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Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky

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Overview

Memories fade, witnesses pass away, and the stories of how social change took place are often lost. Many of those stories, however, have been preserved thanks to the dozens of civil rights activists across Kentucky who shared their memories in the wide-ranging oral history project from which this volume arose. Through their collective memories and the efforts of a new generation of historians, the stories behind the marches, vigils, court cases, and other struggles to overcome racial discrimination are finally being brought to light. In Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, Catherine Fosl and Tracy E. K'Meyer gather the voices of more than one hundred courageous crusaders for civil rights, many of whom have never before spoken publicly about their experiences. These activists hail from all over Kentucky, offering a wide representation of the state's geography and culture while explaining the civil rights movement in their respective communities and in their own words. Grounded in oral history, this book offers new insights into the diverse experiences and ground-level perspectives of the activists. This approach often highlights the contradictions between the experiences of individual activists and commonly held beliefs about the larger movement. Interspersed among the chapters are in-depth profiles of activists such as Kentucky general assemblyman Jesse Crenshaw and Helen Fisher Frye, past president of the Danville NAACP. These activists describe the many challenges that Kentuckians faced during the civil rights movement, such as inequality in public accommodations, education, housing, and politics. By placing the narratives in the social context of state, regional, and national trends, Fosl and K'Meyer demonstrate how contemporary race relations in Kentucky are marked by many of the same barriers that African Americans faced before and during the civil rights movement. From city streets to mountain communities, in areas with black populations large and small, Kentucky's civil rights movement was much more than a series of mass demonstrations, campaigns, and elite-level policy decisions. It was also the sum of countless individual struggles, including the mother who sent her child to an all-white school, the veteran who refused to give up when denied a job, and the volunteer election worker who decided to run for office herself. In vivid detail, Freedom on the Border brings this mosaic of experiences to life and presents a new, compelling picture of a vital and little-understood era in the history of Kentucky and the nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is much work that needs to be done when it comes to writing the history of Kentucky. Fortunately, a number of steps have been taken to correct this, and oral history projects are a key component in filling in the gaps. "Freedom on the Border" is one example of how these interviews can be used to further explore the role of Kentuckians within the context of major events within the history of the country. They are much needed, and hopefully this will be the first of many such efforts."—David A Serafini,Bowling Green Daily News" —

"The book, which shares the activists' own recollection of the struggles to dismantle legal segregation in Kentucky, is the first published study of the civil rights movement in Kentucky."—Lexington Herald-Leader" —

"These stories remind us that a social justice movement does not end when laws are passed or crowds dwindle, but continues as long as people experience inequality and act against it."—Linda Elisabeth Beattie, Courier-Journal" —

"This is an excellent way to get at what occurred...has the value of interviewing the people who actually experienced the events and who may not have a personal or political ax to grind."—Multicultural Review" —

"Freedom on the Border is well organized... linking the personal and political, as well as the past and the present."—Indiana Magazine of History" —

"This well researched and cogently written volume introduces a unique perspective of the African American freedom struggle that has received only scant attention from most scholars."—Northern Kentucky Heritage" —

"Freedom on the Border serves as a valuable introduction to the considerable oral history resources on the movement available in Kentucky."—LeeAnn G. Reynolds, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society" —

"... The book provides compelling insight into race relations and the civil rights movement in the state."—Journal of Southern History" —

"Fosl and K'Meyer's oral history collection illuminates an amazing variety of individual and collective tactics and strategies that Kentuckians used to fight for equality."—Wesley Hogan, Virginia State University" —

"This work certainly brings us closer to understanding two seemingly paradoxical truths of the modern black freedom struggle: regional variations matter, and the Civil Rights movement unfolded differently within the South, across the Midwest, and in the North." — Southern Quarterly" —

"Put[s] faces on the participants in the struggle for freedom from oppression and document[s] collaboration as well as contention between blacks and whites, the powerful and the powerless."— Appalachian Journal" —

"This is a useful collection that provides further evidence to support the reinterpretation of the black freedom struggle and its leadership that has been underway in recent years." — Journal of African American History" —

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813126067
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 7/2/2010
  • Series: Kentucky Remembered: an Oral History Series
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 1,358,933
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Fosl, associate professor of women's/gender studies and director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research at the University of Louisville, is the author of Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South.Tracy E. K'Meyer, associate professor of U.S. history at the University of Louisville, is the author of Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945 1980.

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