Black Women in Lexington

With the generous support of the Kentucky Oral History Commission, this project conducted from fall 2014 to summer 2015 and directed by Randolph Hollingsworth set out the indexing of some of the earliest of the interviews of women from UK Nunn Center’s “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project, 1900-1989” (see descriptions of these interviews on the next page). The interviews, digitized and indexed are now placed in the Oral History Metadata Synchonizer (OHMS) and viewable via the ExploreUK.

A major aim for this project is to provide easier access to a greater diversity of women’s voices and experiences in Kentucky, enriching the scholarly body of knowledge. One can research Kentucky women’s history through oral history interviews as a way to learn Kentucky history more fully – and, those who are interested in Kentucky history can better learn women’s history through the use of these materials. The women who contributed to the collection of “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project, 1900-1989″ at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at University of Kentucky Libraries, come from all walks of life. Their ages and backgrounds are highly diverse, providing a sort of prototype for a good micro-history of Kentucky in the twentieth century. The interviewers for this whole collection are highly regarded educators and oral historians whose work in the 1970s and ‘80s even up to the present day. The oral historians, Ann Grundy, Edward Owens, Emily Parker, Gerald Smith, and George C. Wright are respected local community activists, scholars and authors. The resulting interviews are nuanced in ways that evoke strong passion for the role of place and community in history, and the questions based in a strong historiographical methodology worth raising up for others to learn from them.

Similar to other twentieth century local history collections, this series has a wide scope of perspectives and serves as a good sampling of the many different types of backgrounds and occupations of the interviewees. However, Lexington’s history has traditionally been written from the perspective of its men – or at least a male-dominated political history. This project will use selected interviews from this collection to provide access to a unique and valuable overview of twentieth century Lexington from a female perspective. Most all of the women in this collection were wage earners and a solid majority of the interview time is voiced by women professionals: educators, clerks, administrators and managers, librarians, nurses and dentists, social workers and politicians. Several women represent the entrepreneurs and technical workers that fuel a thriving local economy: beauticians, cooks, housekeepers, and even a “Dorm mother” at a residence hall at UK. A few well-to-do women are identified as homemakers and a couple of women explain their views on Lexington from their work as a pastor’s wife.

This collection of interviews is an important component of statewide documentation of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Interviewees in this collection are typically older than those women whose interviews are archived at the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) and made accessible by the Online Media Database and the Kentucky Educational Television website. By providing greater access to these interviews from Lexingtonians, a more balanced narrative (not just highly publicized events in Louisville) could expand the scope of the evidence presented in published scholarly monographs such as the highly useful book Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, edited by Catherine Fosl and Tracy K’Meyer (University Press of Kentucky, 2009).

Danielle Gabbard worked as the indexer and kindly posted some reflections on what she was learning as she listened to the interviews:

Starting on September 2, 2014, and finishing on June 4, 2015, Danielle Gabbard indexed the digitized interviews of women in the Lexington-Fayette County area – a total of 3,830 interview minutes – when the grant funds were depleted. On a regular basis, Ms. Gabbard submitted invoices describing the indexing work she did, and she was paid $30/hour as was recommended by the Commission. As we had originally hoped, the interviews are indeed highly diverse, well conducted by seasoned interviewers, and can provide a good micro-history of Kentucky in the twentieth century. It is my intention to craft a journal article dedicated to the findings associated not only with the excellent indexing but also the contribution these women’s voices make to our better understanding of Kentucky women’s roles in this important era within and surrounding the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

Interviews Indexed and Interview Time (in minutes)

NOTE: Accession Numbers include Interview Date and Collection/Series Name, e.g., 1986OH239 KH 366 Grace Potter Carter = Interview Date 1986; Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project – see legend below for more abbreviations.

1987OH084 KH 415 Cordia Wilkerson Briggs 92
198686OH215 KH344 Sadie Reid Brown 38
1982OH154KH205 Wendell sisters: Clara Wendell Stitt and Laura Wendell Moore 42
198787OH90 KH419  Edna Unson Carr 47
1986OH239 KH 366 Grace Potter Carter 118
1989OH256 KH 474 Mary Edna Berry 44
1989OH254 KH 472 Katherine Hardin Rollins 38
1986OH253 KH 380 Dorothy McCoy Copper 80
1988OH164 KH 457 Elizabeth P. Thomas 70
1990OH009 KH 477 Elenora L. Smith 30
1978OH107 KH 069 Harriet B. Haskins 20
1990OH019 KH 479 Annie B. Coleman 20
1986OH244 KH 371 Grace Grevious Coleman 80
2009OH097 EEL 003 Anna Coons 11
1978OH094 KH 056 Virginia S. McDonald 13
1978OH097 KH 059 Alvinia Newell 10
1979OH064 KH 129 Ella Bosley 22
1979OH065 KH 130 Abby L. Marlatt 22
1979OH068 KH 133 Faustina Cruise 13
1979OH071 KH 136 Estelle S. Tatman 19
1979OH073 KH 138 Mary Muir 9
1983OH167 BK 003 Annette C. Brown 69
1984OH023 BK 004 Mary Brown Ashford 74
1985OH194 BK 007 Thelma B. Johnson 61
1990OH088 BK 022 Barbara Jackson Givens 45
2008OH149 AAW 001 Mary Levi Smith 49
1987OH011 BK 017 Lillian Butner 60
1990OH086 BK 020 Mary E. Rawlings 61
1990OH093 BK 027 Geneva Hunter Pope 64
1990OH094 BK 028 Bertie Nokomas Wilkerson 64
2011OH203 BK 032 Molly M. Bradley 78
1990OH090 BK 024 Corinne Jefferson 43
2009OH106 EEL 012 Helen Higgins 38
1993OH397 KH 559 Eula Tatman 44
1997OH030 KH 609 Sandra Richardson 39
1986OH202 KH 332 Lillie H. Yates 89
1986OH252 KH 379 Frances A. Smallwood 30
1986OH223 KH 351 Bettye Simpson 40
1986OH240 KH 367 Virginia Anderson 80
1986OH251 KH 378 Verna B. Clark 49
1987OH090 KH 421 Sophia D. Smith 71
1998OH037 KH 630 Mrs. Sidney Bell Johnson 79
1987OH096 KH 422 Susie E. White 75
1988OH163 KH 456 Helen Smith 83
1978OH078 KH 044 Evelyn Livisay 24
1978OH081 KH 047 Madeline C. Jones 24
1979OH074 KH 139 Mary Jones 120
1986OH218 KH 347 Dorothy P. Pumphrey 134
1986OH230 KH 358 Mattie Gray 109
1986OH243 KH 370 Jennie Didlick 106
1986OH248 KH 375 Florence A. Young 57
1987OH078 KH 409 Ann Hunter 66
1987OH079 KH 410 Ann B. Black 62
1987OH080 KH 411 Edythe J. Hayes 57
1998OH035 KH 628 Lilia Garrison 45
1989OH009 KH 468 Virginia Shelby 78
2009OH096 EEL 002 Dorothy Perkins 48
1979OH072 KH 137 Mattie Jackson 28
1986OH225 KH 353 Loretta Nickens 50
1978OH068 KH 034 Marilyn Gaye 47
1986OH236 KH 364 Mrs. Charles C. Jones 120
1987OH089 KH 420 Ruby Benberry 76
1987OH083 KH 414 Delores Vinegar-Oderinde 112
2009OH098 EEL 004 Valinda Livingston 85
1993OH388 KH 550 Lillian B. Gentry 70
1993OH389 KH 551 Alice J. Alexander 70
1986OH235 KH 363 Laura W. Moore 48
1986OH227 KH 355 Wilhelmina Hunter 75
1986OH231 KH 359 Elizabeth R. Harris 60
2009OH108 EEL 014 Lillian Buntin 56
2009OH100 EEL 006 Rosetta Beatty 97
1979OH070 KH 135 Roberta Laine 29
1986OH232 KH 360 Patricia R. Laine 71


KH = Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project

EEL = East End Lexington Oral History Project

BK = Blacks in Kentucky Oral History Project

AAW = Experiences of African American Women Oral History Project

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.