March on Frankfort, Who goes down in history?”

Becoming a Detective

Forty years ago on March 5, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., baseball legend Jackie Robinson and Kentucky civil rights leaders led 10,000 people to rally at the Kentucky state capitol in a peaceful demonstration, calling for a “good public accommodations bill” to prohibit segregation and discrimination in stores, restaurants, theaters and businesses. Under consideration by the General Assembly, the bill did not make it out of committee during the session that ended just a few weeks afterward, but the march helped lead to the passage of The Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966, making discrimination in the Commonwealth illegal.

As a member of the history commission selected to review the case, your job is to examine the following documents to decide: Who will go down in history? To that end, your task is to analyze a number of oral and written accounts of the March on Frankfort, Kentucky in 1964 in order to come up with a plausible historical argument.


Investigating the Evidence

  • Document A: Oral history account from Edward Breathitt, Governor of Kentucky at the time of the 1964 march.
  • Document B: Oral history account from Georgia Davis Powers, Original organizers of the march and subsequently elected in 1968 as the first African American to the Kentucky Senate.
  • Document C: Newspaper Account from The State Journal March 6, 1964, included excerpts of King’s speech.
  • Document D: Oral history account from Rev. K. L. Moore, a principal organizer of the March.
  • Document E: Oral history fromMattie Jones, participant in the march as well as the Frankfort sit-ins.
  • Document F: Oral history from Gertrude Ridgel, professor at Kentucky State Univeristy as well as an active member of the NAACP.

Searching for Clues

Please answer the following questions about each document or download the formatted Case File (Word Format | PDF Format)

  1. Whose “voice” do you hear in the document?
  2. What is the date of the document?
  3. Who, according to this document, contributed to the March on Frankfort? (There can be more than one contributor)
  4. What was the contribution? Cite specific phrases from the document.
  5. Whose voices were missing in this investigation? In what ways does this limit your historical interpretation?
  6. How do you define oral history? To what extent is the use of oral history as documentary evidence limited? What sources could you use to corroborate these accounts?

Cracking the Case

Based on your analysis of the six documents and citing evidence to support your answer, please write a paragraph or two answering the following questions: Who should go down in history for the March on Frankfort? Within your analysis, please indicate whether you were satisfied with the evidence and list any additional questions that have been left unanswered through your investigation.

As a follow up exercise to the investigation, we challenge you to come up with an entry (a paragraph or two) that might be included within a history textbook which covers the Civil Rights movement in Kentucky.