Been Coming through Some Hard Times: Race, History, and Memory in Western Kentucky

By Lowery, J. Vincent | The Journal of Southern History, May 2014 | Go to article overview

Been Coming through Some Hard Times: Race, History, and Memory in Western Kentucky


Lowery, J. Vincent, The Journal of Southern History


Been Coming Through Some Hard Times: Race, History, and Memory in Western Kentucky. By Jack Glazier. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2012. Pp. xviii, 278. $48.00, ISBN 978-1-57233-915-6.)

Anthropologist Jack Glazier, whose past works include studies of Jewish immigrants in the United States and the Mbeere of Kenya, found inspiration for his latest book in his own past. During his youth, Glazier's parents hired Idella Bass, an African American woman from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to take care of their children. He intended to write a history of the Bass family, led by Idella's father, James Walter Bass, an ex-slave, Oberlin College student, and successful businessman. The lack of sources, however, prompted Glazier to expand the project into a study of the African American community and race relations in her hometown in the southwestern part of Kentucky. The result of Glazier's efforts is a valuable interdisciplinary study in which he argues that Hopkinsville "may be taken as an American microcosm" because of the ways that race shaped "the social, political, and economic landscape" of the town (p. 3).

Glazier focuses much of his attention on the leading members of Hopkinsville's black community. His chapter on antebellum Hopkinsville reveals whites' fears of slave revolt and their sponsorship of freed slave Alexander Cross's voyage to Liberia, reflective of their belief that blacks did not belong in the community unless bound to white masters. In the post-Reconstruction era, many prominent African Americans, including James Bass, supported Booker T. Washington's racial strategy and preferred to develop the black community rather than challenge the Jim Crow system that denied them equal standing in Hopkinsville. African Americans' activism was limited by their dependence on whites for work, patterns of racial violence, and the culture of the Lost Cause that legitimated the emerging postbellum order in Hopkinsville. …

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