You are browsing the archive for Lyman T. Johnson.

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.

by dawn

The Integration of The University of Kentucky

December 10, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s

In 1941, a teenager named Charles Eubanks volunteered to play a part in an attempt to integrate the University of Kentucky. He applied to the UK College of Engineering and was turned down because he was African American and the Kentucky Day Law did not allow African Americans and whites to attend the same school. The suit led to the creation of a “separate but equal” program at Kentucky State University. Though it did not lead to a huge change within the University of Kentucky, it is a notable instance of a step in the right direction.

A man named Lyman T. Johnson is considered one of Kentucky’s greatest fighters for integration. In 1948, he filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Day Law. The next year UK admitted the first black students to its graduate and professional schools. In 1954 the University of Kentucky finally opened admission to undergraduate studies to black students; University of Louisville followed in 1955.

While interviewing Mrs. Gaylord and Rev. & Mrs. Jones for our service learning project (“Lexington Women, African-American Churches and Civil Rights Activism” – see more at: www.kywcrh.org/voices/churches), I began to think about the University of Kentucky in the 1950s and ‘60s and what it would have been like to attend UK as one of the few African American students. Coming here as a freshman was scary enough for me; not knowing where to go or what to do. Coming here with fear and the isolation that both Mrs. Gaylord and Mrs. Jones expressed to me would be traumatizing. They both lived on campus and discussed the difficulties of eating at surrounding restaurants. Mrs. Jones was not allowed to eat at Jerry’s, a restaurant directly across from her dorm. While living on campus they would have lacked the community and support which one needs to be successful while getting an education. Luckily, Mrs. Jones was able to rely on Pleasant Green Baptist Church where she was an active member. She experienced many difficulties within her biology major at the university. I was shocked to hear that her genetics teacher told her that she was “genetically inferior”.

As a proud UK student, it saddens me to learn these things about a school which plays such a vital role in my life.

Resources:

Oral History Interview – Jones, Kay and La Mont. Interview by Dawn Bailey. Digital recording. November 29, 2010. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Oral History Interview – Gaylord (not uploaded yet)

See also:
“Civil Rights Timeline” – http://www.ket.org/civilrights/timeline.htm
Hardin, John A. Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1904-1954. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 1997. Print.

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