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Afterword: Part Two

December 1, 2016 in 1950s-1960s

Decades later, one of the students who was almost as old as I and whose father had been my pediatrician pointed out to me that I was the only new black teacher who didn’t come from the all black school. The same thing happened in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the Princeton district which had just absorbed many black teachers from Lincoln Heights, an all black township. The African-American teachers remarked how surprised they were that that school district would hire another black that they did not have to– another African teacher from out of state when they had to take so many from the school they were mandated to absorb. Again, given the relatively short distance to UK, I think that my being a UK graduate, no matter how competent I was otherwise, had much to do with it. They surely did not hire me in either instance because they loved blacks. Assuredly, being named a black UK graduate carried a lot of weight in surrounding areas at that time, probably more than Harvard or Stanford, both alma maters of my two daughters. (Sm.)

On a personal note, UK prepared me well in the areas of English, psychology and speech whose refined methods I have subsequently continued to use in teaching, workshopping, seminar consulting and in other areas of life. I have used writing most of all, teaching it, writing letters, long editorials, poetry (some of which is used in WKU’s Honors classes). I have helped former students win many writing contests and scholarships over the years. I have stressed it with my own children at home who, though both attorneys, write for pleasure for the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, the DoDo, and more. One who now teaches writing herself became an author whose very first novel was published by W.W. Norton. She has won lucratively prestigious contests and has published many short stories. Though we are not Pulitzer Prize winners by any means, we are a writing family! Barring God’s assistance, all started because of the instruction in writing I received, cultivated, and practiced from being at UK.

I would be remiss without mentioning the Kentucky Education Reform Act and how UK writing instruction helped me to navigate that initiative with relative ease. KERA, in the early years, was heavily reliant upon writing in all academic areas, every single one of them. While other colleges and universities across the state had been teaching phonemics, UK had been teaching essay writing. When KERA came along, those institutions who had not taught writing had left their graduates at a disadvantage. Many panicked, others scoffed at so much writing. Finally, the state had to give up. Too bad. Now I fear that students who have not had writing are going to be at a major disadvantage once again! I always prefaced the students in my class with the notion that “writing is the most important subject in school,” and so it is. Almost everything in our society is based on written law.

To conclude, the respect that I gained for being UK alumni, the skills I perfected over the years as a result of stellar teachers, the friends I made, etc. all propelled me to develop strategies to deal with being a minority able to make the best of it in a rapidly changing world. It definitely helped me to be named a Kentucky Distinguished Educator and being named to the Kentucky Teachers Hall of Fame and Semi-Finalist in the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Whenever and wherever I go, I shall always be a Kentucky Woman who was born, reared, and educated to become a survivalist during the critical times of the civil rights era and beyond.

My deepest desire is that these memories become important tools to future generations of all races and nationalities as they attempt to read and to understand the nuances and the flavor of the times present.

Roll Call of Memorable Teachers

November 29, 2016 in 1950s-1960s

Writing this e-memoir has made me pleasurably exercise my memory of 50 plus years ago to credit those whose influence contributed to life as I live it today. I gained strength, knowledge, and skills through most of my professors and enjoyed recalling the time I spent with almost each of them. Others whom I enjoyed existed, but I can’t recall all names or initials. I have rated them on a five star basis, with five being the highest. The rating is based on such factors as (1) how much I learned, (2 ) how useful what they taught has been throughout my life, (3) how much I enjoyed their teaching and them, and, finally, and perhaps most importantly, (4) how great I felt about myself after emerging from the time I spent with them.

Again, I am most grateful for the experience of getting to write about them as most are probably not around any longer. They were in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on, but what they imparted, what they shared with me is still alive, and I am sure that they would be proud of that. May they rest in peace as I continue to pass on to others what they did for me.

“…terrified of her…”

***        Dr. V.G…. tall, slender teacher of upper level English who spent a great deal of time running back and forth down McVey Hall after class had started to get materials that she had left in her office.  Dr. VG was a very difficult teacher who was a stickler for grammar in written papers. She favored one particular student, very obviously, and it really  irritated   the remainder of the class. Poor girl, she always had to run as soon as class had ended. Obviously, there was some outside connection.  On my last paper in her class, I received a very good grade with very positive comments though she did not let on when it came my time to discuss and defend what I had written. Gaining access to the paper and reviewing the grade were  pleasant surprises. She was a good teacher from whom I learned quite a bit.  Down through the years, I copied a couple of my returned graded and commented upon papers from her class and used them in my own classes with my students. (U.K).

***      Dr. T…. one of my College of Education professors, constructed an exam from an educational magazine that I had found extremely interesting.  Naïve me gasped when I saw it and said surprisingly–even to myself–“I just read this!” He was soooo taken aback and embarrassed.  When I questioned him about receiving a “B” on the exam, his answer was that I should have done so much better than anyone else in the class because I had been pre-exposed. I accepted that line of reasoning, although I believed I had done a very good job better than the “B.”. I don’t know till this day why he could not have given me an oral or something else. Plus, he should have been proud that I was reading the same professional material as he. And why was he taking the material from a magazine?  I did get an “A” from his class, however, regardless of the “B” on the exam.

***      Dr. T…. had students who were assigned to her humanities class terrified of her. A Caucasian from Vanderbilt University on loan to Fisk, she definitely exhibited a superiority attitude.  Case one in point:  When I first went to Fisk, she was not a teacher that I remembered hearing about from the returnees, nor was she one that I recognized by name from student discussions. The administration assigned almost all sophomores to one big room and then divided them by a roll call among three different teachers.  Guess who got assigned to her class?  I became the luck of the draw, of course.  I had become friends with another transfer (Andrea) from Los Angeles, so wanting to stay together, I motioned excitedly at her across the room to volunteer to come with me. She, excited at the same idea, agreed and volunteered. I noticed all of the other students stared strangely at the two of us. But when they called one student’s name, she fainted (or maybe pretended to faint).  Everyone in the room rushed toward her, and she had to be carried out. After we went to the dining room for lunch, we heard about the repu tation of t he  teacher that was so feared that a student passed out when she heard her name as being in that class.  According to the students, Dr. T. was really prejudiced and held many Fiskites in low esteem. Too late!  Fisk frowned on changing professors. Her students had to buy a stack of paperback books taller than they were, and she graded very harshly. My friend Andrea really struggled in that class and blamed me to the day I left Fisk for excitedly urging her on to get into the class with me.

When I applied to my writing in Dr. T’s class, the pattern which Mrs. Z at UK had taught: “Title, thesis statement, purpose statement, etc.” written on the top of my paper, she inquired in conference as to where I had learned that. When I told her that I was a transfer student from UK, she seemed really interested and asked me whom my teacher had been.  When I told her Ms. Z, she got further interested and told me that she knew Ms. Z and that they had been friends a long time ago.  She gained much respect for me and really helped me from then on out.  I got some of the few good grades on papers from her class  Case in point two: Later on during the semester, she, herself,  became ill in class one day and passed out. When the administrators rushed in to  decide where to take her hurriedly,  and discussed that the nearest place would be Meharry Medical School just right across the street from Fisk,  she rallied up fast and said, “Oh, no,” please take me to Vanderbilt. (Meharry Medical School was a black facility then, and may still be today.)  Fisk students mused about that as a sign of her validated  prejudice. I don’t know quite how to take that, because, after all, part of her work time was spent at Vanderbilt, and she may have had friends there. But her difficult class, various comments she made, sometimes unrealistic grading procedures, emotional distance from the students, etc.were probably almost sure symbols of her prejudice towards blacks. (Fisk U.)

“Eat, Drink, and Be Discreet”

*  Professor P. was described in the very first section of this memoir as the young professor who said to my shock,” Hell, I don’t have to work these damn problems; all I have to do is give them.”  The class was too large, and he never offered any office hours. That class was probably viewed as a stepping stone to him or just a temporary way to receive a salary. (U.K.).

*  Dean R.,was a large man who wore a very prominent nose that for some reason or another I had difficulty ignoring.  He spoke in a monotone and he, too, possessed an “attitude,” probably because he had a double role as both dean and teacher, too.  He taught education.  Having transferred from UK where the classes were large and some teachers hardly knew one was there, I had missed more classes than he liked.  Of course, I was in the dorm studying, but he did not know or care about that; he just wanted student attendance.  He sent word by the other students that I was about to be sent home if I didn’t stop missing class.  Of course, my mom wouldn’t stand for that, and never wanting to disappoint her I wouldn’t,  either, so I started to attend class  (which was not all that interesting or informative,) more regularly (all the time). I never knew why he did not send me a private memo or etc., instead of broadcasting it to the class and sending verbal word by students, some of whom I did not know.  All I can remember is “Dean R said this or Dean R. said that.”  Maybe I stared at him too much. (Fisk U.).

***** Dean G…. Her motto to the young ladies that she hawked to keep in line was “eat, drink, but be discreet.”  And boy did she mean it.  She could be seen monitoring young ladies as she drove around campus and the neighborhood in her car.  She was everywhere, knew everything, and  did she keep everyone in line! Did not mind compelling those could not keep the school conduct codes to pack up and go home to wherever in the world that was. (Fisk U.).

*** Dr. M…. was a dull middle aged advanced poetry teacher whose classroom procedures consisted of his going up and down the aisles over and over again from a particular posed question until it could finally be answered; then, he would start all over again with another question.  The classroom was filled with grad students, and every time he called upon me, I literally froze. I never knew why I was so intimidated by him.  I had a friend who sat across the room and who took innocent pleasure by all of this amusement. We always joked about it after we left class and the uncomfortable feeling was over. Dr.  M. was a really revered professor by the other professors in the department because he had published voluminously. Such consecutive publishing is a rather common event among professors of today, especially in the Department of English, but it was rather rare then. (U.K.)

***** Dr. V.…Not sure about her nationality, if that matters, but she was not an original American Caucasian.  She taught speech, and was my Stagecrafters sponsor, (Stagecrafters were composed of a group of drama buffs who did the campus stage productions and spent much time at The Little Theater where the performances were held. She was an older lady who really knew and practiced her craft.  I really enjoyed her class, but years later regretted not being more forthcoming with her.  She made the mistake of telling us that she graded on improvement.  So, with my big strong voice, I decided to wait to near the end of the class to reveal it.  I murmured almost up to the end, and she kept insisting that I needed to be a bit louder.  So for the final, I bellowed, and she jumped up out of the middle of the classroom where she was sitting and grading and ran up to the stage, red as a beet.  I was a tiny, unsuspecting thing then, unlike now.  She grabbed me and hugged me, and said to the class,“Can you believe this voice came out of this little thing? “and I got the big “A,” of course.  She and her mother (who had to be in excess of 100 years as she, herself, had to be in her 70’s) could be seen frequently, especially on Sundays, walking together around the Fisk University neighborhood area.  A very picturesque pair, indeed, as both had beautiful, snowy white flowing hair. In later life I realized that the situation in hiding the real strength of my voice was a bit deceptive and I truly regretted it. I used her material (that I modified, of course) down through the years until I retired.  She did a great job!  (Fisk U.).

****Dr. B.  another speech teacher, did not have much personality, but he really imparted information that put me light years above other teachers in the different teaching environments in which I found myself.  He gave us the basics of why people talk the way they do and stressed knowing the (“International Phonetic Alphabet.”)  He taught the class how to transcribe, and that was very helpful to me. (U.K.).

*****Mr. S… my second professor of English, was “the bomb” as the students of today characterize teachers  whom they adore, and for whom they  behave and perform well.  He taught me most of the fundamentals of essay writing, made inspiring comments, and graded rationally.  I can’t say enough good things about him;  I have already dealt at length with a description of Mr. S. in earlier parts of the e-memoir. (U.K.).

*****Ms. D… a very young psychology lab teacher from Turkey was perhaps the most attractive to the male students.  The guys in class drooled over her. What I remember most about her was the delayed auditory feedback experiment she had me participate in before the whole class.  She put the big earphones on me and had me read. The southern drawl that came out entertained the whole class.  She really enjoyed it, also. Before that experiment I was totally unaware of my drawl, a trait that my mother had noted about others. She was just one more professor that I received a hug from, when hugging college students was a rare and almost non existent occurrence in college.  I wish I had a video tape of my performance on that exercise today. (U.K.).

**** Biology and Botany were taught by a team of teachers—all male–in a large auditorium-type room. with a runway type section that divided the classroom. One of the teachers, a tall graying professor always insisted as he walked to the edge of the end of the runway that the end of the world was on its way because “man’s head was getting too big.” (”U.K.}

** Dr. B., an older German instructor, had no personality at all.  He never smiled, joked, or even acted like he was enjoying what he did.  He was my music appreciation teacher. All he did was play compositions on the stereo and point his pencil at the different movement changes.  Not especially a classical music enthusiast, I can’t believe, however, I remember Verdi’s Aida, the different movements etc., and have some minimal memory of the other composers and their operas. I am still fond of Korsakov’s rendition of Sherazade and even answered a question that a traveling graduate student of music couldn’t remember the answer to in church, recently. Therefore, I must have learned and remembered a few things from his class down through the years. In addition, I shall never forget the day that  I still had the thin, classroom score booklet open while he was involved in  a rare instance of explaining something, when he walked up to me and snatched the booklet from my hands as a symbol for me to pay better  attention.  I instinctively stood up and snatched the book back to the amazement and subsequent amazement of all in the class including myself and him.  All of us were supposed to be sitting quietly listening.  I really scared myself, but I had never had anyone treat me that crudely. (Fisk U.)

“Milk is only Good for Baby Cows”

***** Dr. Z…. again, a springboard teacher for the concept of organization in writing has been mentioned three times before, once as being a friend of Dr. T. at Fisk, another as prompting me to convert from the high school English notion of being mostly about the nouns, pronouns, etc. of grammar and the reading of literature,( sans any writing) to primarily writing.  I received my first three “bad grades” in writing at the University in her class.  She acknowledged my improvement after that by gently and gradually “upping” my scores.   She had shocked me into knowing that I must work harder, since I had not ever made anything below an “A” in high school English.  She had us writing purpose statements as well as thesis and audience statements long before KERA.  She also made sure that we had an at least three part sentence (not topic) outline to accompany each paper. Her methods and mild temperament served me well throughout my entire undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate years. I became a master of successful structure which was later on  complemented by Mr. S’s emphasis on logic and argumentation. Dr. Z was a pleasant middle aged lady who always talked about the advent of television as a “wasteland.”  She always reminded us that she did not have one in her home. (UK).

***** Dr. H…. my health teacher, was a slight, wiry man who was against virtually everything.  He was probably in his mid 50’s when I had him.  He was a very entertaining teacher who insisted that a prevailing myth that whoever ate fish and meat together would die was all wrong.  He also insisted that cow’s milk was only good for baby cows. After all of these years, and all of the PDR’s, Merck Health manuals, the Internet, etc., I still have that text and still consult it from time to time.  It is what I start out with first, even today,  in trying to determine what is wrong—health wise—when a member of my family is ill.  I have included its cover.

**** Dr. I…. one of my history teachers, was a jolly old St. Nicholas like person who licked his lips and winked when he had made a great personal point. I have mentioned him earlier. Dr. I was a good teacher, a good lecturer. He was fair and likeable.  I did well in his class.

**** Dr.C.. was my Individual Differences psychology instructor.  I have mentioned him before also as having been somewhat prejudiced and was always talking about race and inferiority as far as I.Q. was concerned.  He was the one I blurted out in class to in defense of such notions as characterizing people by I.Q.  He was probably responsible for my taking quite a few classes in giftedness as a graduate student.  He would probably be shocked to learn that one of my own children (though both gifted and talented), one is a MENSAN who once belonged to TRIPLE NINE,  to the Kentuckiana Mensan Society as early as high school, and received their scholarship. She started an online black Mensan Society in college which included several other black Mensans. (Just making a point that is needed in today’s society.) Surprisingly there is much discussion like those of Dr. C.still. One only needs view  Quora Digest online or Stefan Molyneux on YouTube or read such authors as Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, or Richard Herrnstein to see how ingrained those ideas are today.

*** Dr. P…. was another one of my psychology teachers from whom I Iearned much and enjoyed tremendously in so doing. A blustery, entertaining teacher, he was all about hypnosis.  One hilarious incident in his class occurred when he looked t the back of the room to see one young man sitting exceptionally still.  Dr. P. told us all that the student was in a state of hypnosis, and that it had happened because of the necktie that he (Dr. P.), was wearing.  So, he rushed to the back of the classroom where the student was seated and startled him in doing so only to discover that the student had dozed off to sleep. The student jumped, and the class roared.

Afterword: Part One

November 28, 2016 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s

This is part of a series presented by Mrs. Angela Alexander Townsend – see the full list of her articles here.


Attending the University of Kentucky at the time period in which I did was a genuinely exhilarating and profound experience for me. I remain forever grateful that I sensitively yielded to my mother’s strong, yet almost silent suggestion that I choose UK as a springboard to complete my higher education. My mother Thedders Alexander proved once again to be a smart woman, indeed. I must admit that recalling the trials and regular occurrences was sometimes painful, sometimes pleasant, sometimes laughable and even sometimes therapeutic, but I take unfathomable pleasure in knowing that with God’s help, I emerged as a survivor.

Though the University was rife with a kind of prejudice that I was not at first prepared for, I soon realized that it was only mirroring the national scene and in many instances one in scope of an international one when it comes to the condition and treatment of people of color the world over. Some difficulties were not delivered in a consciously intentional manner, but as ones of “benign neglect” so to speak. But at the same time no matter the cause, the reality of the hurtful results was often the same. I realized, also, that many of those obstacles that I experienced, then as now, weren’t going away anytime soon. It, therefore, became my challenge to learn how to deal effectively and successfully with those hurdles and to develop successful strategies to minimize the deleterious effects. (Forrest Gump’s “Life is like a box of chocolates…” is right on.)

In a less than ideal racial environment, one does not ever know just what s/he might be confronted with next. Even at the predominantly black college I attended, at some points I observed “carry over” prejudices among some faculty members and students.. That environment, too, was like “America’s Star Spangled Scramble” where everything and everybody is ranked, i.e. An A is not good enough unless it is an A+, etc. One female student complained that a male student did not know which fork to use first. Would-be-campus-Queens and their courts members were characterized and established by color, hair, and money. Many others were dogged by negative oral conversational comments and by notes of degradation scrawled underneath their yearbook pictures if they did not fit the ingrained American standards of beauty or success. A few Caucasian teachers imported from Vanderbilt or on loan from other colleges demonstrated overt instances of disdaining superiority.

Now, be all of that as may, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share my part of the larger string of events during the early civil rights era and to be fortunate enough to share it multifacetedly. Indeed, being a UK graduate during that period and having it rounded out by what was missing at a different institution was almost a “study abroad” experience, one that has served me well at various times in life. Attending UK, the state flagship school known for its revered sports teams (heaven forbid though all white) and the fact that “I had endured through acceptance,” made me a rather respected anomaly back home.

My now ex-husband, a sports enthusiast year around, observed that he didn’t personally know anybody who had gone to UK. Only half joking when I tell people that he dated me early on because I had gone to UK, and that he probably envisioned our ongoing return to sports events, especially the basketball ones, is that precisely, only half joke. Maybe not. (sm.) When he wasn’t at a game at WKU, his alma mater, he was at U of L, etc. and followed them on out-of town games. When he wasn’t physically present at a game, he was jumping up and down at one in front of the television.

yearbook from Bowling Green High School, KY

Page from author’s copy of the 1969  Beacon, Bowling Green High School, Kentucky

A year after I had been graduated and had tired of working for the government, I accepted employment from Bowling Green High School (BGHS), the largest high school in the city. BGHS was formerly all white a merely year two before and was under obligation to accept some of the black teachers from High Street High which was previously all black. As an outsider to that definition, I was hired. A few others at the black school were not.

In addition, as the youngest and most inexperienced of all among both whites and blacks at BGHS, I was assigned to the “best” and highest level classes. (See excerpt from the BGHS yearbook, the Beacon, to the right – click on the image to see a larger version.)  I never realized the gravity of such things until years later.  I was assigned to senior English and I do recall that it was “A” English as they were then labeled ABC etc.They did not use labels like college prep and Honors English until years later.  I did not realize the competitiveness for senior English or Advanced English until I became Department head years later at Greenwood High.

I attribute much of that assignment to having been graduated from UK. The summer before, UK had sent an article of Dean’ s listed graduates by name to the local newspaper, and I was the only one listed as having a “perfect 4.0” as they described it.

News clipping about UK Dean's List 1965

Educators for Integrated Education

February 10, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Intellectual history, Primary source, Social history

Book cover, Freedom on the Border

Freedom on the Border

As a result of the constitutional affirmation of Kentucky’s Day Law in 1908, schools throughout Kentucky continued to be segregated. The developing movement to end segregated education, however, came in two distinct waves, according to oral history accounts in Fosl and K’Meyer’s “Freedom on the Border”, with the first beginning in the 1930s, and the second in 1950. Initially, active members of the NAACP made the decision to target the integration of education beginning at the highest level first. Thus, medical education and graduate level integration were of major concern to actions toward segregation.

The second wave of segregation, beginning in 1950, was recognized as “massive resistance” to the numerous, public grade schools that had yet to see reform. Schools began to rapidly desegregate in the coming decade with nearly 92% of all Kentucky schools having been integrated by 1964, however policies of implementing “freedom of choice” plans in schools would not contribute to complete integration. These plans involved students deciding where they would like to attend school and often put African American youths at risk because of deeply-rooted prejudices throughout the White community. These prejudices were not only espoused from major racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan but from within average families. As a result of the Cold War, white supremacists traditions, such as the defense of segregation, could carry on at the familial level as perpetrators eradicated any threat of communism.

During the second major wave in support of desegregation, models for the movement emerged such as Audrey Grevious. Grevious worked at the Kentucky Village, formerly Greendale Reformatory, for delinquent children. This campus was segregated in terms of race and gender. Integration efforts throughout the community had already begun in the form of stand-ins, sit-ins, marches, etc. Grevious, during an oral history interview, discusses the fact that while growing up, she lived under the confines of segregation but wasn’t unhappy because she possessed no knowledge of any other kind of life. Although Grevious “didn’t know any better to be unhappy”, her attendance of a conference in New York drastically changed her perspective and motivated her to become radically involved with the movement for integration in Lexington. Grevious became an educator because the smartest people she had ever known were teachers and she wanted to give back to her community and those who had prepared her “to live in a world that wasn’t split in the middle”. Her goal became to prepare her students in case “the change ever came” – that change being integration. She also acknowledged the fact that she “could not ask others to make a change and while she worked in a segregated environment” herself.

Photo of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious and others share their stories and memories of educational segregation but she illustrates an important point in her interview that no one tries to remember the negative that happened. In summary, Black youths, of both genders, enrolled in public education during the movement for integration were placed under the scrutiny of society yet they received immense support from within their own community and were under the guidance of many strong-willed educators such as Grevious who would continue to work for the permanence of equality for all in Kentucky schools.

*********

Sources:

Wikipedia contributors. “Cold War.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

The History Makers. “Civic Makers: Audrey Grevious.” The HistoryMakers. Web. 10 February 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.

“KET | Living the Story | The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Glossary, Audrey Grevious. Web. 10 February 2013.

 

 

Perspectives of Teachers on Integration in Kentucky

April 25, 2011 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Perspectives of Teachers on Integration in Kentucky

The integration of the nation’s public school systems, as mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, caused a furor among most Southern states.  The general strategy that was established early on was to comply with the decision as slowly as possible through delay after delay, and violent incidents were not uncommon.  One Southern state that escaped the resulting upheaval was Kentucky.

From the outset, the outlook for integration in Kentucky was one of cautious optimism.  According to A. Lee Coleman, even the governor of the state predicted that Kentucky’s schools would be the easiest to integrate in the South; this sentiment would have arguably been political suicide had it not been correct, especially in states such as Alabama or Mississippi.  In his article in the Journal of Negro Education, written in 1955 – and which also gives the impression of being written for the purpose of encouraging his fellow educators – Coleman echoes the governor’s optimism, stating a number of compelling reasons as to why he believes this to be the case, which include the blindingly fast integration of colleges in Kentucky and the general lack of strong feelings among the white population.

Even in the “easiest state to integrate,” however, integration would not be without its challenges.  The main worry that Coleman seemed to have was that progress, while more substantial than the rest of the South, would prove to be positively glacial.  Legal wrangling over several state laws and their interaction with the Supreme Court decision, along with an administrative decision to ease the state into integration slowly to allow the population a chance to adjust, promised to slow the process to a painful crawl.  All of this can likely be attributed to the normal operating speed of a governing body whose capitol building is not under threat of being razed by angry citizens, rather than a concerted effort to delay the process as in the other Southern states.

Twelve years after Coleman had published his hopeful piece in the Journal of Negro Education, Eddie W. Morris published his own article regarding integration in the same publication.  By then, the integration of the student body of the public schools in Kentucky had been achieved very smoothly, with no especially major incidents.  Unfortunately, a problem which had not been predicted by Coleman had arisen:  the integration of the teachers and faculty.

Those Black teachers that had not lost their jobs outright – which effectively included most of those without training or tenure – had almost all taken a demotion when they were integrated with White faculty at other facilities.  Additionally, new Black teachers had not been hired in a number of years.  While budgetary concerns may have been to blame for at least some of these incidents (due to an effective surplus of teaching staff), the fact that the Black faculty members were being treated in such a manner almost exclusively indicated that integration had not been fully completed for everyone involved in the public school system.

Morris blamed this lack of faculty integration on several factors.  He asserted that administrators believed that black teachers in positions of power over white students would cause an uproar amongst parents – even though he says that there was no indication whatsoever that this would be the case – as well as a belief that black teachers were less qualified than their White counterparts.  He also said that prejudice among leadership councils on a community level who influenced the people on the school board played a part.  His plea was to keep qualified teachers in the Bluegrass, as many Black teachers were leaving for other states and better opportunities due to this treatment.

While Kentucky was easily the most open and accepting of the Southern states of integration, it was most certainly not integrated without its share of problems, as indicated by the continuing discrimination against Black faculty members over a decade after the initial decision.  Even though the violence, chaos, and terror that marked the event in other Southern states did not surface in the Bluegrass, it is important not to allow the dramatic events elsewhere to overshadow the challenges and triumphs of integration in Kentucky.

References:

A. Lee Coleman, “Desegregation of Public Schools in Kentucky – One Year Afterward,” The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 1955: 248-257.

Eddie W. Morris, “Facts and Factors of Faculty Desegregation in Kentucky,” The Journal of Negro Education 36:1 (Winter, 1967) 75-77.

 

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