Joyce Johnson

Project Page for Oral Histories on East End and North End Lexington

Person Interviewed

Interview Information

Summary of Interview Topics

Other Resources

Anderson, Virginia Hawkins


Occupation: Housekeeper

D.O.B.: March 26, 1907, Bracktown, Kentucky

Date of Interview: August 22, 1986

Interviewer: Emily Parker

1 hr. 25 mins.

1986OH240 KH 367; audio only; indexed; no transcript

Mrs. Anderson reflects on 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 schoolhouse. 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. See more on Bracktown in the NKAA database
Berry, Mary Edna Page

Occupation: Dental assistant
D.O.B.: April 27, 1927, Paris, Kentucky

Date of Interview: Sept. 14, 1989

Interviewer: Emily Parker

40 minutes

1989OH256 KH 474; audio only; indexed; no transcript

The former resident of Kinkeadtown recalls her memories of the all African American neighborhood including the boundaries of the community, church oriented activities, the pride of property evidenced by older tenants, descriptions of homes and living conditions, and health care afforded to the residents. Mrs. Berry remembers her husband, Thomas Berry, and recalls her educational background. She recounts her employment record, and discusses her family history and childhood upbringing.  see also March 2000 interview of Mrs. Joyce Berry Hamilton
Briggs, Cordia Wilkerson

Occupation: Laundry manager, Campbell House Inn, Lexington
D.O.B.: November 23, 1914, Lincoln County, Kentucky






Date of Interview: April 17, 1987

Interviewer: Emily Parker

1 hour 30 minutes

1987OH084 KH 415; audio only; indexed; no transcript






 The former laundry manager and floor assistant for the Campbell House, Mrs. Briggs recalls her employment history with the restaurant; racist treatment received by her supervisors; the lack of assistance from the Human Rights Commission; and judges the reputation of Campbell House as a place of employment. After the death of her parents, Mrs. Briggs and her two siblings were placed in an African American run orphanage. She elaborates on experiences suffered at the facility including the overcrowded living conditions, the lack of training except for punishment, prejudice shown towards the darker skinned children, and often going hungry. At age fifteen she left the orphanage and lived with an aunt until the age of twenty. Attending Carver and Russell elementary schools and graduating from Lexington Dunbar, Mrs. Briggs reminisces about the quality of education received. A series of odd jobs followed graduation until her marriage in 1921 to a maintenance worker at the University of Kentucky. She discusses attending UK, living in the Pralltown neighborhood located near the UK campus, and how it has evolved; the changes she has witnessed within the African American community; the deterioration and future of Deweese and Short streets; and, the condemnation of African American neighborhoods for the construction of Memorial Coliseum and Rupp Arena. Mrs. Briggs reiterates her concern for what she sees as the loss of African American culture and racial identity: the impact of interracial relationships; the apathy in Lexington for the ongoing civil rights struggle; class divisions among the African American community; and, how the lack of parental involvement and concern has effected African American children. Mrs. Briggs expresses her opinions regarding the changes evident in the African American religious community including ministerial leadership, increased emphasis upon money, and loss of influence.
Brown, Sadie Reid

Occupation: Homemaker
D.O.B.: 1906, Frankfort, Kentucky

Interview Date: July 30, 1986

Interviewer: Ann Grundy

45 minutes

1986OH215 KH344; audio only; indexed; no transcript

Ms. Brown reminisces about her family history, her father’s career as headwaiter at the Capitol Hotel, and her educational background. She remembers living next door to Kentucky State University, the “Craw” section of Frankfort, and conditions faced by African Americans in Lexington during the 1920s. She talks about the African American businesses on Short Street and Broadway in Lexington, the Colored City Park Board, the Chandler School, and the Colored Fair. She recalls her husband’s (Earl B. Brown) upholstery business, reaction of the African American community to the civil rights movement, and the bombing of Zirl Palmer’s drugstore. She discusses Deweese Street, the Lyric Theater, and the African American entertainers who performed in Lexington.
Carr, Edna Unson

Occupation: Dorm mother at the University of Kentucky

D.O.B.: December 11, 1915, Clark County, Kentucky

Interview Date: June 12, 1987

Interviewer: Emily Parker

47 minutes

1987OH90 KH419; audio only; indexed; no transcript

The last surviving member of her family, Mrs. Carr reflects upon family memories and histories, the education she received at Constitution and Russell schools, working her way through school, and living with her sister. She comments upon the transformation of the African American church in her lifetime, the foster children she has raised, her employment and working conditions as a dorm mother at the University of Kentucky, colleagues and supervisors with whom she had worked, and her lack of interest in politics although she conscientiously voted. Mrs. Carr notes the impact of the civil rights movement upon Lexington in shopping, public transportation, and theaters while commenting upon the necessity to continue the struggle. She recalls her participation in the civil rights marches and discusses race relations in Lexington.
Clark, Verna Boles Williams

Occupation: Teacher, homemaker
D.O.B.: 1899, Jessamine County, Kentucky




Interview Date: September 23, 1986

Interviewer: Emily Parker

1 hour

1986OH251 KH378; audio only; indexed; transcript is available via paper only


 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 other’s 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.
Coleman, Grace Grevious

Occupation: Teacher, social worker
D.O.B.: 1911, Fayette County, Kentucky






Interview Date: September 12, 1986

Interviewer: Emily Parker

1 hr. 20 mins.

1986OH244 KH371; audio only; indexed; no transcript




Raised in Jessamine County and descended from former slaves, Mrs. Coleman graduated from Kentucky State College in 1935 and entered the teaching profession in Georgia. She practiced social work in Lexington and became assistant to the Dean of Women at Paducah Junior College. She recalls the family stories about slavery, how her grandfather acquired his farm after the end of the Civil War, and her childhood growing up in a small, rural, African American community with its own church and school but limited in social and recreational activities. After the death of her mother, Mrs. Coleman was transferred from one family to another. She recalls the practice of children being “bound out” to work, the provisions made for orphans, and the general insensitivity shown by rural adults to children. Mrs. Coleman discusses her social work experiences in Lexington and the discriminatory salary policies she encountered, the more liberal racial attitudes of the Fayette County Children’s Bureau, and Lexington’s class-conscious society. The changing employment opportunities for African Americans over time are delineated, and the differences between urban and rural communities are discussed. Mrs. Coleman differentiates between the beliefs of the Baptist and Presbyterian churches, bemoans the lack of African American businesses, and recounts the negative effects of integration upon the education of African American children.
Cooper, Dorothy McCoy

Occupation: Principal, counselor, teacher
D.O.B.: 1913, Danville, Kentucky











Interview Date: September 4, 1986

Interviewer: Emily Parker

1 hr. 50 mins.

1986OH253 KH380; audio only; indexed; transcript available only via paper copy









 The descendant of a runaway slave and a free woman of color, Mrs. Cooper graduated from Dunbar High School and West Virginia State College before receiving her master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. She remembers wanting to be a social worker but ended up instead with a career in education. She talks about teaching, her assignments at Dunbar as counselor and assistant principal, her career as principal at both George Washington Carver and Russell elementary schools (where she retired at age 70), teaching conditions, salary inequities between white and black teachers, lack of equipment, and having to purchase school supplies with her own money. Mrs. Cooper recalls the integration of teachers into formerly segregated schools, the labeling of African American children as incorrigible by white teachers, the lack of encouragement by teachers and white officials who didn’t want African American parents involved in newly integrated schools, her abhorrence of forced busing, and the lack of discipline received at home and subsequent poor attitudes of young African Americans today. She notes her lack of participation in African American churches, and discusses her concern towards the changes within the religious community. She bemoans the modern day emphasis on pursuit of the dollar, and the subsequent lack of concern for the social welfare of the community. She recalls her religious upbringing, customs and practices, and comments upon life within her family. The family disciplinarian, her father worked for influential whites in the close knit community in which she was raised. She comments upon his reputation and standing within the community and with his employers, and the impact he had upon her life. She reminisces about the odd jobs she held throughout high school and taking piano lessons. Mrs. Cooper discusses her career, retirement, and her present position as an outreach worker for the Fayette County Urban Government. She remembers the summer school programs, which lasted only one year, the Meals on Wheels program, visiting nursing homes on a regular basis, and running errands for the homebound. A conscientious voter, she dislikes politics and states some of the reasons why. She discusses her permanent boycott of white businesses, comments upon welfare reform, and talks about employment opportunities for African Americans.
Didlick, Jennie Bibbs

Occupation: Principal, teacher

D.O.B.: September 30, 1908







Interview Date: August 8, 1986

Interviewer: Emily Parker

57 minutes

1986OH243 KH370; audio only; indexed; no transcript






 In the late 1940s, Mrs. Didlick filed a lawsuit against the local transportation system after she was asked to sit in the back of a public bus travelling between Winchester and Lexington. The judge filed in her favor, awarding her $200 in damages. The daughter of Benjamin and Lena Burns Bibbs, Mrs. Didlick taught at Booker T. Washington and Constitution Elementary Schools, and later earned the position of principal at Booker T. Washington. She attended school at Russell and Dunbar in Lexington, and graduated from Howard University. Her master’s degree was earned at the University of Kentucky, and at one time she worked for UK President Frank McVey. Before Hill became superintendent of the Fayette County Schools, the salary scale for African American teachers was very different from that afforded white teachers. She also mentions the teacher-student relationship in the segregated African American schools, the integration of teachers at Booker T. Washington, a few of her teaching experiences, and compares the quality of education between her era and 1986. Mrs. Didlick recalls growing up in the African American community, the importance of the family and the role the churches played in that society. Her mother took in laundry and was the disciplinarian in the family, and her father worked for the University of Kentucky. She recounts the family memories of slavery, the educational background of her family and its’ history. She recounts experiences with discrimination in white-owned businesses, her lack of participation in the civil rights movement, the socio-economic division present in the African American community, and the segregated housing conditions still in effect in Winchester in 1986.
Gaye, Marilyn

Occupation: unknown

D.O.B. circa 1935




Interview Date: May 17, 1978

Interviewer: George C. Wright

45 minutes

1978OH68KH34; audio only; indexed; no transcript

Discusses discrimination faced by African Americans in Lexington during the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as her participation in the civil rights movement in Lexington. She speaks also of her experiences at the University of Kentucky as a student in the late 1960s and early 1970s.



Greene, Viola J.

Occupation: Teacher

D.O.B.: 1909, Cincinnati, Ohio








Interview Date: June 1, 1978

Interviewer: Edward Owens

1 hr. 10 mins

1978OH051 KH 025; audio only; indexed; no transcript






 A teacher in the Lexington school system for nearly 42 years, Ms. Greene graduated from Dunbar High School in 1928, West Virginia State College in 1932, and received her Master’s Degree in 1948 from Columbia University. She began her teaching career at Grover Washington Elementary, transferring to Dunbar in 1934 where she taught mathematics until 1939. She left the profession until 1952 when she returned to Lexington Douglas (1952-1963) and Lexington Lafayette and taught until 1974. Greene discusses the impact segregation had upon the salary scales of African American teachers during the 1930s, the differences between black and white schools of the period, the scholastic achievements of her students and the role of teachers in African American schools. She recounts the reaction of white administrators to the guidance program she started at Dunbar, and the attitudes of white teachers to African American students during integration. The resistance of the African American community to segregation in Fayette County including the attitude of African American teachers to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the teacher selection process for school integration is recalled
Hunter, Wilhelmina


D.O.B.: March 14, 1898, Boston, Massachusetts

Interview Date: August 12, 1986

Interviewer: Ann Grundy

1 hr. 15 mins.

1986OH227 KH 355; audio only; indexed; no transcript

 The wife of Dr. Bush Hunter, Mrs. Hunter recalls her childhood in Boston as the only African American student in elementary, high school and business school. She discusses her interest in becoming a professional working woman, her experiences in Washington, D.C. during the “Roaring Twenties”, and her marriage to Dr. Bush Hunter. Mrs. Hunter comments upon the attitudes of African Americans and the conditions faced in Lexington from 1926-1986. She remembers the lack of public accommodations available for African American entertainers Duke Ellington and Marion Anderson, the social activities in Lexington, and the prejudice practiced at Kaufman’s Department Store. She discusses her view of racism and the role of the African American church in Lexington.
Jones, Mary

Occupation: Homemaker

D.O.B. unknown (circa 1910), Lawrenceburg, Kentucky


Interview Date: January 9, 1979

Interviewer: Edward Owens

56 minutes

1979OH074KH 139; audio only; indexed; no transcript

Widow of Pastor W.A. Jones of Pleasant Green Baptist Church, Mrs. Jones attended Kentucky State College and moved to Lexington in 1932. She married Rev. Jones in 1933. She discusses the first sit-in held during Lexington’s civil rights movement, the role of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, led by her son Lamont, and the first African Americans ever served at the Phoenix Hotel. She recalls the reaction to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) by the white community, Lexington’s African American cemetery, and other forms of segregation and discrimination. Mrs. Jones also reminisces about activist Abby Marlatt, newspaperman Fred Wachs, and her husband. See information on Rev. W.A. Jones and his family in this post; see also the interview in 2010 with Kaye and Lamont Jones (Mary’s son)
McCann, Anna

Occupation: unknown

D.O.B.: January 9, 1916, Lexington, Kentucky

 Interview Date: July 24, 1986

Interviewer: Ann Grundy

47 minutes

1986OH205 KH334; audio only; indexed; no transcript

Ms. McCann recounts her family history and educational background and reminisces about her experiences attending segregated schools (Patterson Elementary during the 1920s and Dunbar High Schools in the 1930s) including school activities. She especially mentions Patterson Principal Fannie White, who fought for years to have the school moved away from the railroad tracks, and Dunbar Principal Lizzie B. Fouse. She recalls the role of African American churches in the community, Lexington’s Colored Fair, African American entertainers who performed on Deweese Street (including her son jazz musician Les McCann), and home visits by public health nurses espousing family planning. See more on Les McCann in the NKAA database
Muir, Mary D

Occupation: Laundry Worker

D.O.B.: circa 1900


Interview Date: January 4, 1979

Interviewer: Edward Owens

9 minutes

1979OH73 KH138; audio only; indexed; no transcript

Mrs. Muir, came to Lexington in 1918 and became an employee of the Lexington Laundry for 47 years starting in 1921, discusses working conditions at the laundry, living through the Great Depression, and her relationships with white citizens.
Nickens, Loretta

Occupation: Teacher

D.O.B.: July 5, 1911, Hamtranek, Michigan

 Interview Date: August 11, 1986

Interviewer: Ann Grundy

55 minutes

1986OH225 KH353; audio only; indexed; no transcript

 A former teacher in Detroit, Michigan, Ms. Nickens moved to Lexington in 1979. She discusses her family’s history, her upbringing, her parents, and the role of women within her family. She recounts her educational background and teaching career, and delineates the cultural differences between Detroit and Lexington. She remarks upon the social conditions for African Americans in Lexington during the 1980s and her retirement.
Rollins, Katherine Hardin

Occupation: Teacher

D.O.B.: April 17, 1912, Lexington, Kentucky

Interview Date: September 12, 1989

Interviewer: Emily Parker

35 minutes

1989OH254 KH472; audio only; indexed; no transcript

Mrs. Rollins recalls that her family has lived in Kinkeadtown for three generations. She recalls memories of different family residences within the community, which were coal heated, and kerosene lit. Known as “shotgun” houses with outhouses or privies in the back, neighbors often had gardens and chickens. Meats, fish and vegetables were acquired from street vendors. She recalls various shops located in the area and some of the home remedies used in family health care, often consisting of castor oil, Epson salts, Vicks salve and ammonia. Mrs. Rollins discusses her husband, Robert Alexander Rollins of Pikeville, Kentucky, her attendance at Kentucky State College and Fisk University, and graduate work at the University of Kentucky. Her father was Charles Summerhill Hardin, a tile-setter, and her mother, Bessie Cavens Hardin, a professional cook and caterer. She remembers a few of the affluent residences in Kinkeadtown and recalls her teaching career at Constitution School and in Pikeville.
Smallwood, Frances A.

Occupation: Nurse

D.O.B.: May 15, 1913











Interview Date: September 11, 1986

Interviewer: Emily Parker

30 minutes

1986OH252 KH379; audio only; indexed; no transcript









 The granddaughter of former slaves in Mississippi, Mrs. Smallwood was raised in 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 Tusked. 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 at 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 Douglas 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.
Wendell sisters: Clara Wendell Stitt – and Laura Wendell Moore

Occupations: Unknown



Interview Date: November 8, 1982

Interviewer: Gerald Smith

41 minutes

1982OH154 KH205; audio only; no transcript

Mrs. Moore graduated from Russell High School, and Mrs. Stitt from Dunbar High School, Fisk University and Columbia where she received her master’s degree. The women discuss their father, Dr. T. T. Wendell, his involvement in the civil rights movement, the NAACP of the 1940s, and race relations within the African American community during the 1940s and 1950s. They remark upon urban renewal in the east end of Lexington, integration of the police department, African American physicians and other leaders. The existence of African American social and professional clubs and organizations is discussed, as is the role of schools within the community before and after segregation, including the closing of Dunbar High School. See more about Dr. T.T. Wendell on the NKAA database
Yates, Lillian H.

Occupation: Farmer

D.O.B.: 1896, Madison County, Kentucky




Interview Date: July 15, 1986

Interviewer: Emily Parker

1 hr. 30 mins

1986OH202 KH332; audio only; no transcript


Ms. Yates recalls her family history including relatives who experienced slavery, overseers and the practice of miscegenation, 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 “home-brew”, 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 other 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, “turning out” by the church, attitudes toward alcohol use, country preachers, religious revivals and country baptisms.

1 response to Joyce Johnson

  1. 2014 Barry Cove, Oxford, Mississippi

    Civil Rights has always been a struggle in our nation. It was much more public here than in Kentucky. I was told that Lexington NEWSPAPERS PLAYED IT DOWN SO NOT TO UPSET FOLKS. Upset people? Goodness! They should have been upset and they should have championed this cause.

    I just finished reading a new book, THE BATTLE of OLE MISS about James Merideth’s attempts to enroll here. It was all true. Sixty three people were killed in a struggle to get one student registered to go to school. I was ashamed of Ross Barnett and Trent Lott, who was a cheerleader here, at the time.

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