As a teacher, Grevious worked to integrate the Kentucky Village, a school for delinquent boys and girls across the state. Around this time, Grevious was also involved with the NAACP, who asked her to try an experiment. She and another NAACP member were to make stops along the way to Lexington from New York in order to see if they could be served. Not surprisingly, they were denied service at every stop except for one. On the way back up to New York, Grevious and her companion dressed nicely, wearing furs, diamonds, and a suit, respectively.  Though they were served at every place this time, the incident made her angry: “Here I am, an American, and they would not serve me.”

Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Similarly, Kidd also identified herself as an American first before anything else. In Passing for Black, Kidd never distinguished between whites and blacks when it came to their character. Though she had fair skin and blonde hair, she did not try to pass for white even though she easily could. She “never made an issue of [her] race.”

Passing for BlackKidd was successful in every career and job pursuit she immersed herself in. She began in sales at Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance Company based in Louisville. Kidd didn’t finish college, but she was a skilled salesman and was even able to open her own bank account at the young age of seventeen. She worked her way up in Mammoth, eventually becoming the director of a program she created, which concentrated on public relations. In addition, Kidd organized the Business and Professional club for black women and was a successful saleswoman for Fuller products, a cosmetics company with branches in Chicago and Detroit. Because Kidd seemed to “present a certain image of success” with the way she dressed and carried herself, it was really no surprise that she was able to excel in every endeavor she pursued; however, her quest for success was not an easy one. Many people were jealous of her and she was often mistreated and did not always receive credit for her achievements.

Though these women probably faced many trials in their pursuit for a better quality of life for themselves and others, both were still able to make an impact on society through their hard-earned accomplishments. I don’t believe that these women are the only ones with such extraordinary passion for justice. There are women who are working hard daily in their jobs to defy the boundaries of race and gender, but don’t receive recognition for their efforts. To an extent, this passion is burning within each of us, pushing us to reach our dreams and ambitions of making the world a better place—no matter the color of our skin.

Sources

“Audrey Grevious.” The HistoryMakers. 11 Dec. 2002. <http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/audrey-grevious-39>. 18 Feb. 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” Wikipedia. 17 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Grevious>. 18 Feb. 2013.

Hall, Wade H. Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.

“Mae Street Kidd.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Street_Kidd>. 18 Feb. 2013.

The Foundation of Change: Influence of Women in the Civil Rights Era

February 17, 2013 in 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Primary source, Social history

“They realized that they needed to prepare us for a changing time even though they had no idea when the change was going to come, if it was going to come. They just knew that it was, and they did everything to make us ready.” – Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious: A Pillar for Change

Women like Audrey Grevious were raised as our nation prepared itself for a complete change in the foundation of the nation as a whole. This tumultuous time in our history is one that we study today, in awe of the men, and especially the women, who perpetuated it. Women such as Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd, along with many others were exceptionally influential not only to those immediately surrounding them, but to the world as a whole. They were exemplary pillars of strength and dignity in a time when women of color were not dignified by the world itself, but they instead had to forge their own way and demand for themselves the respect they deserved.

Audrey Grevious, in her interview for the Kentucky Historical Society’s Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, speaks of the hardships she faced as a child in segregated schools. She speaks out against the preposterous notion of “Separate but Equal,”  describing her outrage at the fact that as soon as integration was mandated by law, the neighborhood black schools were all closed to prevent white children from being forced to attend them.

“My argument always was: if you’re saying that the schools were equal then why all of a sudden when there is the possibility that the white students will have to come to the school that they are not equal anymore.” – Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious went on to be a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement, as an active member of the NAACP, working closely with CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) chapter in Lexington. She, through peaceful protest, created ways for Blacks to work their way up the social ladder and gain access to positions higher than they had previously been offered. She is a shining example of a woman recognizing the job that needed to be done and stepping up to complete it. She is one of many women who helped to create a new foundation for the American people, whites and blacks alike, to build their dreams upon.

Mae Street Kidd: Beauty with a Purpose

Another of these women is Mae Street Kidd; in her memoir, Passing for Black, Kidd discusses her influence as a member of Kentucky’s General Assembly, as well as her influence as an individual. A striking business woman, Kidd reflects upon her years spent as a sales representative and Public Relations manager for many different companies around Kentucky. Her influence in the business world was unparalleled by any other black woman of the time. Her influence, however, extends far beyond the realm of business. She volunteered in World War II in the Red Cross, impacting the lives of soldiers on their way into battle. On many occasions, in the business world and in other aspects of her career, Kidd was forced to stand up for herself and demand the respect she deserved.

In one instance, detailed on page 100 of Passing for Black, while in the Red Cross overseas, she kicked a white officer out of their black club as he instructed a young black man on “how to wear his tie and uniform and how to behave properly”  Kidd repsonded with:

“You have your own clubs and your own men to worry about. Would you mind leaving ours? You don’t allow blacks in your club, so we don’t want you in ours.”

Mae Street Kidd knew she was better than the society of her time allowed her to be, but she would never take no for an answer. She never allowed herself to be limited by those around her, and she stood for what she believed day after day. She was a powerhouse of will and determination, and her book is a testament to all she did for Kentucky and the United States. She influenced her world socially, politically, and economically. She was a force to be reckoned with when she put her mind to something, and she, like Grevious, was not one to back down. She helped to change her world, though she began at the bottom of the ladder, a black woman in a white man’s world. She never let the fact that she was a woman slow her down, and she always fought for the rights of her race.

Women throughout history have been limited by their societies. But around the time period of the Civil Rights Movement, women like these were vastly important instruments in the changing of the foundation of America as a whole. Their influence echoes today, not only in Kentucky, but throughout the nation.

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References:

“Audrey Grevious.” The History Makers. <http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/audrey-grevious-39>. 18 Feb. 2013.

“Mae Street Kidd.” Living the Story: The Rest of the Story. Kentucky Educational Television. <http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_kidd.htm>. 18 Feb. 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Kentucky Historical Society. 13 April 1999. <http://205.204.134.47/civil_rights_mvt/util.aspx?p=1&pid=14984>. 18 Feb. 2013.

“Mae Street Kidd.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2013.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Street_Kidd>. 18 Feb. 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” Wikipedia. 17 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Grevious>. 18 Feb. 2013.

 

 

Empowering a Movement: Fearless Women of the Civil Rights Era

February 17, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Primary source, Social history

Photo of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

“If you’re willing to march in the rain,” I said, “I’m willing to march in the rain.” As a quote from an interview with Audrey Grevious on April 13, 1999, fearlessness emerges as a common theme amongst the strong women whose individual actions prompted mass movements in the 1960s.

Women, at the center of oppression in this era of discrimination, have formed the basis for movements that took place throughout the nation as a result of their own observations of societal injustice. As Audrey Grevious explained in her 1999 interview, she recognized injustice and knew that she must possess the strength to change her reality. Beginning with subtle movements and transitioning to large scale demonstrations, Grevious is representative of numerous women who emerged from a life under discrimination to see through to its demise. In the interview, she discussed her approach and how she sought out support for the movements she planned. She explains:

“We were fortunate here in Lexington. Chief [Edward Carroll] Hale was the police chief at the time. And we met with him and talked to him about what we were going to do, and that we were going to try to remain as peaceful as possible. That we were not going to start any riots or anything. And that we wanted to see, you know, how we could work together. And after we had talked for a long, long time and just went over a whole lot of things that could happen and had happened in other places and this sort of thing, he agreed with us that they would not arrest…And this was fantastic, unique, unheard of and everything else but he wanted to keep Lexington as calm as possible.”

Furthermore, Grevious expresses the strength and intuition of a woman to know her role and her duty to fulfill it. She shares a story regarding a lunch room sit-in:

“I walked in and took a seat and destroyed the lunchtime for everybody even those who supposedly were friendly, you know, and glad that you are here and all that. All right, glad you are here as long as you stay in your place; and I decided that my place was going to be in the dining room. And there was a male teacher from Paris, Charles Buckner, who I told that I was going to do this. And he said, “Well I’m not going to let you do it by yourself.” And so he went in, you know, with me. And a whole lot of people threw their food in the trashcan, and on the floor, and everything else and marched on out but I was there to stay.

Photo of Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Audrey Grevious was not alone in her actions. Stories have surfaced regarding other fearless women who strived to make racial equality a reality, especially here in Kentucky. Mae Street Kidd is no exception. From the compilation of oral histories in Wade Hall’s book, Passing for Black, Kidd expresses a similar burning passion to obliterate the racial divide that plagued Kentucky communities. Like others, Kidd shareed a drive to consistently improve upon strategies and demonstrations that will continue to make a bigger impact with each movement. The section of the book that I found particularly striking is entitled “Today’s Problems, Tomorrow’s Solutions”. In this section, Kidd shares the commonalities among women and those who strive for justice and acknowledges that several core values comprise those who can attain success. Her concern foBook cover, Passing for Blackr a fortified family structure is particularly valuable to her strength as a mother-figure for this movement. She shares, “We all need a better self-image…We need pride in ourselves, but a healthy pride based on true self-worth. Children must be taught that education and hard work will pay off.”

As you can see, women of this movement were not only fearless and resilient, although this aided their tremendous successes. Women such as Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd are representative of women who acknowledged the injustice around them, even though they had never been exposed to a world without segregation.

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Sources:

“Mae Street Kidd.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, 16 Feb. 2013.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Street_Kidd>. 17 Feb. 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” (1999). The Civil Rights Movement In Kentucky. Kentucky Historical Society. <http://205.204.134.47/civil_rights_mvt/util.aspx?p=1&pid=14984>.15 February 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 17 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Grevious>. 17 Feb. 2013.

Hall, Wade. Passing for Black. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1997. Print.

Desegregation Breeds Unity

February 12, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Social history

The late 1800s was marked by the norm of racial segregation in schools and other public places. The Day Law of 1904 further reinforced the harrowing institution, making it more difficult for African-Americans to pursue education without resistance. While there were schools established solely for “colored” folks, there was less funding, and the conditions of the textbooks and facilities were quite poor.

Remarkably, the NAACP was a key leader in the fight against segregation in education. In Lexington, Kentucky, Audrey Grevious—who was the president of the local NAACP chapter—was the one of the main torchbearers in the movement towards desegregation in schools. Grevious taught at the Kentucky Village, a reform school for delinquent children, where she decided to integrate the lunchroom by simply going in and taking a seat. It was no surprise that the white employees reacted negatively, “throw[ing] their food … on the floor and march[ing] out.”

It was clear that integration would be a long-fought battle despite the ruling of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. There was a massive wave of resistance in the 1950s, led by the emergence of the White Citizens Council and the rise to prominence of the Ku Klux Klan.  Desegregation was beginning to take place in schools, but at a deliberate pace that sometimes required lawsuits.

Integration in schools

Integration in schools

According to Grevious, integration didn’t always have its perks: “the best black teachers were put in the white schools, and the worst white teachers were put in the black schools,” which still made it a struggle for African-Americans to get good quality education. In Freedom on the Border by Catherine Fosl and Tracy K’Meyer, there were several accounts of hardships experienced by African-Americans when going to predominately white universities. In an excerpt by John Hatch—who attended law school at the University of Kentucky—he explained the physical and emotional separation he experienced as a student. Other white students would sometimes speak to him, but the university had a policy that “there should be a chair between [him] and white students.” Hatch also talked about the daily humiliation of always sitting down at a table alone because “everyone at the table would get up and leave.” Hatch’s account pained me the most because of his feelings of loneliness and inability to fit in.

After reading the excerpts in Freedom on the Border, it seemed that African-American men and women dealt with the desegregation in schools differently. Men were often treated worse and often felt isolated. Women also felt out of place, but accepted that they were left alone and sometimes ignored. Interestingly, athletics seemed to have become a mechanism that brought unity between African-Americans and whites. It was also a way to help desegregate schools, especially when African-Americans began being bused to places with better teams. I find it fascinating that at the University of Kentucky today,  a predominately black basketball team—one of the best in the nation, nonetheless—has also been able to bring people together, regardless of race.

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.

“Ku Klux Klan.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Brown v. Board of Education.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Aug. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“KET | Living the Story | The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Glossary, Audrey Grevious. Web. 11 February 2013.

“National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Berea College v. Kentucky.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 June 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“White Citizens’ Council.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 June 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

1975 Kentucky Busing Law

February 10, 2013 in 1960s-1970s, Social history

Segregation in schools has always been a de facto thing in Kentucky until the Plessy vs. Ferguson case ruled separate but equal was constitutional. With this segregation in schools around the state became legal and remained this way until Brown vs. Board of Education. However, the schools remained segregated de facto until 1975 when the court ordered mandatory busing to make sure schools were desegregated. However, this movement was met with great resistance from the white population. In fact, many of the Whites that stood up to the busing movement were women who didn’t want their children to be bused so far from their homes and be in class with black children.

The busing movement was met with great resistance from the white community in a variety of forms. There were the well-known white supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen Council that combated the busing rule. There were other people who contributed to trying to end this mandatory busing rule and a huge portion of these people were women. These women organized demonstrations and boycotts such as having their children stay home from school. In fact Sue Connor lead an anti-busing nonviolent demonstration to show support for ending mandatory busing of black children from inner city schools to schools in the suburbs of Louisville.

Picture of white women protesting busing to desegregate schools

Women protesting busing

The more interesting thing about women leading these demonstrations is the women who did lead them and the reasons why they did. There were two main groups that participated in the fight to end busing in Kentucky. The first was a group of women that from the beginning opposed the law. This was a group of white women that didn’t want their white children having to go to school with black children. They disliked the idea that their children would be associating with the African American children and viewed that the schools that their children were now going to be going to were in the slums, not as good, didn’t live up to the standards they set for their children, dirty and unacceptable for their children. The other group, comprised to of both white and black women, stood up against busing because they felt that busing took away from their children’s schooling rather than helping it out. Students were being bused 30-45 minutes away from their homes so that the schools could make sure that each school was not over 45% African American and many parents felt that busing their children so that schools would be desegregated was causing more problems than it was helping. Many of the worries concerned the students being on the buses for so long and feeling uncomfortable being so far from their homes especially at such a young age. Parents didn’t feel comfortable with their children being taken so far away for a cause that had little to do with their children receiving a quality education. While these women didn’t hold protests, demonstrations, or were rude to the students who were bused, they did work to get their children out of the busing system and allowed others to know that they stood against this law.

Women played a crucial role in working to end the measures that were taken to desegregate schools, especially concerning the law that required busing to be mandatory in Louisville, Kentucky. These women actively spoke out against the issues, held protests to stop busing, and withheld their children from getting on the bus to boycott the law. Both black and women worked to end the busing law in the community and in their homes. They felt that it caused more problems than it cured. Whether they felt this way because they were uncomfortable with their children going to school so far away and their grades dropping, or because they didn’t like African Americans, these women worked to end the busing law.

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“6 Sep 1975 Jefferson County.” Kentucky: National Guard History EMuseum. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

“Labor Unions Protest Busing Plan in Louisville, Kentucky.” Mike Jackson, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 12 Oct. 1974. NBC Learn. Web. 5 September 2012.

Marriott,, Michel. “Louisville Debates Plan to End Forced Grade School Busing.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Dec. 1991. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

“1975 Year in Review.” UPI. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

by mookygc

Segregation of schools in Kentucky

February 10, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Oral history, Political history, Primary source, Social history

The Day Law of 1908 required the forced segregation of schools in Kentucky, and it was in place for nearly fifty years. With the argument that separate was not the same as equal, the NAACP organized resistance against the Jim Crow laws in the 1930s. They began fighting for African American entrance in to higher education institutions. In the 1950s, a mass resistance began, and people all over the state began entering previously segregated schools. I found it very interesting that the first African American student to enroll in a previously segregated high school, Lafayette, was in fact female, in 1955, and she faced little to no resistance.

There were many lawsuits filed in the state of Kentucky, which were met with difficulty by many white communities. Unlike many states in the further Deep South, the school board and state government were more or less committed to abide by the desegregation laws. By the mid 1960s, nearly all of Kentucky’s schools were in fact desegregated. The first African American person to attend the University of Kentucky was male, but both males and females received somewhat equal discrimination. Different accounts in the oral histories in “Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky” describe different experiences of different students attending the University of Kentucky. One narrator describes harsh reactions from other students, but rather levelheaded reactions and attitudes from professors, who seemed to discourage unfair treatment from other students. George Logan of Lexington described a time when the students in one of his classes put rope around a chair that said “For Colored Only”, and the professor that promised “Tomorrow you will be treated as a human being.” Iola Harding recalled “Nobody spoke to you, nobody engaged you and stuff like that. But after I was around there a while, a few people did.” There were boycotts and mobs in many parts of the state, and many faced very difficult opposition and had to be escorted by police to and from school.

In general, the feeling I got from the oral histories that both men and women were treated equally unfairly in terms of desegregating the education in Kentucky.

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.

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Sources:

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.

 

 

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