You are browsing the archive for Mae Street Kidd.

Defining a Movement Through Two Bold Kentucky Women

February 18, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

If I were to formulate a definition of Kentucky women based on the lives and work of Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd I would start by saying, Kentucky women were strong, independent, self-motivated, and hard working.

Passing for BlackIf you can wade through the vain portrayal of Kidd in Passing for Black­, you will see a highly self-motivated woman. Kidd faced a peculiar situation, because she was not quite white and not quite black.  To quote her directly, she was “too white for this situation and too black for that one.” However, she truly seemed to take her circumstances and use them to suit her own interests. Much of this stems from her unique upbringing. Although raised as a black woman, Kidd’s mother never allowed her to work as a maid, to develop a “servant mentality.”

Kidd was career driven, constantly making moves which she thought would further her career. Upon a quick glance at her life and accomplishments, one can easily see that this mentality served Kidd well.

Kidd considers her successful career her greatest asset to the civil rights movement. She clearly articulates in Passing for Black, how it never suited her to lead rallies or sit-ins. Instead she stated that her “most important service to my sex and my race is my life, which I have tried to live as an example of what a black person could achieve- not just a black person- but a black woman.” This idea, that making progress in the movement by simply living a driven, successful life struck me as being simply brilliant. What a better way to promote progress than by taking life by the hands, and showing you could make change happen.

Kidd best illustrates who she was in page forty-one of the book. “I never made an issue of my race. I let people think or believe what they wanted to. If it was ever a problem, then it was there problem, not mine. I never, ever advertised my race, and I still don’t. The Declaration of Independence says we’re all created equal, and I believe it.”  When reading the book, I never took Kidd’s work as being some push for justice as much as a strong will to lead a good life, and to use that life as an example of what others were equally capable of.  Kidd does not exceed any other Kentucky women, in fact she exemplifies the work-ethic that continues in the state today.

Grevious speaks of a segregated Kentucky that Kidd does not as thoroughly mention. However, Kidd had the advantage of being able to pass for white, and Grevious did not. Grevious was much more aggressive in her activism, participating in picketing and other activities with the NAACP.

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“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>. 16 Feb. 2013.

“Oral History Interview with Mae Street Kidd.” Interview by Kenneth Chumbley on November 11 and December 5, 1978. African American Oral History Collection. University of Louisville Libraries Digital Collections. <http://digital.library.louisville.edu/cdm/search/field/creato/searchterm/Kidd,%20Mae%20Street,%201904-/mode/exact>.

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

 

by emme23

Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd: Empowering KY Women

February 18, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Though nationally people may not regard Kentucky as place of importance during the civil rights era, women such as Audrey Grievous and Mae Street Kidd prove to be pillars for desegregation in the south. Though both women came from different backgrounds, their determination and dedication to civil rights issues  make them two of the strongest women in Kentucky civil rights history.

Audrey Grevious, The History Makers

Audrey Grevious

Grievous, born and raised in Lexington, had grown up in a desegregated world, where she received her early education in all black schools. After receiving a degree in elementary education, she returned to the school system. However this time, it was to teach. After entering a desegregated school system, Grievous realized black students were still at a disadvantage to white students, and in some ways the desegregated schools were more detrimental to the education of black students than the segregated schools were. Grievous recalled an incident with her nephew in an interview in 1999 with Betsy Brinson for the Kentucky Historical’s Society’s Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky project.

 “When I checked into it to find out what it was they said that they just stopped studying at all cause they weren’t ever called on. Never held up their hand anymore. Sat back there and talked, you know, just, just did it. And I said but you are falling right into their trap. And I got the whole little group, never will forget it, here in the middle of my floor, of the group that were here and had always been and we had to talk about this. And that all the time you can not live up to expectations of other people especially if those expectations are not high. It’s better to fool them and let them know they made the mistake rather than you.”

In addition to teaching, Grievous was heavily involved with CORE and the NAACP.

Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Like Grievous, Mae Street Kidd was determined to achieve her goals and prove wrong the people who stood in her way. Kidd built a strong reputation for herself at Mammoth insurance after starting work at the young age of 17. The man she worked for was hesitant to hire her because of her age, however she proved to be a valuable asset working her way up in the company. At one time, Kidd’s job was given to someone else, but because of her determination she earned it back, selling over a quarter of a million dollars worth of insurance. This spirit and determination eventually earned Kidd a seat in Kentucky’s General Assembly, where she continued to fight for civil rights.

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

Grevious, Audrey. “Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Interview. Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Kentucky Historical Society. 11 April 1999. <http://205.204.134.47/civil_rights_mvt/util.aspx?p=1&pid=14984> 18 Feb. 2013.
Hall, Wade H. Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1997. Print.
“Mae Street Kidd.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2013.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Street_Kidd>. 18 Feb. 2013.

Individual Acts of Excellence

February 18, 2013 in 1960s-1970s, Primary source, Social history

Throughout the 20th century many group efforts were made to end segregation across the Kentucky community. However, there were many women who made individual efforts to stop segregation. Two women who made great strides to end segregation were Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd. These women helped to stop the segregation that they saw happening in their everyday lives. These women sacrificed their jobs, reputation, family and friends to help put an end to the injustice that was occurring in Kentucky during this time period.

Picture of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious was fortunate enough as a child to be able to go to school and get an amazing education. In her oral interview, she says that it was these teachers who taught her during her childhood and her mom that pushed her to work so hard to get a college education and become a teacher herself. Throughout college she worked three jobs to pay to go to Kentucky State and from this she understood how important education is. After college she took this hardworking mentality to her next job, a teacher at Kentucky Village Reform School, later known as Greendale Reformatory. She started teaching the girls that went to the school and was despaired that some of the eighth graders could only read at a second or third grade level. So she began to work hard, using the skills she learned while putting herself through school, to allow these kids to have the same opportunity at a great education that she had. Not only this, but she worked to desegregate the reform school as well. Her and her students would eat lunch in the White cafeteria and she talked to the school superintendent several times. While she often times feared that her job would be lost, she never stopped fighting for equal rights and opportunities for her students, and eventually received what she wanted. Grevious worked endlessly to allow Blacks to have equal rights, hold positions and go places that they had never previously been.

Just as Grevious worked to obtain equal rights for her students, Mae Street Kidd worked to allow Blacks across the state of

Picture of Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Kentucky to legally have equal rights as Whites. Kidd pushed for the Kentucky legislature to ratify the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, the 14th amendment, which granted citizenship to African Americans, and the 15th amendment, which gave African Americans the right to vote. Kidd was able to accomplish this and much more, such as passing legislation for equal and fair housing for all. By being elected to Kentucky’s General Assembly, she was able to lead and participate in many campaigns to get each of these goals accomplished. As a Kentuckian, Kidd was proud of her state and heritage and didn’t want Kentucky’s history to be defined by unjust actions such as not passing these amendments.

Both of these women worked tirelessly throughout their lives to gain equal rights for the people that they fought for. With their individual acts against segregation and discrimination, they each pushed Kentucky further into being a state that was desegregated and granted equal rights to all. They put all that they had and believed in on the line so that others could live in a better environment. Their efforts were coupled with the efforts of great organizations such as the NAACP to end segregation and discrimination in Kentucky and across the U.S.

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“Audrey Grevious.” The HistoryMakers. <http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/kidd-mae-street-1909-1999>. 18 Feb. 2013.

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

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

“Kidd, Mae Street (1909-1999).” The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. <http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/kidd-mae-street-1909-1999>. 18 Feb. 2013.

by mookygc

Mae Street Kidd, An Inspiration

February 17, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, Primary source

Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd, Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Mae Street Kidd had a lot of things to say about life in her narrative about her experiences growing up as a mixed race female in Kentucky during the Civil Rights Movement. In Passing for Black by Wade Hall, Kidd spoke quite a bit about how others perceived her. What struck me is that she mostly spoke about how she didn’t care what others thought about her. “People have told me they like me because I will fight for what I believe. It is true that I am a fighter, but I fight fairly (p. 13).” Mae felt torn between two worlds her entire life- her black heritage and also her very light skin. “I will repeat it. I never made an issue of my race. I let people think or believe what they wanted to. If it was ever a problem, then it was their problem, not mine. I never, ever advertised my race, and I still don’t (p. 41). ”

Mae has a lot to teach current and future generations about not letting other people define you. Her interpretations of her experiences throughout her life are expressed with a sense of pride that she was who she was and other people could deal with it or not. For many people, this was not a common attitude, but for those who did feel that way, it became the driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement, and more and more people began to adopt this attitude.

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Resource

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

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.

by Syle

House Bill 27 – The Mae Street Kidd Act – Fair Housing

December 12, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Political history, Social history

Mae Street Kidd in the Kentucky General AssemblyMae Street Kidd was a major activist in Kentucky for a long time, and was a major political voice as well. One of most important bills that she was involved in during his political career however, was originally known as House Bill 27. This bill was what she has said was one of the most important bills of her career. In 1972, the Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) was passed. This bill, promoted by Kidd, was to promote and finance low-income housing in Kentucky.

This bill was very important at the time for people who were still not able to afford proper housing. People that were still denied proper jobs because of their skin color or because of their gender were the ones that truly benefited from this bill. People that Mae Street Kidd said that she wanted to be their voice, and give them the rights that they deserve, which is why she got into politics to begin with. In 1974, the bill was officially renamed as “The Mae Street Kidd Act”.

When the bill was passed to create KHC, it was awarded a $150,000 appropriation, and by1973 had its first bond issued for $51.2 million. Also, they had built 623 new housing units for $1.9 million. Since then KHC has grown more and more, and still exists today building housing and helping those that are less fortunate and cannot afford proper housing. “House Bill 27” was a turning point during civil rights, where equal rights were truly starting to be awarded, thanks to people like Mae Street Kidd.

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Listen to the oral history interviews by Kenneth Chumbley of the University of Louisville’s Oral History Center in October, November and December 1978 with Mae Street Kidd.

New Deal No Deal For Most African Americans

September 30, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Political history, Social history

While reading Luther Adams’ article “Headed for Louisville” I was introduced to two topics rarely discussed in many historical lessons: the migration of African Americans within the south and the adverse affect of New Deal policies for most blacks.

When many people read about the “Great Migration” most think about the migration of African Americans from the South to the North, which did occur but why is the migration of southern blacks to other places withn the south widely ignored?  In his article Adams doesn’t offer a clear explanation to it, but he does mention the importance of a city such as Louisville had with African Americans.  “Indeed, many blacks migrated to Louisville from smaller towns within Kentucky; the city offered a variety of opportunites that did not exist anywhere else within the state”(Adams 11).  Louisville was a city within the south in which African Americans had more of a chance, although not much more, of better equality.  “Louisville has been called one of the most ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ cities on race relations in the south as well as a city with ‘southern racial traditions and a northern class dynamic'”(Adams 11).

Concerning the New Deal, however, is a topic that is not addressed enough.  Programs such as the AAA and the NRA which were meant to address social and financial crises confronting both blacks and whites proved to work negatively against most African Americans.  The AAA or Agricultural Administration Act which made farmers cut back acreage on their farms in order to receive a payout from the government which would raise crop production had the adverse affects on blacks.  Most White farmers woul dcut back the acreage of the sharecroppers first, who just happened to be black, and in turn would receive not only a check from the government, but also would not have African American sharecroppers on their land.  The NRA worked essentially in the smae way for urban African Americans.  Initially meant to create equal wages for both black and white employees, the NRA backfired in that white employers would fire black employees noting that “if they paid whites and blacks the same, what was the point of paying blacks?” (Adams).

This article goes into much more depth than the brief oversight that I’m giving it through this entry, but after reading it, it made me wonder how a person such as Mae Street Kidd was able to confront such issues, having lived through them in the majority of her youth.  Especially when she was not only African American, but a woman as well.  I think that it’s important to reflect on the significance of such events and realize that these occurances were, unfortunately, typical of the times.

Luther J. Adams, “Headed for Louisville”: Rethinking Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950, J of Social History 40(Winter 2006), 407-430.

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