March on Frankfort, “Who goes down in history?”
Breathitt was the Governor at the time of the 1964 March on Frankfort.
Well, this all followed Governor Combs' Executive Order. And I took the position that I would, I would support a legislative act, and not an executive order. And so the March on Frankfort--it was a real march, with Martin Luther King, and Jackie Robinson and Peter, Paul and Mary, and all the African-American leaders in the state; both black and white were in this march. Half my Cabinet, my daughter, and they marched right up Capitol Avenue ah, to the Capitol and then had speeches, and songs by Peter, Paul and Mary; and as a result it was the catalyst for ultimate passage of the Civil Rights Bill in Kentucky, which I supported. But I had prepared for this march so that the State of Kentucky was cooperating in it. Ah, Bert Marshall of the Justice Department, and John Douglas, the son of Senator Paul Douglas, of the Justice Department, came down and worked with my lawyers and police officials and our Department of Education; seeing to it that we could have a peaceful march, which it was. There was no, ah, problem at all about the march and we had security officers at every intersection, and it worked out fine. And then I got Martin Luther King, and Jackie Robinson and the other leaders, came into my office; and we discussed the situation, and I committed to them that I would work hard to pass a Civil Rights bill in Kentucky: which would be the first Civil Rights Bill enacted south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Powers was one of the original organizers of the 1964 March on Frankfort and in 1968 became the first African American elected to the Kentucky Senate.
A bill had been introduced by the legislator who represented the West End, Norbert Bloom, ah, on public accommodations, prohibiting discrimination in hotels, restaurants and so forth. Of course, in going to Frankfort we found that many of the legislators were opposed to it. So that's when we decided with Frank Stanley, Jr., who was the son of the owner of the Louisville Defender, the black newspaper. We organized a group called AOCR, which was an acronym for Allied Organizations for Civil Rights. And that group was made up of representatives from different civil rights organizations like NAACP, The Louisville Urban League, the black churches, some few white churches, ministers and other civic leaders; and we decided to have a march on Frankfort to urge the legislators to vote for this public accommodations bill. We invited Dr. Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson to be our speakers. And by Reverend A.D. Williams King, having moved to Louisville, pastoring a church here, Dr.King was accessible. He was--his brother was able to--he was emissary and he brought his--he was able to bring his brother here. And a friend, she was Lucretia Ward, she and I ran the office for AOCR, and we organized with the Stanleys and the others the March on Frankfort. And that particular day, it was very cold, ah, snowy-- --um--and we picked Dr. King up here at the airport and transported him to Frankfort. When we got there it was just a--just a big crowd. They said more than ten thousand people, and I am sure there were. But Dr. King spoke, and Jackie Robinson spoke, Peter, Paul and Mary were there singing folk songs. After the speeches were over we went in to see the Governor. Now this particular Governor I had worked on his campaign and helped him to get elected in 1963. However, ah, being new in politics everyone who worked in the office was given a job in Frankfort except me. Nobody told me that I was su--I should get a job. And when I went into the office with Dr. King and Jackie Robinson, his office manager opened the door and she was one I had worked with here in Louisville in his campaign. And she said to me, " Georgia I am surprised at you." I said, "Yes, I am sure you are. And I'm surprised at the Governor that he gave everybody a job but me." so we went on and Dr. King and Jackie Robinson talked to the Governor. The Governor was very polite, he didn't come out to meet the people, but he was very polite, and he smiled and he was going to do what he could; and he was going to try to get the legislature to vote for it. However, the bill was defeated. But in two years time it gave us time to regroup, to go out into the community and build up support all over the state with legislators; so that when it came back in 1966 we were stronger, and we had more support for it, and it did pass in 1966.Click here for the video.
Dr. Martin Luther King told nearly 10,000 Kentuckians yesterday the Negro’s fight for equality is just beginning. Speaking before the group who had just braved chilling winds and light rain to dramatically express their feeling the state is in dire need of public accommodations legislation. King said the day of “Jim Crowism and Uncle Tomism is on its way out.”
The marchers—orderly at all times and predominantly Negro marched the four and one half blocks up Capital Avenue from the Capital Ave-Second Street assembly point. “The day of Uncle Tom smiling when he isn’t amused and scratching when he isn’t itching is over” King said in referring to the all-too-often practice of the Negro’s “taking his place in the white man’s society.”
Joining King on the speaker’s platform were former baseball star Jackie Robinson and his assistants, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and the Rev. Wyatt Walker…..The march was stalled for almost 45 minutes. Numerous complications which surround all festivities of this sort—such as inclement weather—were responsible…..While the marchers filed up one side of Capitol Avenue, the popular folk singing trio, Peter, Paul and Mary sang numerous freedom songs to persons already gathered around the speaker’s platform. They later sang, “Let My People Go.” The cold weather did not dampen the marchers enthusiasm. As they marched, loud speakers posted on light poles along the street, emitted Negro spirituals and freedom songs.
The group filed around the wooden speaker stand on the Capitol steps and listened to brief addresses by Robinson Stanley, the Rev. D.E. King, pastor of the Zion Baptist Church, Louisville, Walker and Abernathy, before King, the national leader for Negro equality spoke. The great silence throughout King’s address indicated that he was the speaker that the majority was waiting for.
…..The black suited King—beaten, jailed, stabbed, and discriminated against in every possible manner by those opposing him—told the group they had come to Frankfort “to challenge the immorality of the social system which permits segregation.”
“Segregation is morally wrong and scornful….a disease of the body politic.” King said the purpose of such demonstrations was to call attention to the scorn and inequality the negro has suffered for the past 150 years.
King castigated moderation and persons who say morality cannot be legislated. “The law can’t make a man love me, but it can prevent him from lynching me,” he said.
“We must leave here with a determination to free ourselves now.”
After a benediction by the Rabbi Herbert S. Walker, Louisville, and the singing again of “We Shall Overcome” the marchers dispersed back down Capitol Avenue to their cars and buses. Mary Fran Breathitt, 15 year old daughter of Gov. Edward Breathitt was among the marchers Thursday in a demonstration for civil rights legislation. “I’m marching because I feel the Negro should have full rights,” she said, “The Negro is human.”……….
BOYD: Tell me about the march.
MOORE: Well, it was extraordinary, Georgia Powers, who later confessed. [LAUGHING]....Was in the senate at that time. And we were all on the committee together. It was a big....All of the churches united. I can see them marching down Main Street from the college, now, all the way around. And then when they got to the Capital. I never will forget. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it. After the service. I had introduced him.
BOYD: At the march?
MOORE: Yeah. For the speech. And after the speech it’s all over. Here comes one of my members, who worked for the government. Just wanted his autograph, she wanted his autograph. So I said Martin, I said, she wants your autograph. He said, not now, not now, they’re taking pictures. [LAUGHING] So, notoriety can get to the best of us.
BOYD: Sure, sure, sure, that’s right.
MOORE: Not now, they’re taking pictures. I say, he’s human, too.
BOYD: It was a huge turnout, though. What were some of the other things that went on...
MOORE: Oh yeah. Thousands.
BOYD: ...other than. Who were some of the other speakers? Didn’t they have Jackie Robinson there?
MOORE: Yes, he was. Jackie was there, he spoke. I’m trying, well, one of the other speakers, his father was the editor and the owner of The Louisville Defender. I’ve forgotten what his name is. But he spoke. No, he presided. The two of us presided. And I think maybe his father gave a speech. But the main speech was King and Jackie Robinson.
Jones' participated in the March on Frankfort as well as the Frankfort sit-ins.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, do you remember seeing Martin Luther King . . .?
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Ridgel was a professor at Kentucky State University as well as an active member of the NAACP.
ITERVIEWER: In 1963 MLK came here and there was a big rally. Were you part of that?
RIDGEL: I was part of that too, and as a matter of fact, well, its really interesting when you get all of that story. Because we thought, in Frankfort, we thought we were ore a part of it them we absolutely were. As a matter of fact, O susect my husband could find a ribbon down there somewhere. He was supposed to be one of the marshals. Then he discovered, well he wasn’t really the marshall. I mean they got a local marshal/ He didn’t really do anything. But, yes, we were very much involved in arrangements relative to that march, and of course we were, as I said, we were, we thought we were much, much, we didn’t know that federal government, the state government, that there was as much involvement in the preparation of this and that we were just a little speck in the total picture. But it was something to behold.
ITERVIEWER: Can you tell me about it?
RIDGEL: Well, people, when you went, I was in the downtown area and all of a sudden I looked up, down and here come buses after buses after buses, people all over the state. When they lined up on Second Street to prepare the march, and when you swa the people who were in the line you started—it was just awesome. Then they marched on the Capitol—to the Capitol—and of course by then it had started raining. But it was, it was, in spite of the rain it was beautiful you know. And of course, as usual, Martin Luther King gave a very stunning address and I think Kentucky State University Choir sang. And, of, it was and some other choirs and bands were associated from other schools. It was, it was just awesome.
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