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Celebrating the Fair Housing Law 1968 in Frankfort today

April 9, 2013 in Political history

232 222 223 224 225 227Remembering today the bravery of all the Kentuckians who protested and put their own lives (and the lives of their families) on the line for the freedom to choose where they wanted to live.

We traveled to Frankfort today to help celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Law of Kentucky (the first of its kind in the South).

Commissioner Eleanor Jordan treated us to a tour of the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit and talked with us about her work to keep women’s history alive and to celebrate those unsung heroines on whose accomplishments we depend everyday. She also talked about her personal interactions with Mae Street Kidd who mentored her in her first run for political office out of Louisville.

During the proclamation ceremony, Commissioner John Johnson acknowledged the work we’re doing in partnership with the KY Commission on Human Rights.  It was a great adventure, and I was proud of my students and the very positive impression they made on everyone there!

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:

Mapping neighborhood diversity over time and segregation in Louisville

February 17, 2011 in Research methods

Go to http://www.mixedmetro.com, click on the drop down list under the middle map and choose Louisville to study the change in population trends there from 1990 to 2000.  You can see how some parts of Louisville’s African-American and White communities have changed from very low diversity to a more mixed area.  Also, African-American households have grown in some areas that were nearly all White a decade before. 

This site was created by geographers at the University of Georgia, the University of Washington, and Dartmouth College. The primary individuals involved are Steven Holloway and Michael Wellman (Georgia), Mark Ellis (Washington), and Richard Wright and Jonathan Chipman (Dartmouth).  They use federal census data and overlay it with mapping software (ESRI GIS) to display using Google Maps to create a rich, interactive environment for us to discuss.

The Louisville neighborhoods undergoing rapid change in one decade include Smoketown (dicussed in Rhonda Mawhood Lee’s article, “‘Admit Guilt—And Tell the Truth’: The Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Struggle with Pacifism and Racial Justice, 1941-1945,” J of Southern History 76 [May 2010], 315-342) and Shively (the post-WWII racism and Red Scare in this area is an important focus of Catherine Fosl’s biography, Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South). I wonder what Anne Braden would have thought of these changes today!

** See also Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky by Catherine Fosl and Tracy E. K’Meyer **

by dawn

A Lady with Gumption

October 8, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Political history, Social history

Georgia Davis Powers was born in a two room wooden shack to Ben and Frances Montgomery. She was born in Springfield, Kentucky. Georgia’s parents did not have a high school education her parents expected her to get married and start a family and that is it.

She was once told by one of her mother’s friends that she was going to grow up and be just like her mother and have a house full of kids. Georgia was furious knowing that was not what she wanted and thought to herself “ How do you know what I’m going to do when I don’t even know yet myself? I do know I’m not gonna be just a house wife with a house full of kids, though!” (I Shared the Dream, 46)

Senator Georgia Davis Powers, 1968

Senator Georgia Davis Powers, 1968, from KET "Living the Story" Picture Gallery

She first got involved with politics when she was hired to help with Wilson Wyatt’s campaign.  Next she became a leader within the Allied Organization for Civil Rights (AOCR), whose purpose was to lobby for a law against discrimination in places of public accommodation. With AOCR she helped organize a march on Frankfort which was attended by both Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964 to support the passing of this law.

Powers became further involved with politics when she was elected in to the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee. She was then appointed chairman of the Women’s Committee.

In 1966 she decided to campaign to become a Kentucky senator. She was able to get full endorsement from the previous senator Norbert Blume. She ran for Louisville District thirty three that was 65% white. Powers won the primary and then the Senate seat.  Powers was the first African-American (man or woman) elected to the Kentucky Senate. Powers stated before she became a senator that she would like to show that she could do what was good for all people.(I Shared the Dream, 132)

The woman had gumption and nerve not backing down on what she believed in. She was able to pass an open house bill. She proposed and amendment to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination in the work force based on age or sex.

Georgia Davis Powers is a wonderful woman. She is humorous and does not let anyone keep her down. She fought for what she believed in. Powers was a real person who has faults but was strong. She started off small as a community leader working for campaigns getting to know the people in her community and the leaders. Powers then saw that she could make a difference and she set out to do it even though it seemed such a daunting challenge. She had gumption and did what she thought was right regardless of what people thought.

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Powers, Georgia Davis. I Shared The Dream. New Jersey: New Horizon Press, 1995.

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