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Female Struggles through the Civil Rights Era

February 19, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

Women across the nation aided in the civil right movement, each in their own way.  Some women, such as Mae Street Kidd and Audrey Grevious led movements while having to cope with their own personal, internal struggles.  The sacrifices did not end with black women, all types of women aided in the movement.

Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Readers learn about Mae Street Kidd’s life through Passing for Black, a book written by Wade Hall about Mae Street Kidd, with her help. Kidd’s mother has some “black blood” making Kidd ten percent black.  Because of the connection she has with her mother she spends her entire life trying to “pass for black”.  Most people regard her as white because she is so light skinned but Kidd prefers to be considered black.  Throughout her life she is faced with the difficulty of not being able to fully identify with any race.  When she was young, other black students would taunt her and throw rocks at her.  Kidd describes feeling as though neither race wanted to claim her and that she did not actually belong in any of them.

These hardships did not end when she was out of school.  While Kidd was working in the Kentucky General Assembly, after an incredible amount of hard work, she got a bill passed for low-cost housing.  This bill helped thousands of low income families get decent housing.  Because of this achievement, her picture is hung in the Kentucky Housing Corporation Office in Frankfort.  Many people openly told Kidd that the reason her picture is there is because she is light skinned.  They look over the hard work and dedication she put toward the goal and merely attribute her race.  The internal and external struggles Mae Street Kidd had to deal with were common for other civil rights activists and people of all races during the 1930s through the 1970s.

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious was a key player in the civil rights movement in Kentucky.  Born in 1930, Grevious was raised in a time desperate for change.  Grevious’ mother was a domestic servant, otherwise known as a maid, and Grevious spent some of her childhood helping her mother in the homes she worked in.  Racism was a common thing to Grevious and her childhood friends, as she describes in her oral history, “…we had not paid that much attention to it (racism) because we had all grown up with it.”  It wasn’t till Grevious got a job as a secretary at the Town Crier in Lexington, Kentucky that she realized the depth of racism.  This prompted her to become active in the NAACP and first become secretary, then to become president.

Grevious encouraged people to notice the injustices they were living with and in and called them to action.  Grevious is still an active member in the NAACP and calls blacks around the nation to stand up for their rights. See the transcripts and videos of the 1999 oral history interviews of Audrey Grevious archived in the Kentucky Historical Society’s Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky website.

Katherine van Wormer

Dr. Katherine van Wormer

Katherine Van Wormer, author of The Maid Narratives, spoke with my class last week and introduced us to an array of new ideas including that white women aided the movement even when facing opposition from their husbands, causing conflict within the household.  All women that participated were important to the movement, even if it was only driving their maids home so they could more easily boycott the bus system.  The struggle within their household introduced their children to the civil rights movement and what was happening outside of their homes.

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Resources:

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.

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.

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.

Desegregation in Education

February 11, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

picture of Charles Hamilton Houston

Charles Hamilton Houston

 The Day Law of 1904 mandated segregation between blacks and whites in public schools in Kentucky. Of course, with this segregation came inequality in the quality of schools (and therefore education) between blacks and whites. This was not tolerated by the more prominent members of the black community and by the 1930’s attorney Charles Hamilton Houston and the NAACP began to battle this segregation. This began by his persuasion of the Supreme Court that the Missouri Law school was denying black students equal protection under the law. With this at the forefront, the NAACP continued to fight segregation at a legal level through the 1950’s. The most prominent example in the ’50’s would certainly be the Brown vs. Board of Education case in which Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned.

As far as men’s experiences being different than women, I would argue that any difference was minor. In most cases, being black was enough to isolate these students in an integrated situation. The only differences would be in examples of extracurricular activities, in which boys would be more likely to be bussed to white schools to enhance the athletic departments. Women, such as Alice Wilson, were discouraged from attempting to try to cheerlead or sing because of the already strained relations between her and the other white students.

Pro-segregationists, needless to say, were outrage in general about integration, inciting riots against incoming black students and expressing outrage at the busing options that were offered up. Black students were subjected to ridicule and death threats across the board. However, although the pro-segregationists were upset with integration, not all cases were as dramatic as others, especially since Kentucky was a border state. White supremacy was much more subtle and nuanced in this time, even though KKK was growing. This means that much of the racism that was happening was happening in the quality of materials that black students would get or where they were allowed to sit in public places.

Overall white women and men probably remember these times similarly because they are both viewing this period through the same lens. Stated another way, this being more of a race-focused issue verses a gender focused issue so whether one was a man or woman remembering, the story was probably still the same. If the interest in is difference of perspective, the true comparison would be between blacks and whites, as they were on completely different playing fields.

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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.

“Plessy v. Ferguson.” 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.

“NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Charles Hamilton Houston.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Separate but Equal: Segregation in the Public Schools.” Separate but Equal: Segregation in the Public Schools. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

Advancing the Race of African-Americans

February 5, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Social history

Nearly all the laws manifested in racial segregation were enacted in the late 1800s. The Jim Crow laws replaced the Black Codes once society transitioned from one dominated by slavery and farming to a modern one with burgeoning cities and suburbs. Along with it, the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case was put in place, upholding the separate but equal doctrine. Although slavery seemed to be dying down, the fight for equality was far from over.

“The help”

By the turn of the 20th century, African-Americans were working in homes or taking on other forms of manual labor away from the countryside. Many women worked as maids or “help” as portrayed in The Maid Narratives. At this point, these women were no longer required to live with their employers and often had families of their own or held a second job. Interestingly, young white children learned many life lessons and grew close to their African-American caretakers. Segregation and racial inequality were usually learned through a parent’s scolding or observations in daily life. In addition, “the help” was sometimes seen as part of the family and the white women of the home even looked to them for advice and reassurance.

Despite the slight improvement in the treatment of African-Americans in society, many were still left unsatisfied.  In the Great Migration of the early 1900s, millions of African-Americans left the South for a better life in cities of the North, Midwest, and Western parts of the United States. Wages were often higher in these areas and there were more opportunities for upward mobility, especially in industry work. Racial prejudices were also less severe in places outside of the South, allowing for the growth of “Black metropolises” that included newspapers, jazz clubs, churches, and businesses serving as havens for ambitious African-Americans.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Around this time, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established with a mission “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.” Focusing on issues such as the disenfranchisement of African-Americans, lynching, eliminating Jim Crow, and other civil rights matters, the NAACP was founded by a group of white and black men and women, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and Archibald Grimké. I think the most amazing part about this organization is how long it has remained in society. Since 1909, the NAACP has continued to voice concerns for all minorities, not just African-Americans. In fact, there is a chapter on early every college campus in America. Membership is open to people of any race and to anyone willing to make known the struggles faced by minorities still today.

Resources

“Great Migration (African American).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Jim Crow Laws.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Plessy v. Ferguson.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 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.

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

Kentucky Civil Rights Leaders

April 20, 2011 in 1920s-30s, 1950s-1960s, Political history

This paper discusses the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Kentucky becoming the first Southern state to enact a strong civil rights law, former Governor of Kentucky Ned Breathitt’s role in moving Kentucky’s Civil Rights forward and Audrey Grevious who was born in Kentucky and later become the Lexington Chapter President of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

During President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration Congress passed Public Law 82-352 (78 Stat. 241). The provisions in this civil rights act prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered all executive agencies to require federal contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” This marked the first use of the phrase “affirmative action.” In 1969 an executive order required that every level of federal service offer equal opportunities for women and established a program to implement that action.

Former Kentucky Governor Ned Breathitt was instrumental in Kentucky passing historic civil rights legislation. First elected to the Kentucky State House in 1951, he served until 1958. Breathitt was elected Governor of Kentucky in 1963 and introduced a petition at the 1964 National Governors Conference in which he called for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Later in 1964 Governor Breathitt at a civil rights conference in Louisville pledged his support for a strong civil rights bill addressing employment as well as public accommodations. This pledge from a southern Governor was unheard of in its time. In 1966 the Kentucky General Assembly passed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. This law prohibited discrimination in employment and public accommodations and empowers cities to enact local laws against housing discrimination. The Kentucky Civil Rights legislation also repealed all other state segregation laws and setup the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights which had the statutory authority to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth. Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act went further than its federal counterpart because it prohibited racial discrimination in hiring. The Reverend Martin Luther Kings called Kentucky’s Civil Rights Bill “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state.” Governor Breathitt went on to assist the integration of athletics into the Southeastern Conference which included the University of Kentucky. This website is a timeline of Kentucky’s Civil Rights. From this timeline we can see Kentucky’s progression in the Civil Rights Movement as well as other significant events.

Another important Kentuckian who played a crucial role in Civil Rights is Audrey Grevious. Audrey Grevious was born in 1930 in Lexington, Kentucky. Grevious as a youth attended segregated schools. After earning her bachelors degree in elementary education at Kentucky State University she went on to earn a master’s in administration from Eastern Kentucky University. According to this website which contains Audrey Grevious biography http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_grevious.htm in the later 1940’s Grevious became active in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) as well CORE (Congress on Racial Equality). As the civil rights movement continued Grevious became the president of the Lexington Chapter of the NAACP in 1957. Working with a friend Julia Lewis who was the president of Lexington’s CORE, the two brought the NAACP and the CORE together for the first time. Grevious and Lewis helped organize sit-ins at dime store food counters, pickets of a neighborhood grocery store and protests in Lexington Kentucky theaters for the Civil Rights Movement. These two organizations carefully worked together contributing to the peaceful achievement of civil right goals.

Sources

 http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/16/local/me-breathitt16

Founding the NAACP

December 9, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Social history

William English Walling, Chairman of NAACP Executive Committee (1910–1911) in 1906 William English Walling was extremely active in the creation and beginning of several groups whose target was to bring women’s rights to the forefront of the nation’s stage. He was a firm believer in equality for all races and genders and showed his willingness to participate in activism designed to spread these ideas to everyone in the United States. Political and social equality for African Americans and women was his main concern. He was born in 1877 in Louisville and died in 1936, so his actions and plans were very progressive for the time period. Also his parents had owned slaves at one time, so for a white man from Kentucky, whose parents formerly owned slaves, really speaks to his character.

William English Walling was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) and was very active in the organization for many years. Also In 1903 he founded the National Women’s Trade Union League, which was designed to educate women and keep them informed on trade unions and the positives that they offer for women trying to be independent and destroy the gender barrier that existed in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. Women had been working in horrible conditions in hospitals and other jobs and the idea of the club was to help teach women how to fight the exploitation that companies were trying to do to women across the country and in Kentucky.

William English Walling, known as English, was a revolutionary in his era. He helped positively influence the lives of thousands of women inside Kentucky and around the United States. At the end of his life he began traveling a lot and while in Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands, he died in 1968.

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