You are browsing the archive for segregated schools.

Life after “Freedom”

January 27, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

picture of Jennie Wilson

Jennie Wilson, aged 102

Jennie Wilson, the daughter of slaves is a prime example of what being a black in
America looks like after the slaves were freed. In her oral history interview she speaks of her work in the field when men were wounded and her work within the homes of whites at the time. She speaks of her parents, her father who was able to “slip off to Paducah” to freedom, and her mother who was sold into slavery from Virignia. What is interesting about Wilson’s story is how although she was born in 1900, in a time after slaves were freed, she found herself working menial, slave-like jobs in order to make a life for herself and her four children. She only attended 6 years of school and only attended three months out of each of those years. This is because she had to help support her family from a very young age as this predated the mandatory minimum wage laws to black help with in the home. Therefore, her education was limited because of a tilted, self-fullfilling cycle. What contributes to her interesting story, however, was her ability to put four kids through college.

One of her children, Alice Wilson, also speaks of her experiences integrating a local high school in her home town of Sturgis, KY. Although on their first day govenor A.B. Chandler had to call in the National Guard to allow the children’s entrance, Alice Wilson reports her experience quite indifferently. She relates that although she and her peers were doing something important, to them it was just a chance to experience a better college prepatory education. What makes her story interesting is its contrast to that of her mother’s. While her mother was barely educated, doing the best she could under the oppression of whites in her own childhood, Alice considers the opposition to her intergration was quite lack-luster. Although she relates many people calling names and particular instances in which she felt threatened, overall other students reported her as “nice and clean.” This battles a lot of prejuides that contemporary researchers probably have because of the idea that all integration was fought against and led to violence. Although violent riots did of course occur, Alice’s testimony reveals that maybe the largest influence of those who opposed integretation only did so for attention, and that once their stage was darkened there was no longer a point.

Jennie and Alice’s stories are great ones to look at because they show a decent timeline of what the “freedom” of blacks looked like in the postbellum period.




Patterns of Violence

January 27, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Primary source, Social history

Picture of Jennie Wilson

Jennie Wilson

Listening to Jennie Wilson and her daughter, Alice Wilson, on what they went through while living in Kentucky, a pattern shows up. A pattern of actions that the white population took on the African Americans living there at the time appears. The white Americans had no problem being mean to the black community; anything and everything was okay. Through the stories told by Jennie Wilson and her daughter it is seen that these actions were repetitive and can be seen throughout history and throughout Kentucky.

Jennie tells of the third Monday of every month being a time of fear. On these Mondays, the whites in the community would get drunk and come around to where Jennie, her family, and other black families lived. They would come drunk and with guns prepared to kill those who they especially didn’t like. Shootings and brutal acts against the black community occurred all over Kentucky. In Corbin county whites have a long history of blaming blacks for events that didn’t happen and in Frankfort alone there were 116 accounts of beatings, shootings, hangings, and tarring and feathering.  Just as these occurrences on the third Monday were repetitive, so were the hangings. As Jennie explains in her interview, the hangings were mostly blacks with only one or two white men being hung. Sometimes black men were even taken to the city limits to be hung there instead of at the court house.

Alice explains the history of violence occurring against black students that began to be integrated into white schools. Her and many other students experienced hatred from the white community because of their actions. While Alice encountered name calling on a daily basis and one or two greater disturbances

from the other children going to school, violence across the state, in varying degrees, was constantly occurring. Lloyd Arnold had rocks thrown at him on his way to school and many students who went to college were harassed by dogs and other students, especially those in fraternities.

The violence that occurred to the African Americans in Kentucky can be traced throughout this time period and all of the state. Many people can tell stories of the violence and fear they experienced on behalf of the white community that wanted no part in integration. Jennie and Alice Wilson’s stories and so many more bring to light the pattern of the kind and intensity of the violence that they experienced.


“Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson.” KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.” Notable Kentucky African Americans. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013



Kentucky Women: Aeronautical Achievers

April 3, 2012 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Military history, Primary source

Kentucky Museum of AviationThe field of aeronautics held limitations for women during most of its history. Woman have taken more active roles in space exploration, aeronautical systems design, and military and civilian flight opportunities as these have increased through the 20th century and up to today. Several women native to Kentucky have made notable achievements in these fields. Their accomplishments have  been honored by induction into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame.

The Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame honored its first inductees in 1996. It is part of the Aviation Museum of Kentucky at Blue Grass Airport. The eight women who have entered the Hall of Fame can be identified for their achievements as pioneers, as instructors, and as air racers.

The Pioneers

Willa Brown Chappell

Willa Brown Chappell

Willa Brown Chappell (1906-1992), a native of Glasgow in Barren County, was the first African-American woman to be licensed as a private pilot in the United States. This was in 1937; in 1943, she was the first women to hold both an aviation mechanic’s and commercial pilot license. She went on to co-found the National Airmen’s Association of America. Thisorganization promoted interest in aviation and supported pilot training positions for black aviation cadets. As a director of a racially segregated flight school in Chicago, Chappell participated in the training of more than 200 student pilots that later became members of the Tuskegee Airmen. Chappell was recognized in 2002 as one of Women in Aviation’s 100 Most Influential Women in Aviation and Aerospace.
See also her picture and bio at Black Wings.
Mary Edith Engle

Mary Edith Engle

Esther LucilleMueller Ammerman

Esther Lucille
Mueller Ammerman

Esther Mueller Ammerman and Mary Edith Engle are considered pioneers due to their service in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP’s) during WWII. Created to ease the demand for pilots, the WASP’s were organized in 1943 to fly noncombat missions in support of the war. Applicants numbered 25,000 and less than 2,000 were accepted into the program. Two who were accepted were Ammerman and Engle. Ammerman, originally from Thayer, Nebraska, is a resident of Cynthiana in Harrison County. Engle is a native of Lexington who continued flying after the war as a member of the International Organization of Women Pilots (the Ninety-Nines). Each gained pilot flying hours in the multiengine bombers of the day, including the B-29 strategic bomber, the type of plane flown in the atomic bombing missions that ended the conflict in 1945. Even though they flew a variety of non-combat military missions, the WASP’s had no  military status when the unit was disbanded in 1944. This was changed by an act of Congress in 1977, when military protocol and benefits were granted. In July 2009, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the WASP’s for their service to the United States.
See also the Mary Edith B. Engle Papers, 1940-1945 collection at the University of Kentucky Special Collections

Dr. Shelba Proffitt

A fourth pioneer in the Aviation Hall of Fame made her accomplishments in design and engineering. Dr. Shelba J. Proffitt, a native of Whitesburg in Letcher County, was a member of the Wernher Von Braun missile development team at NASA. She later held key positions at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. From NASA she moved to development work on advance tactical missile systems. At the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command, she was the first woman to join the Senior Executive Service. As Director of the Advanced Technology Directorate, and Director, Sensors Directorate, Dr. Proffitt addressed the numerous technical issues of missile defense systems. In 2001, she had total responsibility for developing air and missile systems as Acting Program Executive Officer. Dr. Proffitt’s capabilities were recognized by the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and the Von Braun Engineer of the Year Award in 1999.
See more on Dr. Proffitt’s background in an article in The Mountain Eagle, February 6, 2002

The Instructors

No one legally learns to fly in the United States without an instructor pilot. Two Kentucky women are outstanding in this category of The Instructors.

Evelyn Bryan Johnson

Evelyn Bryan Johnson was born in Corbin and is better known as “Mama Bird”. She is a Federal Aviation Administration Flight Instructor and an FAA Flight Examiner. Others hold these ratings like Johnson, but none match her 57,000 flight hours. The number of pilot check flights she has conducted number close to 10,000 total. Johnson has been recognized repeatedly for her contributions to general aviation. Many pilots flying and training other pilots today had their initial training experience or “check ride” with Mama Bird Johnson.
See more in the Evelyn Bryan Johnson Papers, 1930-2002 collection in the Archives of Appalachia, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN; and, George Prince, “Mama Bird; Biography of Evelyn Bryan Johnson, A Flight Instructor” (Mayfield Printing, 1994); and “Your Stories: Mama Bird Evelyn Johnson,” a newsclip from WBIR TV, November 24, 2010.

Sheri Coin Marshall
The second instructor overcame the disability of a right arm amputation in childhood to become one of Kentucky’s most respected pilots. Shari Coin Marshall of Paducah in McCracken County is a veteran flight instructor and received the 1998 Instructor of the Year Award for the southern region of the Federal Aviation Administration. Marshall is qualified as an airline pilot and serves as a flight instructor for the physically impaired. Not held back by her impairment, Marshall has also written One Can Do It, a book on dealing with such limitations. She accomplished all this and raised two daughters.
See more in “Marshall ‘wrote the book’ on overcoming disability,” Henderson Home News, December 29, 1994

The Air Racers

Air racing does include speed, while other events call for the pilot to estimate flight time and fuel consumption. The women under this heading also promoted civilian or general aviation as well as their home state.

Greenwood “Cokie”
Overstreet Cocanougher

Greenwood “Cokie” Cocanougher was a native of Lexington who took to flying from a request by her son Archie. The deal: she would try flying if he would attend Sunday school. Her enthusiasm quickly developed and took her on to more than 5,000 flying hours. Within four years of her first flight, Cocanougher had her commercial pilot and instructor pilot ratings. The demand for pilots in WWII gave her instructor pilot employment for wartime flyers under the War Training Service Program. Cocanougher participated in five International All-Women Air Races, and won the 1950 “Powder Puff and Beaux” Derby from Columbus, Ohio to Boston. She received the Jane Lausche Air Safety Trophy for her accomplishment: Cocanougher was just 3 minutes off her estimated flight time, and only .7 gallons away from her estimated fuel consumption. When not racing, she flew across the state as Executive Director of the Associated Women’s Department of the Kentucky Farm Bureau.
See also “Early female pilot chosen for Aviation Hall of Fame,” Central Kentucky News, November 5, 2009

Betty Mosely

Betty Moseley began her private flying career when she made her first solo flight in December 1968. Encouraged by her husband who had been a military pilot in WWII, she accumulated flying hours and prepared for the 1971 Powder Puff Derby. The challenge of the race was a 2,700 mile route from Calgary, Canada to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Conducted in legs, the race was going well for Moseley until she heard a “Mayday” distress call in the last portion of the event. Another pilot had become lost and low on fuel. Moseley relayed radio messages to the distressed pilot, and guided her to a safe landing. Moseley and her plane “Smitten Kitten” forfeited a chance to win by helping another pilot; she was recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration for her action in preventing an accident. Away from air racing, Moseley was active in the Blue Grass chapter of the International Women’s Pilot Association and served as chair of the first Kentucky Aviation Week in 1972. In that same year, working with the Kentucky Air National Guard, she was authorized to train and fly in the supersonic fighter planes that the Guard was assigned. On October 18, 1972, Betty Moseley became the first woman to fly in a combat jet in Kentucky.
See more in the “Betty Moseley” entry in The Ninety-Nines: Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (Turner Publishing Company, 1996).

by becca

Fighting for Equal Teacher Rights

October 14, 2010 in 1940s-1950s, Economic history, Intellectual history

Since I’m studying to be a high school teacher, I found this website really cool. It’s all about different African American teachers teaching in Kentucky during the Civil Rights Movement.

The very first story caught my eye. It’s about Vallateen Virginia Dudley Abbington. First of all, her name is awesome. Second of all, she went against the norm and fought for equal pay rights for African American teachers. They were getting 15% less pay than white teachers. That’s a ridiculous gap between the two paychecks. The lawsuit went to the Federal Court District. The school board told Abbington that if she dropped her case they would equal the pay for all. She did and ever since then, it’s been equal.

However, I think it’s unfortunate that they had to pretty much bribe her out of what she was standing up for. I’m glad it ended up being equal in the end, but they basically disregarded what she was fighting for.

by becca

Real Life Reactions of time during Civil Rights Movement

October 14, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Social history

I found this website and thought it was awesome because you can actually listen to the stories of people that experienced hardships during the Civil Rights Movement.

I listened to Howard Bailey’s story, who said that adults, not just children, but ADULTS would throw rocks at the bus he had to ride.

It’s so sad to think that the people who should be setting a positive image for children are participating in childish acts. These poor kids who were just trying to live their lives like every other child, were being bullied no matter where they were. Most kids just have to put up with bullying while they are at school, but to be bullied all the time, no matter where you are is something that no one should ever experience.

These stories are remarkable and inspiring because these people were so strong.

The Governor who got it

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

History is replete with ironies and this report on Edward T. Breathitt highlights it. A former governor of Kentucky (1963-1967) Breathitt oral history is house in the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky. Breathitt defeated Nunn for the governorship in a race that could be considered a referendum on the civil rights movement.

Breathitt was born in Hopkinsville, Ky., into a family with a long history in politics. Breathitt County in south eastern Kentucky was named after the 11th governor who was a distant relative. His grand-father James Breathitt sr., was attorney general and one of his uncles James Breathitt jr, was a lieutenant governor.

Breathitt states that he was first consciously aware of segregation when he joined the military. He remembers talking about it with his roommate during his training to be a pilot. His roommate was from Purdue University and grew up in Evansville, IN. across the Ohio River from Henderson, Ky.  They, along with the other whites, were separate from the black cadets. It was happening in his home town but it never dawned on him to before that it was segregation. Years later he would play an important role in helping the civil rights movement in Kentucky.

Breathitt was endorsed for by then governor Bert T. Combs. Combs had signed an executive order desegregating accommodations in Kentucky and Breathitt campaign supported it. Nunn, promised to rescind the order if elected governor. As a governor Breathitt did not support George Wallace’s proposed constitutional amendment to give states and state courts sole jurisdiction over their public schools, preventing a federal law to integrate them. Without His opposition segregated schooling would no doubt have continued in Kentucky for many years

Skip to toolbar