On November 8, 2009, some KHS editorial staff from the Research and Interpretation team were attending the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association in Louisville. We went to a panel session on “African American History in Kentucky: A Tribute to George C. Wright,” presided over by John A. Hardin of Western Kentucky University. We were all very impressed with the quality of the presentations in honor of a pioneering African American historian of Kentucky African American history. And suddenly it came to all of us simultaneously: we have the possibility of a great special issue of the Register!
The idea was one thing. That was November 2009. This is February 2012. The issue, if all goes as it should, will be in the mail by end of March. The interval is an indication of the effort involved in producing the special “Exploring Kentucky’s African American Past” issue. Two of the three papers presented at the meeting formed the nucleus of the project. J. Blaine Hudson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Louisville, discussed free blacks in antebellum Louisville and Gerald L. Smith, of the University of Kentucky history department, dealt with civil rights in twentieth-century Kentucky. We approached other scholars for contributions; new topics were explored and slowly the issue began to take shape.
Eventually, three other essays were added. John A. Hardin contributed an essay on desegregating Kentucky higher education. Contributions of two University of Kentucky doctoral students increased the number of essays to five. Sallie L. Powell presents the career of Brenda Hughes, a pioneering female African American high school basketball referee. Joshua D. Farrington explores the issue of public accommodations and politics in Louisville in 1960-61.
A key factor to ensuring the success of this special issue was securing the services of a guest editor to help with the many details. Gerald L. Smith has filled this role in an admirable way. In addition to helping to recruit, guide, and encourage the authors, he also wrote one of the articles and contributed a perceptive introduction which sets the stage for the articles themselves. This issue also contains a foreword by George C. Wright himself. Dr. Wright is now the president of Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. His foreword is an insightful reflection on his career in the field of Kentucky African American history.
It has taken some considerable time to produce this African American issue of the Register. We hope that you will agree that it has been worth the wait!
-Nelson L. Dawson, editor of the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
For more about this special issue, read Tom Eblen’s recent article on Kentucky.com