First Days of School Desegregation
Document A: Photograph taken of protestors in Sturgis, Kentucky, 1956, Louisville Courier Journal.
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B: Oral History George Logan
In this clip Mr. Logan describes his first days as a graduate student integrating the University of Kentucky in 1951.
My name is George L. Logan, the spelling of my last name is L-O-G-A-N. I’m from Lincoln County, Kentucky. The little county seat of Stanford was where I was born and raised. I attended school there, and finished college at Kentucky State. And in September, 1951, I went to…I was admitted to the University of Kentucky as a graduate student. And, my experience the first day was quite humiliating. I went to class the first day at University of Kentucky, I was assigned to Dr. Clark’s Kentucky history class for the first hour. I went in, there were seats for forty people, I always pride myself to being on time, so I was about five minutes early. I sit down, everybody else came in and I noticed they would take a look at me and stare and then stand up against the wall. Nobody else would take a seat.
Finally, a young man from Bardstown named Jess Gardner came in and he introduced himself, and said he was a veteran, and asked me did I mind if he sit down beside me. I said no and we continued to talk. But, nobody else came in the room to sit down, they just standing against the wall. So finally there was 38 people standing and 2 sitting, me and Jess. When the bell rang, Dr. Clark came in and I guess he was just astounded, because his face turned red as a tomato. And he turned and wheeled and went outside and he stood outside, and went to his office and stayed about 3 minutes, I guess he was getting his thoughts together. And he came back and he said “there are forty seats in here and there’s only two people sitting down. You either take a seat or get out.” And that was reassuring to me at that particular time.
But, the next morning I went to class, they had taken the seat that I had sat in, everybody came to class early that day, and they took a little rope and put around the seat that I was sitting in and put a sign on it "For Colored Only." So everybody was sitting, and when I came in that was the only seat available. So this day I stood up, cause I refused to sit in that seat. And poor Dr. Clark, he came in that morning, and oh that shocked him. And so he came back in the room, and he asked me he says, " Mr. Logan, would you mind if you would go over to the student center, have a cup of coffee or something, you will not be marked absent. I need to talk to these students." And says "don’t worry about it, but tomorrow, you will be treated as a human being." So I said, "no, I don’t mind." I went over to the student center and got some coffee, but it was humiliating because every time I would sit down, I don’t care how long the table was or how wide the table was, if I sat down, sit a cup of coffee down, everybody at the table would get up and leave. But I had been schooled on that and I had expected some of those things, but it was quite humiliating for a human being to put up with. But at that moment, I made up my mind, when I went to that class, that as long as I went to UK, I knew that I was going to excel in my class-work."
C: Oral History Recording Alice Wilson
Alice Wilson recalls her first days at Mayfield High School in Mayfield, Kentucky. She, along with a few African American high school students, were the first to integrate the school in the late 1950s. She discusses the whole process she underwent to attend school there, and what it was like for her there once she was a registered student.
WILSON: A typical day to get ready for school. Ahm, I wore a skirt, socks, the popular shoe at the time, I guess either a oxford or a loafer, penny loafer; hair pulled back in a pony tail, a little barrette of some kind that matched the color of the blouse or the skirt, ahm, a sweater or jacket. And Dorothy was dressed the same way, it was typical dress for the teenagers at that time. And we started out on ah, just another day at school. Conversation on the way to school was about home work, how did you make out? Ahm, I think I have this, well what happened with this problem? All that kind--and two things that teen-age girls talk about, ahm, hair, friends, boy friends, those kinds of things. That's what we talked about on the way to school about every day. Just about every day--except this day was different, because when we reached Seventh Street, which faced the entrance of Mayfield high school; we saw a lot of activity; and for that hour of the morning it was very, very unusual. We said, there's so many cars out here today, what's going on ? And we looked again and saw police cars. Wow. Then we started to see State, State Trooper cars, which was very unusual for Mayfield. We continued walking and saw more and more cars; more and more people around. We looked at each other and said, "Oh, it's going to be one of those days." Where something was going on--we didn't know what it was--we weren't close enough to the building to be able to tell, but we just knew that something was going on. We continued to walk toward of the building anyway. We got to the front, near the front walkway, I should say, to Mayfield high school. we saw that the students had decided they were not going to attend classes with us that day. And some of the other black students had gathered at the same point, we were all near the entrance, near the front walkway I should say, of the building. And there were some few that had already gone into the building, we weren't aware of that however. But there were students on either side of the walkway, yelling all the things that were yelled, nigger, coon, we don't want to go to school with you . Go home. We're tired of this, we are sick of looking at you, you terrible person, get away from us, you are dirty, you stink. So we said, "well, what are we going to do.?" I guess we were all thinking that, I don't know that we verbalized that. So we just started walking. and we walked through the crowds and into the building. Our principle at the time was standing outside to escort us through the front door, and we went in and classes were going on as usual, on schedule. Those students who did not want to participate were already in their assigned classes; we went where we were supposed to go, and our day began. I don't think those students on the lawn exactly got the reaction they wanted. There was no big camera out there, there were no news reporters running around taking pictures; and it certainly didn't stop us, so it didn't get the effect they hoped it would. Again I think probably the Principle--he probably handled that well, without causing more friction than there already was. He simply escorted us through the door and let the door shut. And it was their choice if they were going to stand out there for the remainder of the day, or come in the building. And after a while they found that nobody else was coming out there to say anything. They went into the building, that was the end of that day; and that incident was never repeated.
D: Oral History Account Blaine Hudson
Oral History Account, recorded August, 23, 2000. Blaine Hudson, who is a professor of history at the University of Louisville, tells of his family background and his experiences of going from an all Black elementary school to a primarily White high school in Louisville. (http://18.104.22.168/civil_rights_mvt/util.aspx?p=1&pid=15168)
BRINSON: Did you graduate from Atherton?
HUDSON: No. I transferred from Atherton to Male. Atherton was an interesting place. I
had a couple of interesting run-ins with white teachers there and, you know, I think I got .
BRINSON: Can you tell me about that?
HUDSON: Sure. Well, there was one, got a chemistry teacher, and I took chemistry in my first period. And he had a picture of a chimpanzee on the inside of his cabinet behind his desk. It's early in the morning, right, and anytime someone would yawn he'd open up the door and point to the picture of the chimpanzee. Well, he and I got along okay until I got an 'A' the first grading period. And this is something I've run into a lot, you know, a lot of white Americans are willing to concede that a black person may be able to run faster or jump higher than they can but they have a real problem if you're smarter than they are. And, you know, having had to sort of live with that almost all of my life, it's something that has its own unusual set of dynamics. But the first grading period, I got an 'A' so after that it seemed like he was determined that I wasn't going to get two 'A's in a row in his class. And we had an examination and I think there were twenty-five questions on the examination. I got twenty-four out of twenty-five right, you know; my math tells me that is ninety-six; ninety-six is an 'A'. Well, he decided that instead of getting a ninety-six I got an eighty-eight or something like that. And he took points off because I didn't start my answer on the top line of the paper. And so, you know, I questioned that; and the next thing I know, I'm being sent to the office; and the next thing I know I'm on the bus going home. And so my mother had to come back out there and all this. Then I had a Latin teacher [Laughing]--this is sort of funny, I've been writing poetry since I was eight years old--I enjoyed Latin, but Latin was enough to keep you busy about twenty minutes of the hour. So when I finished what I had to do, a lot of times I would look out the window, I'd be writing something. And this was one of those teachers that you just sort of knew that me just being in the class was a problem for her; just body language, facial language, the whole thing. And anyway, one day I was just writing some stuff while we were sitting in class. Other students were still working, I was through. So I wasn't doing anything disruptive. Well, she decided she was going to come by and throw my stuff on the floor and then tell me that I was suppose to pick it up. Well, I didn't pick it up, so I'm going down to the office again and I'm on the bus coming home again. And after that, you know, I didn't want to be there anyway but, you know, I went to Male the
next year. What makes it so interesting is that when they made the announcement that I was a National Merit semi-finalist, at the beginning of my senior year at Male, there were some people out at Atherton who had the nerve to talk about how they basically had made me what I was. That was the damnedest thing I've heard! [Laughter] And I was interviewed about that years ago and I told some folks that the people who taught me in elementary school and junior high school were the ones who did that. But I didn't really . . . you know, I didn't have a bad experience with some of the other teachers at Atherton. I didn't have a bad experience at Male. But you always knew that to some extent, at Atherton certainly, I was a stranger in a strange land. That was my first real experience with dealing with that.
E: Oral History Recording Rev.David Pettie
Oral History recorded August 16, 2001, Rev.David Pettie describes what went on in Sturgis, Kentucky the day one of his daughters was one of the first African American students to attend Sturgis High School.
BRINSON: He was there with his …
PETTIE: He was there, with the others. He said, well …
BRINSON: What--can you--I want to ask you some names here. Like, you remember the name of the woman who went with you?
PETTIE: Yes, she’s dead now, Mary Ethel Morris.
BRINSON: Ethel Morris?
PETTIE: That’s right.
BRINSON: And how about the name of the man in the mine?
PETTIE: He’s dead, too, his name was Clarence Powell.
BRINSON: Clarence Powell.
PETTIE: That’s right.
BRINSON: I’m—I’m spelling the names because the transcriber who is going to type this all up--
PETTIE: Oh, I don’t—I don’t care nobody knowing who did what.
BRINSON: Right, okay.
PETTIE: And I’d call the name with him sitting right here with us. It don’t make, you know, a difference. And, uh, another fella standing there. Said, “What you doing up here David P, what you coming up here for?” And my exact words, I said, “I come to die, what did you come for?” And the state trooper, he’s retired now, he said, “Ah, Pettie,” say, “You move on.” I said, “I’m going to move on,” I said, “But you tell them that I’m bringing my child to school. Now if they have a quarrel, to pick on me, please don’t touch my child, because somebody going die.” He said, “Oh, it ain’t going to be nothing like that, just move on.” So I moved on. Carried her on to school. And I stand right up there a while, and I left. But when time come for them be dismissed, I was back up there. And I got my daughter. And we, ah, we, ah -- some of the meeting citizens here; we had a meeting, and we decided that, we were to, call, ah, Frankfort. Call the government. And, ah, call in and Happy Chandler was the Governor at the time. We called Happy Chandler. And, ah—I’m not going to say who called him. [Laughs.] But, it wasn’t no black person that called him. And, uh. . . But he was in the meeting with us. And he called Happy Chandler, and Happy Chandler said, “Well, in the morning, I’ll have ample protection in Sturgis, because the man said there’d probably be a lot of bloodshed here and, ah… See, we weren’t running, we didn’t back up. If we had a run, it probably would have been, but we didn’t run.
BRINSON: Mm-hmm. Why wouldn’t you want to tell me the name of the man who called?
PETTIE: Who called, ah --
BRINSON: Who called the governor.
PETTIE: Ah, he was, ah – he was the mayor at the time, I’ll tell you that.
PETTIE: And, ah, -- and so, uh. . . that next morning, to everybody’s surprise, the National Guard was at Sturgis. Rolling. Nobody know where they came from, or who sent for them. And that’s why—
BRINSON: Were you surprised, that they were here, too?
PETTIE: Ahh-ha. Well, he said they’d be here. No, I wasn’t surprised. But the people that weren’t in the meeting were surprised. They were surprised. And the National Guard was in town, and they had order there, till, ah, they had a meeting, in Washington, D.C. On, ah, law, Civil Rights law, which had, hadn’t been passed, fully, in the state of Kentucky. And so that come down, and so we had to withdraw. But after the year of fifty-six and fifty-seven, ah, the fifty-seven-fifty-eight school year, it was the same thing. But not like it was in fifty-six. But we did have problems.
BRINSON: I understand that, the students actually, the first year, went to school for almost two weeks …
PETTIE: They did.
BRINSON: …before you had to withdraw.
BRINSON: And then they were told they would have to go back to Duncan for the year.
BRINSON: Dunbar. And that, ah, there was actually, for a week, some of the black students boycotted going back to the black school. Do you remember any of that at all, or. . . ?
PETTIE: Yes, my daughter was in the bunch.
BRINSON: Okay. And …
PETTIE: And I didn’t make her. I said, “That decision’s yours.”
PETTIE: I said, “Whatever decision you make, Daddy will stand with you.
BRINSON: Okay. And can you tell me, if you remember, why they decided to boycott the black school?
PETTIE: Well, really—ah--we didn’t have—we didn’t have the kind of backing that we, was expected, from the black people. The black people were afraid, you understand.
F: Oral History Account James Howard
Oral History account recorded, ? of James Howard, born in November 1942, in Sturgis, Ky. From kindergarten through 9th grade, he attended the all-black school at Dunbar in Morganfield, KY. Since Sturgis had no black school, students from Sturgis were bussed each day to Morganfield, approximately eleven miles away. In 1956, at age thirteen, James, along with other students, attempted to integrate the all-white Sturgis high school, which was only blocks from his home. The new school also offered science and foreign language programs that were not offered in the black Morganfield school. The campaign to integrate the schools received international media attention when protestors blocked the streets, burned a cross in an evening demonstration, and generally harassedblacks in the community. A judicial order led to school integration a year later. (http://22.214.171.124/civil_rights_mvt/util.aspx?p=1&pid=15541)
HOWARD: The State Police and the National Guard were called in, I believe it was on the third day that we went in; because over the week end-I-if I--if my memory serves me correctly we had gone in the middle of the week. It was either a Wednesday or Thursday. And then it was over during the week-end that people came from all around. Not only individuals from Sturgis, and not only individuals who had children in Sturgis, but people from all around the county ah, that had come in to voice their disagreement about ah, about our attending the school there at Sturgis. So it was after that, that ah, that they, they were called in. That they being the Guard. I guess my initial recollection of them were seeing the tanks and seeing the soldiers and walking around town; and quite frankly it was somewhat comforting to see them present, because given the attitude of the people who were here, it was close to a riot. Ah, there were many statements being made of what would be done for those of us who were going to school and certainly what would happen with our parents and any one else who participated in our attending school there.
BRINSON: Do you remember any of the specific statements that were being made, what kinds of threats?
HOWARD: Oh there were threats about, "Oh, you niggers won't live to see another day if you come back to school here. Any niggers that have any--ah, have any kids out here won't have a job if you continue to go." Those were some of the kinds of threats that were made. Ah, and in this--in--in this close society, and it was a close society back in 1956. This area of the city was called Boxtown, which was all black. And it was called Boxtown because many of the houses, back in those days in the black community, were orginally made out of old crates, and so therefore,it was called Boxtown. And, but most of the blacks, in fact all of the blacks lived in this area, and they spoke to--about burning the entire Boxtown down. So those were some of the comments that were being made.
HOWARD: It wasn't just a case of my feeling that I was in physical danger: I was spit on, I had rock--ah, eggs thrown on me, tomatoes thrown on me, I was hit with rocks, I was kicked, I was pushed, I was shoved. So it wasn't just whether I felt that I was in danger, it was real. Clearly there were two sets of rules, ah, from the outset; there were one for black children; there was one for white children. Any black child who put up any resistance at any time was expelled. And that was made very clear to us: if you do anything that will violate--if there were any infractions of any rules, for anything, you would be expelled. That's the reason that I did not ...
BRINSON: And what about the white children? What were the rules for them?
HOWARD: There were a different set of rules for them. They participated in the name-calling, they participated in the spitting, the hitting, the shoving, the kicking. Ah, they were not expelled.
G: Oral History Account Lloyd Arnold
Oral History Account, March 21, 2001: Lloyd Arnold. Arnold's educational opportunities were very limited when he was growing up near Paducah. He dropped out of high school when he was hit by rocks while walking through a white neighborhood to get to his school that was 5 miles away. His father had stressed the importance of education and so Arnold was determined that his daughters would have the opportunities that he did not. As an active Mason he learned about changes occurring in the schools and saw to it that his oldest daughter was the 1st Black student to attend Murray State College and his second daughter the first Black student to integrate Murray High School. He remained a very involved parent in his children's education and in securing Black faculty at Murray State. Later he served six years on the Murray City Council and saw several improvements in that community.
ARNOLD: Now Geneva, thats my oldest daughter, she went to Murray State. See now
when I filled out the application for her to go to Murray State uh, President Woods wouldnt accept it. Hes the President.
BRINSON: Hes the President of the College?
ARNOLD: Yeah, he was the President, they wasnt no college, it was a college it wasnt no university, in 1955. See it was a college.
BRINSON: And he, what happened?
ARNOLD: He wasnt paying no attention when I first sent in about her going, you know. I
had put in the application to register for her to go, and so it got around to some attorney; his name was James Obey.
BRINSON: Can you spell his last name for me?
ARNOLD: Obey, O-B-E, I cant spell it right. Theres a bunch of Oboes here now. His
name is James Obey. And I got a call one afternoon, and he asked me to come up there, he wanted to talk to me. I didnt know why, and he told me to bring my daughter with me.
BRINSON: And he was a white attorney?
ARNOLD: Yeah. And so that Saturday morning me and her went up there. And he says, I
see here you filed for Murray State, going to Murray College. And uh, he said, Do you really want to go? And she said Yes, I want to go because I want to get an education. Well, he said, Well, Im going to put the application in for you. You see they wouldnt accept the one that I had sent, but when he sent one in, they accepted it. So when they accepted it Dr. Ralph Woods called me, and wanted me to come out there to take an interview.
BRINSON: Wanted you to come?
ARNOLD: So I go out there and take an interview, and he asked me the reason why. I said, The law says she can go to college. Thats what it says. But he advised me for her not to take up no swimming.
BRINSON: Swimming, why was that?
ARNOLD: I dont know, I didnt ask it. I said, Well shes not interested in swimming,
shes interested in an education. And I said, If its left up to her, whether she wants to take up swimming or not. Thats what I told him. So Professor Nash, thats the man that comes and
picks her up and carries her to the school to register.
BRINSON: Now was he a black professor?
ARNOLD: He was white, no they wasnt no blacks out there at all.
BRINSON: So he was a professor at Murray State?
ARNOLD: Murray State, Reverend Nash. So he comes and picks her and carries her to have her registered. Maybe to have her registered before the other kids were, I guess. But anyway, so after that happened, well she was going to school so I bought her a brand new Plymouth car; and my youngest daughter Marie, she could drive it, my oldest daughter hadnt learned to drive, but my youngest daughter could drive. So I would let her drive up to the college and then shed come back to the high school and park her car there till shed pick her up every evening. So that happened during a good while and then one evening she come in Daddy somebody hit my car. Somebody hit my car where it was parked on the high school lot. And find out they lived across the street and backed into it, but she wasnt fixing to tell nothing about it, but it happened to be somebody that paid attention to it, and called attention. Now I had insurance on it, but it was the type of insurance that I had to pay twice as much, maybe, you know as an ordinary person would pay. And so uh, I said, Well the insurance will come to take care of it. And someone said, No you supposed to turn it in. So I went and talked to the police about it. So it got around, and this lady sent me seven hundred dollars; didnt identify herself or nothing, but paid for the damage to the door where she hit. So after that happened, well she went on and finished school.
H: Oral History Recording Anne Butler
Oral History recorded January 7, 2000. Anne Butler, Anne Butler describes growing up in Stanford at the time schools were integrating and being encouraged by her mother and a white mentor to pursue education. She tells of her college experience at EKU and of the activities of the Black students who sought to have Black speakers, Black history etc. She traces her growing political awareness noting various early experiences and magazines she read throughout high school and college. Her current research on Kentucky African Americans has enabled her to learn about the slave heritage of her family.
BRINSON: Hmm. Now you went to Stanford High School, and what do you recall about the first few days there?
BUTLER: Uh, let me tell you [clears throat] this. Uh, the head of the family that my mother worked for was a man who was, uh, head of the, Chair of the Board of Education. And so there were messages sent like, “Tell Anne everything is going to be okay.” And so I remember going to the high school, the new high school, our Stanford High School, uh, not anticipating any problems. By this time I was painfully aware of the, uh, integration struggles that had taken place, you know, Daisy Bates out in Arkansas in ’57 and so on. Uh, and so basically I just remember absolutely no tension whatsoever. Uh, the anxiety that comes with entering a new place, and trying to figure out how that place works, uh, were certainly present. But, uh, you know, we were given assignments for homerooms and then a schedule, and so on and, uh, that was, that was about it. Uh, shortly after the first of the year, uh, I think we became aware that participating in activities like we had done at Lincoln was going to be real different. And, uh, I had been a cheerleader at Lincoln and certainly, uh, by the spring when try-outs were taking place I, I had a real sense that was, it would be futile to try. And so I decided not to go to try-outs but several of my friends did and they were not selected. Uh, so the . . .
BRINSON: Were there any black cheerleaders?
BUTLER: There were no black cheerleaders, ever, while we were there although, uh, one of the resources the white people knew they were getting was the athletic talent of the black football and basketball players. And so you could see some real differences in, in the treatment. I mean these guys were just immediately adopted in whatever popular clique was at present at school and so on. The teachers seemed to accommodate difference without making a big deal out of it . I recall the expectations were high and, you know, I just knew we, we had to perform. I don’t remember feeling under any particular pressure to prove myself.
BRINSON: What was the teacher ratio in terms of black and white?
BUTLER: Oh, uh, at the high school level all of the teachers—well, there were only a handful of teachers, and they did not get incorporated into the white high school at all. The principal at Lincoln and his wife stayed and were over the special ed program; and then there was one black teacher at the elementary level. The first, second and third grade teacher, uh, was transferred over. For some reason—I don’t know if Mrs. Perkins retired, who had been the fourth, fifth and sixth, but, I suppose that happened because she was getting up into years, and I don’t remember her making the transfer at all. The coach, the fellow who—the teacher who had taught ninth and tenth grade science classes and so on, uh, went elsewhere to work. He, he didn’t have the opportunity to go over either.
BRINSON: Do you recall approximately how the class make-up went in terms of race?
BUTLER: There were fourteen of us in my, uh, sophomore class, fourteen of the African Americans who entered the white school. And when we graduated, there was a combined total of fifty-five. So, uh . . .
BRINSON: How many of the fourteen graduated?
BUTLER: Oh, all of us graduated and our class, our graduating class, was the largest in the history of Stanford High School so, uh . . .