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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

My Old Kentucky Home (Dark Side)


Kentucky State Quarter, reverse side: T. James Ferrell, employee of the U.S. Mint, 2001 (image by Dbenbenn, 2005)

My Old Kentucky Home, Stephen Collins Foster, 1853, adopted by Kentucky General Assembly as state song of Kentucky, 19 March 1878: photo of sheet music by Aetzkorn, 20 April 2010

In 1844, the slave ship Kentucky, which had been sold by Americans to Brazilians, sailed to Inhambane and Quelimane, Mozambique, under the American flag. The crew was made up of both Americans and Brazilians. Inhambane and Quelimane, located on the southeast coast of Africa, were off limits to the slave ship by treaty. Nonetheless, once the cargo of 530 adult Africans was shackled aboard the Kentucky, the ship was turned over to the Brazilians, and all or some of the American crew returned to Brazil on another ship. The next day, the Africans attempted an unsuccessful revolt. Those thought to be guilty were tried by the ship captain, and 46 African men and one woman were hanged, then shot in the chest and thrown overboard. In addition, 20 men and six women were severely flogged. When the ship reached Brazil, the entire incident was recounted and recorded at the U.S. Consul in Rio de Janeiro and forwarded to the U.S. Congress. In 1845, Consul Henry A. Wise (Virginia) appealed to President James K. Polk to take a stand against pirate slave ships sailing under the American flag as license for the types of barbarity exhibited on the Kentucky and the slave trade in general. No stand was taken. The Kentucky was eventually found by a British armed vessel; it was tucked away on the Angozha [Angoche] River in Mozambique. With no way to escape by sea, the crew of the Kentucky set the ship on fire and escaped by land.

On March 25, 1871, a letter was sent to the U.S. Congress asking for protection from the Ku Klux Klan for the newly-freed African Americans in Kentucky. The letter was from colored citizens of Frankfort, Franklin County & vicinity, signed by Henry Marrs, a teacher; Henry Lynn, a livery stable keeper; N. N. Trumbo, a grocer; Samuel Damsey; B. Smith, a blacksmith; and B. T. Crampton, a barber. The letter contained a list of 116 incidents of beatings, shootings, hangings, tarring-and-featherings, and other violence that had taken place around the state.

On the evening of August 7, 1871, the election polls had just closed when a race riot developed between African American and white voters in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky, at the market-house precinct. It was the second year of voting for African American men in Kentucky, and tension was high. After a scuffle, whites and African Americans took cover on separate sides of Broadway and began shooting and throwing rocks and boulders at each other across the railroad tracks that ran down the center of the street. Police Captain William Gillmore and Officers Jerry Lee and Dick Leonard rushed to the scene; Gillmore was killed and Lee and Leonard were injured. Other police arrived, but they were driven back. A Mr. Bishop, who was also white, was killed, and several others on both sides were injured. State Troops were ordered into downtown Frankfort to bring the rioting under control. An African American, Henry Washington, who supposedly fired the first shot, was apprehended for the murder of Captain Gillmore. Frankfort Mayor E. H. Taylor, Jr. had appointed the state militia to guard the jailhouse. After the State Troops had gone, the militia dispersed when about 250 armed and masked white men stormed the jailhouse at mid-morning and removed Washington and another African American man, Harry Johnson, who was accused of the rape of a Mrs. Pfeifer. Both men were hanged.

A couple of days before Christmas 1896, white citizens of Mayfield, Kentucky, were preparing for an attack in response to a report that up to 250 armed African Americans were seeking revenge for the lynching of Jim Stone and the "whitecapping" of African American families. The reports had come from Water Valley and Wingo, Kentucky, and other nearby towns. White women and children in Mayfield were ordered off the street by 6:00 p.m. Homes were barricaded. A dispatch was sent to Fulton, Kentucky, asking for a reinforcement of white men, and guards were posted at the railroad station. When a report arrived stating that African Americans were also arming themselves in Paducah, Kentucky, the fire bell was rung in Mayfield and a defense was positioned in the public square to await the attack. The reinforcements from Fulton arrived by train a little after midnight. Will Suett, an 18-year-old African American, was also at the train station and was gunned down. Shots were fired at three other African Americans. Hundreds of shots were fired into buildings and into the trees. Four homes were burnt down. By Christmas Eve, the threat was over. The reinforcements were sent home. A mass meeting was called, and a petition signed by more than 100 African Americans asked for peace between the races. Three people had been killed, one being Will Suett, who had arrived by train from St. Louis; he was returning home to spend Christmas with his family in Mayfield.

Friday, October 16, 1903, Tom Hall's partially nude body was found hung in a tree in Wickliffe, Kentucky. Hall was thought to be a man from Mississippi who had come first to Mayfield, Kentucky, then on to Paducah, to work on the new Cairo division of the Illinois Central Railroad. A disagreement had occurred between two young white men and a group of African Americans at the Paducah-Cairo train depot platform, Sunday night, October 11. There was an exchange of gunfire. One of the white men, Crockett Childress, was shot in the chest, but survived, though rumors circulated that Childress was dead. Tom Hall was shot in the arm. [It was assumed he was a.k.a. Bob Douglas, who was wanted for a shooting in Mississippi.] Hall claimed he was innocent; he said that he was only a bystander who had gotten shot at the train depot. It was decided that there would be less disturbance if Hall were jailed in Wickliffe. On Tuesday, October 12, in response to the shooting, all African Americans were forced to leave Kevil, Kentucky. Friday morning, about 1:15 a.m., a group of about 35 masked white men took Hall from jail and hanged him.

Marie Thompson lived in Shepherdsville, Bullitt County, Kentucky. In 1904, she killed her landlord, John Irvin, after he berated and kicked her son and attacked her with a knife. Thompson was a large woman who got the best of Irvin and cut his throat with his knife. She was arrested and jailed. A lynch mob of a dozen white men made a first attempt to take her from the jail cell. Their efforts were thwarted by a group of armed African American men; a shootout occurred and both parties retreated from the scene. Hours later, a much larger mob of white men succeeded in taking Thompson from the jailhouse; they then attempted to hang her, but while Thompson was swinging in the air, she grabbed a man by the collar and took a knife from him. She cut the length of rope that led to the noose around her neck and landed on the ground. Thompson was fighting her way through the mob when she was gunned down on June 14, 1904. More than 100 shots were fired at her. Marie Thompson died the next day in the Shepherdsville jail.

The first resistance to a lynch mob by local officials and troops in the South took place in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky. In 1920, 10-year old Geneva Hardman, a little white girl, was killed. Will Lockett, an African American World War I veteran, was the suspect. While he was in police custody and without council, Lockett confessed to the murder and other crimes. His trial was set in Lexington for February 9, which was also Court Day, when a large number of people would be in the city. Governor Morrow ordered out all law enforcement officers and state troopers. Several hundred people showed up for the trial. Lockett was sentenced to die in the electric chair. The crowd outside got rowdy, and there was an exchange of gunfire between the crowd and the troopers. Six people were killed and 50 injured. U.S. troops were sent to Lexington. A second surge was building and Brigadier General Francis C. Marshall declared martial law, which remained in force for two weeks. Four hundred troops escorted Lockett to Eddyville Penitentiary, and state guards were detached to nearby Leitchfield, Grayson County, Kentucky, to guard against violence. Lockett died in the electric chair on March 11. Kentucky later became the first state to pass an anti-lynching law.

Sam Jennings was born in Breckinridge County, Kentucky in 1893. In 1930, he was accused of attacking Mabel Downs; the accusation quickly turning into a story that a black man had raped a white woman. Jennings was arrested, and the grand jury indicted him on a charge of rape. He was transferred to Jefferson County Jail for safekeeping: there was fear that a riot might occur and that Jennings might be lynched in Breckinridge County. He was returned to Breckinridge County for his trial, which resulted in his being found guilty. After exhausting his appeals, Sam Jennings was hanged in 1932. Over 6,000 people gathered to watch the event.

Dr. George C. Wright was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He received the Governors Award from the Kentucky Historical Society for his book, Racial Violence in Kentucky, 1865-1940. According to his research, at least 353 lynchings took place in Kentucky up to 1940. Though Wright states that it is impossible to accurately count the number of African Americans lynched, his research shows that the majority of the lynching victims were African American men. More than one-third of the lynchings occurred between 1865 and 1874.

Source: Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, University of Kentucky Libraries

File:MOKH Historical Marker.jpg

Historical marker, My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Bardstown, Kentucky: photo by Bedford, 2006

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Federal Hill Mansion, My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Bardstown, Kentucky: photo by Kentucky Department of Tourism, 16 June 2010; image by J654567, 2010

Jim Crow Laws: Kentucky

Typical of most border states, Kentucky passed numerous segregation laws after the Civil War. Beginning in 1866, a miscegenation law was passed that carried a felony penalty with imprisonment in the state penitentiary up to five years. A 1909 statute called for the establishment of an institution to care for black deaf mutes, with the provision that the two races would be "kept entirely separate and distinct from each other." No anti-segregation laws were passed before 1948. A miscegenation statute was still in effect in 1955.

1866: Miscegenation [Statute]
Prohibited whites from marrying any Negro or any descendant of any Negro to the third generation inclusive. Penalty: Felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state penitentiary up to five years.

1866: Education [Statute]
School district trustees given right to create separate schools for black children.

1868: Barred school segregation [Statute]
Prohibited separate schools based on race.

1869: Barred public accommodations and carrier segregation [Statute]
Prohibited excluding passengers from railroads, streetcars, steamboats, coaches or other vehicles based on race. Allowed for a person's removal if they did not pay the fare, or engaged in disorderly conduct, or committed an act that injured the business of the carrier. Penalty: Forfeiture of the license and closing of the place of business; offender liable to suit by the injured party to recover damages.

1870: Barred anti-miscegenation [State Code]
Private or religious marriages legal to all persons of whatever race or color as well as to marriages formerly prohibited by any law of the state. No language prohibiting intermarriage or miscegenation.

1873: Education [Statute]
Unlawful for a black child to attend a white school, and the reverse. "No colored school shall be located within one mile of a white school, except in cities and towns, where it may not be within six hundred feet."

1890: Railroads [Statute]
Railway companies to provide equal but separate accommodations for white and colored passengers. Penalty: Passengers or conductors not complying with the law subject to a fine of $25 or imprisonment for 20 days. Officers and directors of railway companies that fail to comply guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined between $100 and $500. Law did not apply to streetcars.

1891: Education [Statute]
Unlawful for black and white children to attend the same schools.

1892: Railroads [Statute]
Railroads to provide separate coaches for white and colored passengers. Signs must be posted stating the race for each car. Penalty: Railway companies that failed to comply could be fined from between $500 to $1,500. Conductors who failed to enforce the law were to be fined from $50 to $100.

1893: Miscegenation [Statute]
Marriage prohibited between a white person and a Negro or mulatto.

1894: Railroads [Statute]
Depots must provide equal but separate waiting rooms for the white and colored races. "No person shall occupy the wrong room." Law must be posted in a conspicuous place. Penalty: Persons who insist on entering the improper place may be fined $25 or imprisoned up to 30 days. Agents failing to enforce the law guilty of misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $25 to $50.

1894: Miscegenation [Statute]
Intermarriage between white persons and persons of color prohibited.

1898: Education [Constitution]
General Assembly to establish free public schools for the white and colored races.

1902: Streetcars [Statute]
All streetcars must provide separate but equal accommodations. Penalty: Passengers or conductors not complying could receive a fine of $25 or imprisonment up to 30 days. A railway company that refused to comply could receive a fine of $100, or imprisonment between 60 days and six months.

1904: Education [Statute]
Unlawful to maintain or operate any college, school or institution where persons of the white and Negro races are both received as pupils. Law did not prohibit private schools or colleges from maintaining a separate and distinct branch, in a different locality, not less than 25 miles apart, for the education exclusively of one race or color. Penalty: Violators fined $1,000.

1908: Public accommodation [Statute]
Unlawful for whites and blacks to buy and consume alcohol on the same premises. Penalty: Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $50 to $500, or imprisonment in the parish prison or jail up to two years.

1908: Miscegenation [Statute]
Concubinage between the Caucasian or white race and any person of the Negro or black race is a felony. Penalty: Imprisonment from one month to one year, with or without hard labor.

1909: Health Care [State Code]
Institution for education of colored deaf mutes established. "But the two races shall be forever kept entirely separate and distinct from each other."

1910: Miscegenation [Statute]
Restatement of the law passed in 1908, using the words "Persons of the Caucasian and colored races."

1912: Residential [Statute]
Building permits for building Negro houses in white communities, or any portion of a community inhabited principally by white people, and vice versa prohibited. Penalty: violators fined from $50 to $2,000, "and the municipality shall have the right to cause said building to be removed and destroyed."

1914: Public accommodation [Statute]
All circuses, shows and tent exhibitions required to provide two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers and two entrances to the performance for each race.

1915: Education [Statute]
No white children to attend any graded common school for colored children and vice versa.

1918: Prisons [Statute]
Provided for the segregation of the races in all municipal, parish and state prisons.

1921: Education [Constitution]
Called for separate, free public schools for the education of white and black children between the ages of six and eighteen years.

1921: Housing [Statute]
Prohibited Negro and white families from living in the same dwelling place.

1928: Education [Statute]
Prescribed separate textbooks for white and black school children.

1928: Public Carrier [Statute]
Equal but separate accommodations to be provided on all public carriers.

1932: Residential [State Code]
No person or corporation shall rent an apartment in an apartment house or other like structure to a person who is not of the same race as the other occupants.

1932: Miscegenation [State Code]
Outlawed interracial marriages. Nullified interracial marriages if parties went to another jurisdiction where such marriages were legal. Also prohibited Negroes and Indians to marry each other.

1933: Public accommodations [Statute]
Authorized the establishment of separate library facilities for Negroes in certain cities.

1934: Education [Statute]
Required schools to be racially segregated.

1942: Health Care [Statute]
Separate but equal accommodations for the races to be provided in old age homes.

1944: Miscegenation [Statute]
Marriage between a white person and a Negro or mulatto was prohibited and void. Penalty: Fine of $500 to $5,000. If continued to cohabitate would be imprisoned in the penitentiary for three to twelve months.

1944: Railroads [Statute]
Called for separate coaches or compartments for white and colored passengers.

1948: Barred school segregation [Statute]
Amended law to allow Negro physician and nurses to take postgraduate studies in public hospitals in Louisville.

1950: Barred school segregation [Statute]
Permitted blacks to attend institutions of higher learning in Kentucky under two conditions. Students could attend if a school's governing body approved and if comparable courses were not available at the Kentucky College for Negroes in Frankfort, KY.

1951: Miscegenation [Statute]
Cohabitation between whites and blacks illegal. Penalty: Up to $1,000, or up to five years imprisonment, or both.

1951: Adoption [Statute]
Forbid interracial adoptions.

1952: Miscegenation [State Code]
Prohibited marriage between whites and persons of color. Penalty: Up to $1,000 and/or five years imprisonment.

1953: Health Care [Statute]
Separate tuberculosis hospitals to be established for blacks. Repealed in 1954.

1955: Miscegenation [Statute]
Prohibited marriage between whites and Negroes. Penalty: $500 to $5,000. If cohabitation continues, imprisonment for three to 12 months.

1956: Public carriers [Statute]
Revised older laws requiring that common carriers provide separate waiting rooms for white intrastate passengers and for Negro intrastate and interstate passengers.

1956: Employment [Statute]
Provided that all persons, firms or corporations create separate bathroom facilities for members of the white and Negro races employed by them or permitted to come upon their premises. In addition, separate eating places in separate rooms as well as separate eating and drinking utensils were to be provided for members of the white and Negro races. Penalty: Misdemeanor, $100 to $1,000, 60 days to one year imprisonment.

1956: Recreation [Statute]
Firms were prohibited from permitting on their premises any dancing, social functions, entertainments, athletic training, games, sports or contests in which the participants are members of the white and Negro races.

1956: Public accommodations [Statute]
All public parks, recreation centers, playgrounds, etc. would be segregated. This provision was made "for the purpose of protecting the public health, morals and the peace and good order in the state and not because of race."

1956: Public carrier [Statute]
Public carriers to be segregated.

1957: Education [Constitution]
All public schools to be racially segregated.

1957: Education [Statute]
Compulsory attendance suspended in school systems where integration ordered; no state funds to non-segregated schools.

1960: Voting rights [Statute]
Required that the race of all candidates named on ballots be designated.


Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay), born Louisville, Kentucky, 1942: photo by Ira Rosenberg, World Journal Tribune, 1963 (Library of Congress)

Colored School at Anthoston, Henderson County, Kentucky. Census 27, enrollment 12, attendance 7. Teacher expects 19 to be enrolled after work is over. "Tobacco keeps them out and they are short of hands." Ages of those present: 13 years = 1, 10 years = 2, 8 years = 2, 7 years = 1, 5 years = 1: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 13 September 1916 (National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress)

Colored School at Anthoston, Henderson County, Kentucky: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 13 September 1916 (National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress)




Yes, the Dark Side --

By’n by hard times comes a knocking at the door. . .

The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart. . .

A few more days for to tote the weary load. . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, planet rising behind pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

possible concept, therefore
“not yet identified”

ends being place in picture,
other figures, force

grey white clouds reflected in channel,
wingspan of tern flapping toward point

TC said...


The history and color of time a

possible concept, therefore
“not yet identified”

ends being place in picture,
other figures,

all still going on, all gone
somewhere, morning,

knocking at the door. . .

E said...

This hatred - so deep, so pervasive yet also incomprehensible to those of us not living with it.

Thank you for writing.

TC said...

I am sometimes tempted to think we do still live with its residue, a bitter aftertaste that may take a time longer than our (well, I should say my) lifetime to go away.

Elmo St. Rose said...


Him an educated man: "You can't
make me like them!" out of the

Me: "Who?"

Him: "Black people that's who"

Me: "Me? How did I do that"

Him: "That's what Yankee Jews
are supposed to do. There
the ones gonna get ya"

TC said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The more things stay the same, the worse they get.

The tales of unreconstruction seem to have no end.