Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1904-1954

By Stephens, Jessica E; J John Harris, III | The Journal of Negro Education, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1904-1954


Stephens, Jessica E, J John Harris, III, The Journal of Negro Education


Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1904-1954, by John A. Hardin. Lexington:

University Press of Kentucky, 1997. 200 pp. $29.95, cloth.

Reviewed by Jessica E. Stephens, Eastern Kentucky University; and J. John Harris, III, University of Kentucky.

In Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, author John Hardin, an associate professor of history at Western Kentucky University, uses one southern state as a case study for examining the context of regional higher education desegregation trends while drawing implications for other southern states and for the nation as a whole. Dividing his work into five chapters, each of which focuses on a specific portion of the half-century leading up to the 1954 Brown decision, Hardin identifies Black educators active during the period. He also examines the various ideologies that accompanied the development of Black education in Kentucky, demonstrating conclusively that higher education in that state was molded by a resolute racism woven tightly into its social, political, legal, and educational fabrics.

The book showcases its author's keen understanding of the administrative, political, and social dynamics of Kentucky's segregated system of higher education. Hardin recounts, for example, the case of Berea College, a pioneer institution in desegregated education, as one that set the tone for the events that shaped higher education in Kentucky during the critical period between 1904 and 1954. Berea's early attempts at desegregation were stifled by the infamous 1904 Day Law, which prohibited integrated education in the state. Even after the Brown decision, the Day Law continued to be enforced in many of Kentucky's colleges and universities. Hardin notes, however, that in 1949, notwithstanding these strictures, Black Kentuckian Lyman T. Johnson (with the legal guidance of NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] attorney Thurgood Marshall), attacked segregated higher education in the state by suing the University of Kentucky for admission to its doctoral program in history. These efforts led to the state's being forced to comply with the full-fledged desegregation ruling looming on the horizon. Although Kentucky declined to join as a plaintiff in Brown, it eventually received with the rest of the nation the tangible benefits of integrated education engendered by that decision. Other milestone educational achievements in the state, such as the founding of Lincoln Institute in Simpsonville and Kentucky State University in Frankfort, are also examined, along with the histories of lesser-known institutions such as the West Kentucky Industrial College for Colored Persons. …

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