CU, Other Libraries, Receive CDs of Interviews of Taylor and Green County African-Americans

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Greater Campbellsville United presented CDs of 32 oral history interviews with Taylor and Green County African-American to local libraries and historical sites at a meeting March 9 at the Ransdell Chapel on the Campbellsville University Campus. From left are: Front row – Wanda Washington, coordinator of Greater Campbellsville United; Betty Jane Gorin-Smith, local historian, Heistand House; Elaine Munday, librarian, Taylor County Public Library; John Burch, director of Campbellsville University’s Montgomery Library; Shelley Pruitt, librarian, Green County Public Library; Campbellsville Mayor Brenda Allen; Jon Allen, who performed the interviews; and Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers. Second row – John Chowning, chair of Greater Campbellsville United; Ron McMahan (behind Chowning), executive director, Campbellsville-Taylor County Economic Development Authority; Tim Hooper, Montgomery Library archivist; Donna Logsdon, coordinator, Downtown Development; Yevette Haskins, co-chair of Greater Campbellsville United and one of those interviewed; Dr. Robert S. Clark, director of missions for the Taylor County Baptist Association and secretary of Greater Campbellsville United, and the Rev. Michael Caldwell, pastor of Pleasant Union Baptist Church and Greater Campbellsville United board member. (Campbellsville University Photo by Joan C. McKinney)

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Campbellsville University, along with two other libraries and the Heistand House and the Kentucky Oral History Commission, received oral history interviews with 32 African-Americans in Taylor and Green counties last week.

The presentation was the result of Jon Allen’s work through a grant obtained by Greater Campbellsville United. Allen interviewed key individuals who were knowledgeable about the African-American community.

Copies of the interviews were presented to Campbellsville University Librarian John Burch, Elaine Munday, librarian at Taylor County Public Library; Shelley Pruitt, librarian at Green County Public Library; and Betty Jane Gorin-Smith, local historian, for the Heistand House.

Sarah Milligan of the Kentucky Oral History Commission also received a copy of the interviews.

Wanda Washington, coordinator of Greater Campbellsville United, invited everyone to utilize the valuable resources offered in the interviews.

“We want everyone to take advantage of the history that’s being offered here,” she said.

Washington said the goal of the project was to learn about the cultural heritage of local African-Americans who have passed stories down from generation to generation and to document their history as recalled through family histories.

“These collections of personal memories were collected through oral interviews with key residents in order to capture the essence of African-American life, their heritage and communities that have moved, grown or diminished over time,” she said.

She said the project has expanded the awareness of African-American culture in Campbellsville, Taylor and Green counties, by identifying the African-American experience and preserving their history while celebrating their important roles in the community.

“This process is a positive and proactive way to build a healthy cultural identity and increase community pride,” she said. “Residents will be able to recognize, honor and value the talents and heritage of these African-Americans who have helped to create the fabric of a tolerant and diverse county.”

Those interviewed were: from Taylor County – Douglas Allen, family grocery store owner; Peggy Anderson, banker; Ruth Anderson, senior citizen; B.J. Brown, funeral director;

Joyce Dunlap, teacher; Kenneth Fisher, teacher; Clem Haskins, coach; Yevette Haskins, class officer and valedictorian of her class at Durham High School; George Hatcher, involved in civil rights legal issues;

Eddie Lee Hazelwood Jr., business; Sharon Hoskins, banker; the Rev. Walter Johnson, pastor; Phyllis Mattingly, teacher; Helen McKay, class officer at Durham High School; Helen Mills, historian;

Joseph Rowe, basketball, Durham High School; the Rev. Cory Shull, pastor; Mildred Smith, historian; Margaret Stewart, librarian/historian; Jean Wickliffe, teacher; Samuel Wickliffe, teacher/coach; Mary C. Williams, Fruit of the Loom; and the following who are now deceased – Frances Clinkscales, nurse; Fannie Ivery, teacher; R.K. Ivery, teacher/coach; and Harriet Penick, hair dresser.

Those from Green County who were interviewed were: Mary Cowherd, banker; Jerry Cowherd, city council/business owner; Margaret Gaddie, nurse; Louis Henry, police officer; Mildred Williams, housewife; and Myrtle Winn, Historical Society.

Washington said several issues regarding African-Americans were explored in the interviews including: verifying the location of early African-American settlements in Campbellsville and Taylor County; documenting how the communities physically changed over the years through the built environment; discovering the dynamics of segregation and integration within the county; revealing civil rights activities during the mid-1900s; understanding the perspective of business, political and cultural leaders; discussing the Underground Railroad and its impact on the area; and exploring how the economics of the county influenced the type of work available to African-Americans.

Jon Allen said he would love to have the young people of today learn about the African-Americans who were interviewed and see what they went through in life.

“I made a lot of friends in the process (of interviewing),” he said.

He said the oldest person he interviewed was Ruth Anderson, who was in her 90s.

The interviews are 30 minutes long.

Yevette Haskins, one of those interviewed, said it was “just an honor to have this kind of history to share. If we don’t honor the past, we lose sight of it.”

John Burch, the librarian at Campbellsville University, said, “The African-American Oral History Interview Collection captures and illuminates the African-American experience in the local region in a manner that can’t be replicated on the written page.”

Elaine Munday, Taylor County Public Library’s librarian, said “We are very grateful for the donation of the oral history interviews donated to us by Greater Campbellsville United. This is a very rich history of Green and Taylor counties and will be available for the entire community to enjoy.”

Shelley Pruitt, librarian in Green County, said, “We are very enthused and very appreciative to add this to our collection. It will be a great asset to our genealogy department.”

Campbellsville Mayor Brenda Allen and Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers were on hand at the presentation of the oral histories.

“It’s great that we have recorded the history of the African-American community and sharing it with other people,” Allen said. “It was wonderful to do something to recognize the backbone of the past.”

Rogers said, “The African-American history needs to be recognized, and it’s an honor that we have these interviews.”

For more information about the project, contact Greater Campbellsville United at (270) 465-9636.

Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,601 students who represent 93 Kentucky counties, 27 states and 31 foreign nations. Listed in U.S.News & World Report’s 2009 “America’s Best Colleges,” CU is ranked 22nd in “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the South for the second consecutive year. CU has been ranked 16 consecutive years with U.S.News & World Report. The university has also been named to America’s Best Christian Colleges®. Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his tenth year as president.