Carter G. Woodson, Berea, Ky. (1875-1950):
Carter G. Woodson was an author,
educator and human rights activist who is best known as the Father of National
Black History Month. Dr. Woodson is a graduate of Berea College, which was
founded in the 1800s by John G. Fee as an institute of higher learning for
blacks and whites. Dr. Woodson later campaigned for Negro History Week as a way
to instill pride in African Americans. He chose February because Abraham Lincoln
and Frederick Douglass both had birthdays during the month. Dr. Woodson's idea
became popular and was expanded to include the entire month of February, which
is now officially recognized as the United States Black History Month.
Robert A. Coleman, Paducah, Ky. (1932- ):
Mr. Coleman, a lifetime member of
his local NAACP chapter, has served as a city commissioner in Paducah since
1973, including six years as mayor pro tem. As a city commissioner for more than
25 years, he was at the forefront of major civil rights changes in Paducah. He
helped the city hire its first black police and fire chiefs. He was the first
African American director of personnel and director of solid wastes and the
first black director of building maintenance and 911 emergency communications.
Mr. Coleman was the first African American to serve as president of the Paducah
Local of the National Association of Letter Carriers Union and the first to
serve as chairman of the executive board of the Kentucky State Association of
the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Dr. Maurice F. Rabb, Louisville, Ky. (1902-1982):
Dr. Rabb was the first
black physician accepted for membership in the Jefferson County Medical Society.
He served on the staffs of Jewish Hospital and St. Joseph Infirmary. He had a
private practice in Shelbyville after coming to Jefferson County in 1946. Dr.
Rabb was a charter member of the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union and was a vice
president of the NAACP in Louisville. He fought against laws that segregated
people and for laws that promoted the hiring and promotion of blacks. He was a
member of the Louisville Human Relations Commission.
Cass Irvin, Louisville, Ky. (1945- ):
She is a disability rights advocate and
author who lobbied the 1984 General Assembly to create the Personal Care
Attendant Program for people with disabilities. Ms. Irvin frequently drove her
wheelchair a quarter of a mile through rain, snow and cold, in order to take a
van to travel from Louisville to Frankfort, to fight for passage of the law. She
earned a teaching degree in 1969, but encountered discrimination in public
schools that refused to let someone in a wheelchair become a student teacher.
She earned a master's degree from the University of Louisville in the early
1970s, but found that the college had numerous obstacles, including no automatic
doors, and inaccessible classrooms and buildings. She became a board member of
the Action League of Physically Handicapped Adults (ALPHA) in 1976, and has been
fighting for better access and treatment for people with disabilities ever
since. She has served as a member of the Kentucky Arts Council Standing Civil
Rights Advisory Committee.
John G. Fee, Berea, Ky. (1816-1901):
Mr. Fee founded Berea College in 1859 as
a co-educational institution that would admit men and women, black and white, at
a time when slavery was legal in Kentucky. Mr. Fee was an abolitionist who was
born in 1816 in Bracken County, Ky. His family members were farmers who owned
slaves. However, he later attended seminary and preached against the institution
of slavery. Berea, the town in Madison County he helped found in 1854, became a
center for abolitionist activity. He was driven out of Berea in 1859 by
pro-slavery sympathizers but returned in 1865. During his lifetime, Mr. Fee
insisted that blacks and whites, men and women, learn in the same classroom and
participate in the same social clubs and activities. He said that racial
equality should be preached and practiced.
Sister Lupe Arciniega, Nerinx, Ky. (1936- ):
For more than 50 years, Sister
Lupe has been an educator and defender of migrant farm workers and immigrants in
countries such as Bolivia, Peru and the United States. She is a member of the
Sisters of Loretto. She has worked with Cesar Chavez in California to improve
conditions for the United Farmworkers. In 1988, Sister Lupe began her work in
Kentucky through her affiliation with Catholic Charities Rural Ministries. She
has helped Hispanics, most recently in the Elizabethtown and Hodgensville areas,
obtain fair wages, health care, housing and child care.
Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston, Elizabethtown, Ky. (1926- ):
He is the U.S.
Senator (1973-1985) and state senator who spent his career championing the
rights of minorities, women erve all races during the 1960s and the disabled. He
urged restaurants to sand asked churches to admit people of different colors as
members. He co-sponsored an Open Housing law as a state senator. He led efforts
in Kentucky to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. He helped honor Muhammad Ali in
a program in Washington, D.C.
John J. Johnson, Baltimore, Md. (1945- ):
Mr. Johnson is a former president
of the Franklin-Simpson County Branch of the NAACP. He currently serves as the
Chief Programs Officer for the National NAACP. He has worked for the Kentucky
Commission on Human Rights as well as the Louisville and Jefferson County Human
Relations Commission. He has traveled the world on behalf of the NAACP to
improve human rights and fairness. He directs programs to help military
veterans, spur economic development for poor people, increase voter
registration, encourage young entrepreneurs, and foster humane treatment for
prison inmates. He has fought discrimination against African American military
personnel in Germany and has made humanitarian visits to Zimbabwe, Africa.
Beverly L. Watts, Louisville, Ky. (1948- ):
Ms. Watts was the executive
director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights from 1992-2004. She is the
executive director of the National Fair Housing Training Academy in Washington,
D.C. She established the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2000 to celebrate
the achievements of men and women who served as role models and beacons for
civil and human rights. She pushed for stronger ties with local human rights
commissions; led a hate crimes commission that consisted of state, local and
federal officials; shortened the amount of time it took to close discrimination
cases; and, established a number of educational and social awards tied to the
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. She organized a commemorative program in
2004 to mark the 1964 Civil Rights March on Frankfort that was led by Dr. King.
Gov. Augustus O. Stanley, Shelbyville, Ky. (1867-1958):
Augustus O. Stanley
was elected governor of Kentucky in 1915. He also served nearly six years as a
U.S. Senator. He was an advocate for women's rights and the Worker's
Compensation Act. He increased funding for Negro schools and opposed the Ku Klux
Klan. He once came to the rescue of a black man who was pursued by a lynch mob,
Harry N. Sykes, Lexington, Ky. (1927- ):
Mr. Sykes is active in the Lexington
Urban League. He served four terms on the Lexington City Council, beginning in
1963. He was Lexington’s Mayor Pro Tem in 1967 after being the top vote getter
during the election. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Lexington in 1971. He
played professional basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters. He taught
mathematics and served as assistant basketball coach at Dunbar High School in
Lexington from 1954-1962. He was the first black to serve as acting manager and
chief administrative officer for the City of Lexington from 1973-75 and was
highly respected for his leadership in that capacity and for his success in
attracting new business to Lexington. Many students and business people in
Lexington also cited him as a role model.
Dr. Joseph McMillan, Louisville, Ky. (1929 - ):
Dr. McMillan is a community
activist and a representative of the Citizens Against Police Abuse (CAPA). He is
a retired professor of the University of Louisville. He was campaign manager for
former Jefferson County Commissioner Darryl Owens. He was a commissioner for the
Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. He worked to get African Americans hired in
state and local government. He works to improve economic, social and political
conditions for African Americans in Kentucky.
Robert Todd Duncan, Danville, Ky. (1903-1998):
Todd Duncan created the role of
Porgy in the classic musical, Porgy & Bess, which opened on 10 October 1935
in New York. Prior to that, he obtained a master's degree in voice from Columbia
University. He sang in London, and was the first black artist to appear at the
New York City Opera, in 1945. He retired from show-business in 1951, but
continued a teaching and singing career that included over 2,000 performances in
56 countries. During his performance in Porgy & Bess in Washington, D. C.,
he led a strike that resulted in the National Theatre allowing an integrated
audience for the first time. He was a Professor of Voice at Howard University in
Washington D.C., and was recognized as an outstanding and dedicated teacher. He
taught hundreds of black artists at the university and later as a private tutor
from his home. teacher continued until just before his death.
Norbert L. Blume, Louisville, Ky. (1922- ):
Mr. Blume was a Kentucky state
representative. He spent 14 years in the Kentucky Legislature and was elected
speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1972. During his public
service , he supported The Kentucky Civil Rights Act and championed legislation
in 1966, to give enforcement powers to The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.
He supported The Kentucky Fair Housing Law of 1968. A former union leader and
employee of American Standard in Louisville, he helped resolve many
discrimination cases in the workplace.