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Culture Shock! (continued)

October 5, 2016 in 1960s-1970s

“That’s just ridiculous!” I exclaimed loudly, beginning to shed my usually shy, intimidated mantle.

I did so to my own surprise—without any statistics or the names of students that I could call to back me up. Such an outburst even jolted my “Individual Difference” teacher of psychology. He had just made the statement (while talking about I.Q.) that no “Negro” that he ever had in class had made above a C. Surprisingly to me and maybe even to him, the graduate students in class began to “get my back” about his contentions of race and I.Q. by quoting all kinds of statistics and studies that proved otherwise. The professor shut up. In the end I received a B out of the class though I strongly felt that I deserved better.

“I’ll bet that I can trace the roots of all of you back to England.”

My European History teacher, Mr. I., on the first day of class of an exceptionally large group, canvassed the class with eye scan and winked at us all as he began with, “I’ll bet that I can trace the roots of all of you back to England.” I am sure that he did that for effect at that time — or maybe not. Only one other black person was in that class, a commuting student by the name of Wanda, the first and only that landed in a class with me though there were other commuting Negro students on campus. She and I got to be the best of friends, and years later, she became my bridesmaid. As we were leaving class, I said of the professor, “Did you hear him?” She replied rather quickly: “Oh, you know they don’t consider us as people. so he wasn’t talking about us.” That was a common belief among many blacks — and rightly so — considering what had happened during slavery. But I intuitively liked the man then, and after my watching televised Roots, and studying intensely Louis Lomax’s Freedomways, I felt more assured that Dr. I. must have been on the level.

Then as now, students at all levels tend to clump together by race in large settings.

The next semester there was a small influx of more out-of town, and some out of state off campus black students for some reason or other. The few from the North seemed to exhibit an air of superiority over those of us Kentuckians as we shared the same break table—dining for some—at the student union building. Then as now, students at all levels tend to clump together by race in large settings. The uppity ones from out of town who dressed differently, danced better, spoke with a northern twang, and won at card games that they played all day long were soon on their way back home after a semester or two and were the last ones to register the immediately following semester.

They had students register by GPA.

I have been to other colleges and universities and have seen registration processes, but never have I seen what the University did one year I was enrolled. They had students register by GPA. What an embarrassment to all students—white and black– who did not have decent grades!! No more secrets, no more lies, no more pretenses. The students, parents, and others probably howled so much about that experiment until I don’t think the University ever tried that again. Probably to all who didn’t realize as I did (having had access as a honest and trusted student worker to all grades from the Registrar’s office) that some of those students did not even garner a point! Hard to imagine. So nosy Wanda and I walked by and viewed their comeuppance–so to speak—We saw those black students who played cards all day long as well as whites who tried to sound ultra intelligent in classroom discussions in those low GPA lines. I thought that was an awful thing for them to experience.

White music, white dancers, basically a white event.

Another element of culture shock for me involved the street dances where very few blacks danced, giving the scarcity of match mates. At that time students of color didn’t dare dance with those out of their culture. Large segments of the street were blocked off around Memorial Coliseum where whites danced and blacks for the most part looked on. The experience was an intriguing first for me though I did not participate in that activity. White music, white dancers, basically a white event.

A Smoking Campus

UK was one smoking campus culture as almost everyone smoked. I don’t imagine that I should have been surprised, Kentucky being a tobacco state and all, but it was shocking to see some pied female professors break out a cigarette when walking across campus, light up and begin to puff. I didn’t begin that terrible habit until I was older and transferred to a college in Tennessee for a couple of semesters for the explicit reason of having fun that I could not have at UK with dances, sorority and fraternity events governed by overarching remnants of grandfather clauses, etc.

Culture Shock!

October 4, 2016 in 1950s-1960s

Note:  It became my realization early on that “apartness” often produces shock waves among citizens of the same general culture when one arm does not fully know or understand how the lives of the other arm differs or function.  And, sometimes the less dominant arm expects that the more dominant arm lives (lives) of perfection as standard bearers. The advent of ever-changing, ubiquitous television has served to make for a more realistic transparency over the years.


Generic Freshman Adjustment Plus Racial Overtones, Innuendos, etc.

For me, it was both during my initial on-campus stay at the University of Kentucky. On the one hand was the distance of being many miles away from home reached only by a long and laborious Greyhound Bus ride with quite a few layovers if I had an emergency. (Most undergraduate students were not allowed cars at that time and flying home into Bowling Green was not a reality then.)

The very physical freshman adjustment was rather generic and can be thought of as being separate and basically devoid of the racial concerns that the civil rights era presented. On the other hand loomed unmistakable “in-your-face, hard-to-dismiss”
racial occurrences. This post in this series on campus life as a Negro in the early 1960’s addresses both as sometimes one gives context for the other and thus presents a “double whammy” with which to concurrently contend.

Questions I pondered often … Were my expectations of what college life should be like on a predominantly white campus that were totally out of sync with the realities of that time? Or had I been sheltered too long and too often by a large helicoptering family of kin, church, and school? Or was it the University and its environs that were so different that I had every right to exist in wonderment at my newly-found experiences? In hindsight, I suppose the real answers encompass all of the preceding.

“Hell, I don’t have to work these damn problems; all I have to do is give them.”

To begin with and to this day, I continue to be amazed at how any of us survived the first week of all day long and all night long screaming sirens sounded from Good Samaritan Hospital located right next door and up closely to the freshmen dormitories for girls. I am not sure which institution came first, but juxtaposition was a “Very Bad Idea.” Took me forever to become oblivious.

Then there were Limestone and Upper Streets, main thoroughfares which students needed to cross several times a day. I stood in shock as longtime students just crossed these streets wherever, whenever, and however without stopping or looking out for cars as though they, themselves, were non-destructible. And the next miracle was that the traffic seemed to expect it. Believe it or not the cars slowed down or stopped as though everyone expected that phenomenon! As a young person of color, I was afraid to take that risk as I had read about too many Southern tragedies involving my kind in similar circumstances.

I was literally beside myself when I finally found my advanced algebra class, and encountered a huge auditorium-sized room with a young professor accompanied by two proctors who monitored the center and outside aisles to assist students as needed. Of course, and as usual, I was the only non white student present. I struggled with that class! An entering test score put me there, but I certainly did not belong and as I would find out later, many others didn’t either.

Most of my math mates had come from large, highly ranked schools with advanced math classes like calculus and trigonometry. My minority school offered only Algebra II as the top math class in which I had made an A. Not enough. Curiously enough, what I remembered most about this class was an event that took place after the exam and our return from Christmas break. Some students complained that the answer posted in the display case in the hallway was not the answer they could attain. After the young teacher struggled at a front board to show them how to get the answer, and couldn’t, he turned crimson, faced the class, and exclaimed: “Hell, I don’t have to work these damn problems; all I have to do is give them.” Needless to say, I heard later that he was placed on probation one semester for awarding too many F’s, and still later terminated. Unheard of by any teacher I had ever known.

Strewn Panties, Bras, etc. A Regular on Botanical Gardens Pathway

Socially, I was nonplussed to see panties, and bras scattered all over Botanical Gardens most mornings before the cleanup crews arrived. I suppose they were leftovers from the night before. Botanical Gardens then was a beautiful, large conversation-like sculptured pit with beautiful (some exotic) plants and flowers. It contained concrete benches that separated academic building on campus and were probably designed to give those who passed through a place of repose. I had to go through that enclave to reach my freshman English and speech classes. I finally became accustomed to seeing such paraphernalia each dewy morning that I had to go to those classes.

Botanical Garden photo from UK 1960 yearbook

Photo of UK’s Botanical Gardens, page 7 from the Kentuckian 1960


(To be continued)

I Ain’t Jumpin’ No Rope

September 22, 2016 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s

Picture the landscape and its undoubtedly accompanying collective prejudicial attitude during the early years of the civil rights movement.  That was the case with the University of Kentucky in 1961—the time when I naively fearlessly embarked upon my college journey.

It had been only six years since the horrendous death of young Emmett Till who had the audacity to whistle at a southern white woman (August 28, 1955).   His awful demise at the hands of southern Klansmen and others rocked the nation.   Also, President John F. Kennedy, a beacon of hope to “Negroes” –as we were called then, the country over– would be assassinated in 1963 during my tenure at UK, just two years before my graduation in 1965.  Kennedy’s death affected me in many ways; however, one was most salient in that environment. Because many Caucasians on campus had viewed him and his brother Robert, the attorney general, as being in alliance with or overly sympathetic towards Negroes, some uttered negative statements under their breath about the tragedy while others  more blatantly negative,  made overtly disparaging statements. within my earshot.

“Negroes” were not valued, obviously, during those times; their lives did not matter—then as now–in some circles, and most were considered intellectually inferior.  If one did perform well mentally, s/he was hailed as an aberration.  That was the mindset.  Thus, anyone who demonstrated academic or intellectual prowess which debunked such notions was lionized by the “Negro” society in the same manner as were outstanding athletes such as Joe Louis or Jackie Robinson.

“Antidistablishmentarianism.” *  “The belligerent astigmatic anthropologist, annihilated, innumerable chrysanthemum.” We were so proud of 12 year-old Gloria Lockerman of Baltimore when she correctly spelled that word and that sentence on the “$64,000 Question,” an extremely popular quiz show that aired in prime time from 1955 to 1958.  The African American communities were inundated with pride.  As a young female student myself, I was tremendously impressed as well as influenced, and to this day, I have never forgotten Gloria, the word, the sentence or the spelling.

Angela Alexander Townsend headshot

Angela Alexander Townsend at the University of Kentucky

Again, those were the times, the overarching collective perspective, and a few of the events that defined the era. Each always call upon my related memory of an old lady in our neighborhood who would shuffle slowly out to her porch each day and plop down in her glider and blow disappointingly heartedly. When asked, “How are you today, Granny?” She invariably replied: “I ain’t jumpin’ no rope, honey.” Similarly, my attitude about going to the University of Kentucky to thrive in an environment with such a conglomerate of whites who had been to the best schools (many befriended at those schools with each other}, had participated in so many advanced courses, had been beneficiaries of many more monetary resources and experiences, and whose teachers valued and sometimes catered to those who were their mirror images, was simply overwhelming. I didn’t feel as though I could jump some of the ramifications of that rope either, despite the fact that I had been class vice-president, president of the student council, runner-up to Miss Homecoming and valedictorian. I had real doubts about making that transition from a small, all Negro high school in a small town to the largest, well known white university in the state. I had been taught to never let my reach overwhelmingly and unrealistically exceed my grasp, thus I learned to be realistic about both. My expectations at that point were to just survive.

Rhetorical question: Are most blacks of today still considered intellectually inferior despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary?


Footnote

Gloria Lockerman became one of the most famous people in the U.S. after spelling ‘antidisestablishmentarianism.’ “There was a slightly racist aspect to people’s fascination with her: This was before the civil rights movement gained momentum, and Gloria Lockerman was black. Her brilliance was in direct contrast to many Americans’ stereotypes of black people, and there is no question that in countless living rooms, amazement was expressed not only that a girl of her age could spell the word, but that a girl of her color could do it.” Note: some have her hailing from Chicago not Baltimore. Bob Green, “Fame is Certainly not Gloria’s Game.” (December 09, 1987) Chicago Tribune; also see, “Has Anyone Seen Gloria Lockerman? (November 24, 1987) Chicago Tribune.
Return to text.

“All’s Well That Ends Well” Or Is it?

September 6, 2016 in 1950s-1960s

Fall of 1961.

It was during the days of the University of Kentucky’s legendary Wildcat Coach Adolph Rupp (who wanted no Negroes* on his team) and one of the most famed players of all time: Cotton Nash.

On the eve of school opening, UK’s incoming freshmen at Boyd, Patterson, and Jewell Halls combined into one huge sea of young white female faces—excepting one–in the lobby of Boyd Hall. That one exception was a little dark, shy girl from south-central Bowling Green, Kentucky, who had never before been away from home, who had never before gone to an integrated school, who had never before been in a class with more than 25 students, who had never before been intimidated by students putting on such airs, posturing, using terms such as “rush” and names of connected sororities that she had never before heard. That poor wretched little creature who had survived the long ride from her safe home haven to this large formidable institution, who had bravely wished her family goodbye without encountering a single kith of her color, and who had unpacked to join the others in a university-planned welcoming event, my dears, be me.

They were singing lyrics to a melody that I had only heard but never really listened to that closely. As this was the state Flagship school, the song was the Kentucky State Song “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night.” Yes, I had heard the melody and knew the first fifteen words, but as the 13th word approached me, and I looked around that lobby filled with people not like me at all (the face of the students hadn’t been changed yet as it was only 1961 at UK), I suddenly had a horrible, paralytic realization. People had been singing “darkies” all this time. And
as hard working, underprivileged, abused people, they were supposed to be gay? And as the only darkie I had seen all day and the only darkie in that surrounding, I was supposed to understand and respect their assumed mindset of feeling gay?

Today, I can’t believe that I was the one that was embarrassed, though I can’t believe that I should have been. I was certainly humiliated to the point of tears as I stumbled back up to the third floor at the end of the hallway to my unoccupied room with the names Angela Alexander and Anna Catherine Scott written on the side of the door. All of the other rooms had two or three persons entering as occupying roommates; I had no one but myself. My thoughts were that the other name was made up, that there was no such person as this Anna C. Scott. My fears were substantiated by the fact that there was no Anna C. Scott the next day either, but I would not divulge to my mother when she called (and who wanted me to attend UKin the first place) as I did not want to worry her as the adult pleaser that then I was.

Finally on the second school day, a tall, attractive Negro young lady and her father rapped at the door. When I opened it she said, “Hi, I am Anna Catherine Scott from Mount Sterling and this is my father Reverend Scott. I am sorry that I am late.” That was the upside; the down side was that I would have 303 Boyd Hall all alone on Fridays, Saturdays and half the day on Sunday as Anna’s Mom was very ill and she had to go home to tend her and to church on Sunday, her father being the minister and all.

Angela Townsend, UK dorm room with hall mates

I had adjusted so well by the end of that sorrowful and horrible beginning that I am pictured here with hall mates after a date that I returned from and shared the experience with them. Pictured (l-r) are Linda, Angela, Maureen, and Kate.

Small guess that I did not mind that small inconvenience as I was just so glad to have a roommate to accompany me down to the cafeteria which served all three freshman dorms on the bottom floor of Boyd, and to talk to, to complain to, and to share experiences with. (Anna Catherine shared her experience with me that as she and her father were walking toward the dormitory, a group of Caucasion young men shouted nasties at them and her father admonished her to “just keep walking.”)

Though I was painfully shy, I seemed to garner attention from almost everyone else in the dorm, and I soon made many friends. Plus, there were two senior Negro girls who were transfers from Paducah Junior College: Mary Catherine Broady and Kay Grimes (now Jones). Mary and Kay joined me in making a total of three of us females on the whole of the UK dormitory campus. They lived across two yards in Holmes Hall and sort of took me under their arms to make certain that I attended a Negro Church, find the fast food establishments within walking distance of UK, and had dates. Also, the young Negro males from Louisville became my friends as there were more of them than there were females. So, by the end of my freshman year, I was pretty well entrenched again as a Negro social being with many white friends. “All’s well that ends well…” Sometimes. (To be continued.)

I wonder whether similar racial greeting experiences still slip through in our multicultural society of today.

~~~ Footnote ~~~
* The time was a few years before black activist Stokely Carmichael in a national march called for an unthinkably unheard of “Black Power,” which made previously “colored” people recently called Negroes suddenly “Black” people, and a time when renowned soul singer James Brown stomped and bellowed: “I’m Black and I’m Proud” etc., etc., and it seemed as though we newly named Black people were on the cusp of some sort of revolution. Click here to return to narrative.

Interviews of Black Women in Central Kentucky Now Indexed and Available Online

August 3, 2015 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Oral history

With many thanks to Danielle Gabbard and the Kentucky Oral History Commission, the public can now listen to the voices of Black women of Central Kentucky in the online system created by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries. The interviews are digitized and various segments indexed so they are more readily accessible for listeners. There are many more already done, but here’s the latest batch for you now available:

Interviewee Interviewer Date of Interview Summary by staff at UK’s Nunn Center for Oral History
Helen Higgins Joan Brannon for the East End Lexington Oral History Project April 9, 2009
(video)
Helen Higgins discusses her family background and talks about moving to Lexington, Kentucky when she was 18 years old. She talks about the various jobs she has worked over the years. She describes Lexington during the 1940s and ’50s when she was a young woman, including the restaurants and bars she frequented. She talks about how Lexington has changed and discusses feeling a lack of respect from younger generations. She talks about her experience with race relations in Lexington. (Accession Number: 2009OH106 EEL 012)
Eula Tatman Betsy Adler for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project May 18, 1993
(audio)
At the time of this interview Eula Tatman was the Director at the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center in Lexington, Kentucky. In this interview she explains the history of the Phyllis Wheatley Center from its beginnings on Upper Street to its current location in the East End neighborhood. She talks about the activities the center used to provide, including wig making and the Girl Reserves. She talks about the activities the center currently provides. She describes the East End neighborhood and talks about how the people in the neighborhood surrounding the center feel about its location. (Accession Number: 1993OH397 KH 559)
Sandra Richardson Boyd Shearer, Jr. for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project March 5, 1997
(audio)
Sandra Richardson is the great niece of Lucy Rowe Estill, one of the five members of the Board of Park Commissioners for the Black park system in Lexington, Kentucky. Richardson describes Estill’s early life in Hanging Fork, Kentucky before moving to Lexington. She talks about their family, and shares Estill’s philosophy on life. Richardson reads lists of programs offered by the Parks Department during Estill’s tenure, and reads a description of a play Estill produced on slavery in America. (Accession Number: 1997OH030 KH 609)
Lillie H. Yates Emily Parker for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project July 15, 1986
(audio)
Ms. Yates recalls her family history including relatives who experienced slavery, their white overseers, the practice of “hiring out,” Jonestown, “Black troublemakers”, and her educational background. She reminisces about farm life in the early twentieth century including methods of home heating, harvesting corn, soap making, food preparation and preservation, making burgoo and “homebrew”, ice-making, making clothes, and holiday traditions. She also talks about wages, treatment of African American farm workers by white farm families, tobacco production, commercial farming, farm labor, hired help, obtaining credit at the country store, and difficulties faced by African American farmers of the time period. Ms. Yates recounts the role of religion in the country churches in the African American community, church parties and dances, ostracism by the church, attitudes toward alcohol use, country preachers, religious revivals, and country baptisms. (Accession Number: 1986OH202 KH 332)
Frances A. Smallwood  Emily Parker for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project
September 11, 1986 (audio)

The granddaughter of former slaves in Mississippi, Mrs. Smallwood was raised in Tuskegee, Alabama where her father worked at the Tuskegee Institute. She recalls growing up surrounded by role models including Mary Bethune Cookman and Margaret Mary Washington, and speeches and concerts her family attended at Tuskegee. She remembers listening to the first public radio broadcasts, the establishment of a veteran’s hospital for African Americans, and attending high school and college in Tuskegee. After receiving her nursing degree from Meharry, she was employed in North Carolina and New York before marrying a classmate and settling in Lexington. Mrs. Smallwood remembers being hired and working as a school nurse in the Fayette County school system. She recalls that her education, which she considers much better than her colleagues, helped tremendously with employment opportunities and raises. Only the second African American nurse in the public health service, Mrs. Smallwood reminisces about her nursing career at Douglass and Dunbar High Schools, as well as Russell Cave, Harrison, Arlington, and Garden Springs elementary schools. She discusses how the civil rights movement changed the schools and businesses, and remarks upon the participation in the movement by her white minister. She comments upon her participation in church and community activities, and the lack of African American Episcopalians in Lexington. She reminisces about social life in Lexington during the 1940s and 1950s, living in the same neighborhood for 37 years, the effects of divorce upon African American families, and the lack of interest by parents in their children.

(Accession Number: 1986OH252 KH 379)

Bettye Simpson Ann Grundy for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project
August 11, 1986
(audio)
 Ms. Simpson talks about her family history and graduation from Dunbar High School and Kentucky State University. She reminisces about “Irishtown,” her career as a social worker, and the discrimination she encountered at the Chestnut Street YWCA. She discusses the role of African American clergy in the civil rights movement in Lexington, and the churches’ influence upon the community. She recalls an attempt to establish an independent African American school in Lexington. (Accession Number: 1986OH223 KH 351)
Virginia Anderson Emily Parker for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project August 22, 1986
(audio)
Virginia Hawkins Anderson was born in Fayette County, Kentucky in 1907. She reflects upon her educational background at Bracktown Elementary and Louisville Central High School, as well as the background of her parents and grandparents. Her father raised hogs, performed handyman jobs, and served as a deacon in the church. Mrs. Anderson looks back on her childhood, the relationship between neighbors in Bracktown, and the changes which have taken place within the community. She recounts the stories of white ancestors within the Hawkins family and other family history. The Bracktown Violet Social Club is recalled, as is the one room building which served as a school house. Mrs. Anderson discusses both her work as a domestic and the white employees who have worked for her, recounts her relationships with whites, and talks about selling land in Bracktown. While not recalling segregation on the Lexington buses, she does remember the African American boycott of Purcell’s store, the businesses owned by African Americans on Deweese Street, and her non-participation in the civil rights movement. (Accession Number: 1986OH240 KH 367)
Verna B. Clark Emily Parker for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project
September 23, 1986
(audio)

Mrs. Clark’s parents and grandparents were all born in Kentucky. Her grandfather was a Native American raised by African American slaves, and she recalls family stories of slavery including dress, treatment and misuse, religious observations, classification system based upon shade of skin color, and the white slave owner who was her great, great grandfather. Her parents were farmers who owned their own land and Mrs. Clark reminisces about her close, tight knit neighborhood and her religious upbringing. Mrs. Clark graduated from Kentucky State and taught in Montgomery County for a year before her marriage. She recalls the teaching conditions at Grace Lee and Spruce Schools, discusses the achievements and education of her children, and recalls the death of her husband, a carpenter and brick layer. Mrs. Clark remembers the community in which she and her husband raised their children including the neighbors, white and Black, who helped each other, as well as the interaction within the community and attendance at each others’ churches. She wonders if integration has helped or hindered the African American community, and discusses the changes in social conditions and their impact upon the community. (Accession Number: 1986OH251 KH 378)

Sophia D. Smith Emily Parker for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project June 15th, 1987
(audio)

Mrs. Smith talks about her family’s relationship with the discovery and early tours of Mammoth Cave National Park; her grandparents’ endurance of slavery; additional family history; and recreational activities. She explains how her father taught himself to read, attended Kentucky State during the summer and later taught school in Barren and Hart counties; reviews her mother’s education at Norton (??) University in Kentucky; recalls the family owning and operating a restaurant in Cave City in 1918-1919 until it burned in a fire and also running a slaughterhouse for cattle and hogs. She discusses her educational background and experiences with both integrated and segregated schools; recalls attending Kentucky State College; the evolution of the African American church and religious community; her participation in politics; and, explains how voting practices have changed. She recounts the difficulties encountered in establishing her own business after graduation from beauty school and talks about returning to teaching after her husband obtained a position in Louisville. Mrs. Smith retired in 1977 and returned to Russellville shortly thereafter. (Accession Number: 1987OH090 KH 421)

Sidney Bell Johnson Nancy O’Malley for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project
March 5, 1998
(audio)

Sidney Johnson moved to Charlotte Court in Lexington, Kentucky in 1941. She talks about how she applied for the apartment, and describes her new home and her children’s reactions when moving in. She talks about the neighborhood dynamics, including rivalries between various streets in the neighborhood. She talks about how the neighborhood has changed over the years. Johnson discusses her family, including her children and their accomplishments. She talks about her family members that moved to Detroit, Michigan, and talks about family reunions. She talks about working for the Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity. She describes floods and snowstorms in Lexington. She talks about University of Kentucky basketball. (Accession Number: 1998OH037 KH 630)

Susie E. White Emily Parker for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project June 16, 1987
(audio)
The daughter of self-sufficient sharecroppers, Mrs. White recalls staying with her grandmother to be closer to the schoolhouse; leaving school in 1922 after her mother’s death to help raise her younger siblings; her father’s employment at Hillenmeyer’s Nursery; and skills learned for survival. She talks about her dreams of becoming a beautician; her first beauty course in Chicago; and returning home during the Great Depression. Mrs. White discusses her marriage; her first beautician’s job; attending beauty school in Lexington; and raising her nieces, daughter and stepdaughter. She remembers her career; training apprentices; and managing her money and her business. She reminisces about Consolidated Baptist Church; talks about differences in ministerial education, roles and leadership; and recalls her involvement in church-related activities and fundraisers. Mrs. Smith examines the evolution of the African American community over her lifetime: changing behavior of the younger generations, less emphasis on moral values and teachings, loss of faith, the increasing influence of television, and higher crime rates. She talks about the importance of education to the African American community and the lack of quality of education since integration; the impact and effects of the civil rights movement, citing both the advantages and disadvantages; and discusses how Lexington has changed while noting what has stayed the same. (Accession Number: 1987OH096 KH 422)
Helen Smith Emily Parker for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project September 12, 1988
(audio)
Helen Smith discusses her family background, including her Native American heritage, and her great grandmother who was a slave. She talks about her parents’ educations and occupations. She talks about her grandmother’s work as a midwife in Danville, Kentucky. Smith talks about her experiences living in a mixed community, and discusses race relations in Danville and Maysville, Kentucky. She talks about changes in the church, schools, and the community since her childhood. She talks about her own education and career, specifically her work raising children as a baby nurse. She discusses whether the Black community is better off since the civil rights movement. (Accession Number: 1988OH163 KH 456)
Evelyn Livisay Edward Owens for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project
June 19, 1978
(audio)
Evelyn Livisay was a teacher in Lexington, Kentucky during integration. In this interview she discusses the teaching conditions in all-Black schools prior to integration, and says that they had fewer supplies and lower salaries than their white counterparts. She talks about her experiences as one of the few Black teachers chosen to integrate the white schools, and says she was sent to Linlee Elementary School first as a librarian in order to acclimate the faculty and students to the change. She talks about reactions to her being in the school, and talks about how the Board of Education felt about teachers’ participation in the civil rights movement. (Accession Number: 1978OH078 KH 044)
Madeline C. Jones  Edward Owens for the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project June 21, 1978
(audio)
 Madeline Jones was a teacher in Lexington, Kentucky during the integration of public schools. She discusses her experience teaching in an all-Black school, Booker T. Washington School, prior to integration and says that the schools were separate but not equal. She talks about the lack of supplies and overcrowding in the Black schools, but says that they had parental support and offered many activities for the students. She talks about the changes that occurred during integration, and discusses the white teachers’ reactions to the Black students. She talks about why many teachers did not participate in the civil rights movement. (Accession Number: 1978OH081 KH 047)

****
See Danielle Gabbard’s previous posts

AAUW Community Action Grant proposal features KYWCRH.org Open Knowledge Initiative

January 23, 2014 in 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Research methods

AAUW logoAfter several weeks of planning and creating new partnerships here in central Kentucky, I submitted an AAUW Community Action Grant for 2014 that features our KYWCRH.org initiative. The title of the proposal nearly tells the whole story (it’s long enough, anyway):

Empowering Girls in Central KY with Digital Humanities and Writing Wikipedia Code: Women’s History and the 1964 March on Frankfort for Civil Rights

Here’s the list of partners who wrote letters in support of the proposal:

When the project moves forward, it is exciting to know that it is likely that there will be many more organizations and people involved.

The aim of this proposal is to engage women and girls in researching, collecting and recording women’s civil rights history in Kentucky. In support of the Fayette County Race, Community & Child Welfare initiative, the proposal builds on the commemoration of the 1964 March on Frankfort by spotlighting the work of Kentucky women in that event – before and after. The target audience is 10 families whose teenaged girls are/were part of the Fayette Co. child welfare system. The partner organizations will recruit those who are African-American/Black or Hispanic/Latino or mixed race to work together on oral history and multi-media projects. The girls, together with one or more family member, will partner with University of Kentucky undergraduate female students to learn about their community’s leaders and strategies undertaken by politically active citizens and organizations to improve the quality of life for all.  In brief, the proposed program will rely on collaboration among the above partners in these four major components:

  1. Learning about Kentucky women’s history in the context of the 1964 March on Frankfort (for desegregation of public accommodations and the implementation of fair housing laws) through a series featuring Kentucky civil rights activists and oral history projects.
  2. Orientation and training in appropriate use of research resources and digital media for creative digital storytelling and for the development of general knowledge articles on women in Wikipedia. Learning how to find and use community resources and government documents crucial for our citizens to use in life-long learning and for self-empowerment.
  3. Training in and applying skills in basic coding languages used commonly in creating webpages and social media – HyperText Markup Language (HTML) – for the KYWCRH.org site and the markup coding used in creating effective Wikipedia pages. A Kentucky WikiMeetup will allow for the teams to work with experienced Wikipedia editors.
  4. Developing skills in civic leadership and college/career readiness modeled by local community members in partnership with higher education students and faculty.

CKCPJ and the Lexington-Fayette NAACP branch will collaborate to offer a series of community-based lectures, films and neighborhood walks on KY civil rights history and women’s roles. The Project Director will work with the UK Nunn Center to prepare and train project members in how to conduct oral history interviews (to be digitally archived in the OHMS database) and with MATRIX staff at MSU to teach UK undergraduates and their partner teams to create multimedia projects showcased in a redesigned KYWCRH.org Open Knowledge Initiative. The celebratory showcase will not only celebrate the project teams’ work but also increase the visibility of AAUW-KY’s contributions toward achieving educational opportunities and equitable resources for women and girls.

The proposed timeline is for the program to begin in Summer 2014 and conclude by the end of the school year in Spring 2015:

Summer 2014: 10 girls aged 13-17 selected from a pool of applicants recruited from the Fayette Co. RCCW target audience. Lexington NAACP and CKCPJ plan a community-based series (lectures, films, neighborhood-walks) by experts in civil rights activism, history and racism in the U.S.  The series is recorded and posted on KYWCRH.org – which will be updated and redesigned courtesy of MATRIX at Michigan State. The families involved in the project will be encouraged to ask for reimbursements to reoup costs for childcare and food costs to attend project-related activities as well as transportation to conduct oral history interviews, to work with the UK undergraduate students while research or working on multimedia projects at the University, or other required meetings with the project director.

Fall 2014: UK offers EXP396 (Experiential Education) and faculty oversee learning contracts for each of the 10 undergraduate females recruited. UK students will be trained in the use of the oral history interviewing equipment available from the UK Libraries Oral History Department. Also in the UK Libraries for students are the PresentationU and Media Depot @ the Hub which support the students and community partners as they build their Wikipedia articles and multimedia projects showcased on KYWCRH.org Open Knowledge Initiative. The educational series and training meetings with the project teams will take place at The Plantory (in Lexington’s East End neighborhood) or Imani Family Center (north of Lexington) during the Fall and Spring. The project partners will also journey to the Kentucky State Capital to visit the Kentucky Commission on Women offices and to view the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit. The families and their undergraduate mentors will take the free School of Open course (either self-paced or live webinar sessions) on Wikipedia. Basic training in coding and publishing in Wikipedia will accompany skillbuilding exercises in how to find and analyze general resources in the community and government documents crucial for citizens to use for self-empowerment.

Spring 2015: The oral history interview digital files are processed by the Nunn Oral History Center staff and indexed for use by the project teams and community in the OMHS data repository. A Wiki-Meetup allows the teams to work on their entries in a face-to-face setting with experienced Wikipedia editors. The project teams are invited by the UK Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education to present their digital media projects in April at the UK Undergraduate Research Showcase. The AAUW Bluegrass Central Branch hosts a celebratory showcase event and highlights specific projects via social media.

 

 

by mookygc

End of the Year

May 1, 2013 in Primary source, Research methods

It is hard to believe that the end of the year is already upon us. At the beginning of this class, I had no idea the magnitude of the projects I would undretake, and the feeling of accomplishment I would gain. I am so proud of the research I was able to do on Douglass School in Lexington, Kentucky, and hope that some one will find that resource helpful at some point in the future. It is enough for me that now the information that exists is at least mostly in one place; at least the information I could find.

I am so grateful for my group members for the project on Governor Martha Layne Collins for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. At times, we really struggled to find the information we needed or that would be helpful, but luckily I had group members that were not willing to give up or compromise their standards, just because the work was difficult. Shortly, we will have a finished product that we will all be proud of (see the Start page at http://www.kywcrh.org/projects/kchr-hall-of-fame/collins).

I am not sure what I was expecting of this class when it began, but I know I didn’t expect any of the work we did to have a direct impact on the community and the people we were researching. That opportunity is not one I have experienced in any other class in my college experience thus far. I have gained so much knowledge about research methods that I know I will use for the rest of my college career, and all of my future endeavors. I will forever be extremely grateful for the experience of this class.

Audrey Grevious: A Project of Obstacles

March 24, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Photo of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Without question, our project on Audrey Grevious has presented numerous challenges in obtaining information about this woman’s life and work.  According to Belinda Robnett’s classifications of women leaders in the civil rights movement (see her book How Long? How Long?, I believe Audrey Grevious falls in between the categories of Professional and Community bridge leaders. Grevious, though an extremely successful woman in her endeavors in the local civil rights movement, worked largely out of the public eye and utilized her community resources well in order to accomplish her goals, thus making much information about her specific work unavailable.In regard to internet searches of Audrey Grevious, many web pages have yielded the same information.

We are certain of her attendance at segregated schools (Dunbar, a city high school in Lexington, Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University), involvement with the NAACP and CORE organizations within Lexington and her work at Kentucky Village Reform School. These facts are crucial to creating the framework of her life and accomplishments; although, we feel we owe more to the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame than what is already in existence.  In an effort to learn more about Grevious’ specific involvement within these organizations, we have reached out to all of the local chapters of the organizations listed about with little luck. We have been referred to her church in Lexington, in which she was an active member, but have not yet received a response.

CORE logo

CORE logo

The Louie B Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky has been helpful in releasing the transcripts of two of her oral history interviews. From these documents, we can hear Grevious’ voice and understand her personal motivation for participating in the local civil rights movement. The oral histories have thus far been our most important source of information regarding Grevious’ life deserving of publication in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Flamenco dancer clappingFlamencoclap and I would like to find pictures of Grevious from this time period as well, if at all possible, to build the context of her work. After searching through archived documents in the Special Collections at the King Library, we have gathered a few articles that feature information on Dunbar High School but nothing directly pertaining to Grevious’ attendance.  Alexis is in contact with EKU and Kentucky State University to obtain any information that has been saved regarding Grevious in the schools’ archives.

Selection in the Louie B Nunn Center for Oral History

Without a doubt, Grevious’ work is deserving of publication but it has been extremely difficult to locate details that delve beyond her surface involvement in the local civil rights movement. Because Grevious is elderly and loved dearly by many members of the community, many are trying to protect her from being bothered or any negativity that could arise regarding her work. This complication has proved very challenging but Flamencoclap and I will continue to persevere in search of photographs and other details to elevate Audrey Grevious’ life and work.

Women as the Foundation, not the Face

March 3, 2013 in 1940s-1950s

NAACP Logo

NAACP Logo

According to the book, Freedom on the Border, the conclusion of World War II initiated the return of nearly twenty thousand African Americans from Kentucky who had served overseas. These soldiers had heightened expectations for social equality when they returned to the States, however, they soon faced the unfortunate reality that equality had not yet been leveraged. To promote the radical change demanded by society in order to uproot long-standing traditions of prejudice and discrimination, mass action had to be taken. The key to success during the 1940s-50s was organization. Groups supporting these causes already existed but the masses observed that no change would come if national campaigns were not launched.

CORE logo

CORE logo

In order to open public accommodations to all citizens of the United States, professional groups such as the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee were formed to promote progress. The SNCC held a much stronger following within the Deep South, while CORE made significant strides in the Bluegrass State.  Alongside the NAACP, members of CORE began planning – they were planning for the attention-grabbing actions and protests of the early 1960s. While leaders of this time for these organizations were predominantly men, women composed overwhelming majorities of membership within each organization. Women, such as Audrey Grevious, would hold membership within these organizations and work actively within chapter projects in order to promote local change. These women gathered petitions and plan sit-ins while men within the organization rallied support throughout the region in the public eye. This example also unfortunately showcases another form of discrimination and stereotype that has traversed racial boundaries – gender equality.

One crucial action of the local NAACP and CORE organizations within Lexington, Kentucky prompted the integration of the University of Kentucky in 1949. While this is largely credited to Lyman T. Johnson’s successful case against the state’s Day Law, many women of color, who were part of these organizations, played a crucial role in gaining support for Johnson’s case. Upon integration, many women of color capitalized on the opportunity to attend the University of Kentucky as well. Two of their stories can be heard here, via oral history interviews regarding their experiences at the University of Kentucky upon the era of integration.

UK Logo

UK Logo

Without question, Kentucky women supported the official mobilization of organizations and movements within the state during the 1940s-50s. Their activity, however, is largely overshadowed by their male counterparts who often represented the face of campaigns. It should be noted, however, that women’s roles within this portion of the movement are not insignificant as their membership and commitment to the cause gave way to radical demonstrations during the 1960s that finally demolished the barrier preventing equality in Kentucky and in the United States.

Sources:

Wikipedia contributors. “Congress of Racial Equality.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Racial_Equality>. 3 Mar. 2013.

Wikipedia contributors. “Lyman T. Johnson.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyman_T._Johnson>. 3 Mar. 2013.

Wikipedia contributors. “University of Kentucky.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Mar. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Kentucky>. 3 Mar. 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.

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