Tag Archives: Kentucky African American Encyclopedia

Muhammad Ali, 1942-2016

Excerpted from The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia:

Much can be said of the meaning and impact of his life in the last half of the twentieth century. In this context, Muhammad Ali rose to prominence as a boxer during an era that witnessed the transformation of the sport. The Olympic Games (in 1952, 1956, and 1960) became an international arena in which many athletes achieved celebrity through the new medium of television and through which many lucrative professional careers were launched. Congressional probes into the involvement of organized crime and, as colonialism ended, the emergence of numerous boxers of color in “Third World” nations forced far-reaching changes both in how the sport was governed and in its racial demography. The World Boxing Association (WBA) and the World Boxing Council (WBC), both formed in the early 1960s, were far more representative internationally—and African American fighters became major figures in the heavier weight classes regulated by each organization.

Transcending his celebrity as a boxer, Muhammad Ali achieved international recognition as a symbol of black masculinity, pride, and racial consciousness against the backdrop of social revolution in the 1960s and the beginnings of the decolonization of Africa and other regions of the non-European world. Beyond the practiced theatrics of his youth, the mature Ali forced the boxing establishment and the American and global public to respect him on his own terms. In so doing, he not only insisted upon and preserved his own dignity, but he epitomized the courage to stand on a principle and defy injustice. Ali became a hero to millions throughout the world. As Arthur Ashe concluded, “In retrospect, one must agree with Ali’s self-assessment: He was ‘The Greatest.’”—J. Blaine Hudson, originally published in The Encyclopedia of Louisville (2000).

For more information:

Kentucky African American Encyclopedia Thomas D. Clark Medallion University Press of Kentucky

Georgia Powers’s Indelible Impact, 1923-2016

We were saddened to learn today that Kentucky icon, Georgia Davis Powers has died at the age of 92. Both the first woman and the first African American elected to the Kentucky state senate, Powers leaves behind a legacy of service and leadership that won’t soon be forgotten.

Recently, the University Press of Kentucky published the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia, featuring Georgia Powers. While the KAAE goes a long way in honoring and remembering the legacy of the impact of leaders like Powers, we also encourage you to read more about this powerful advocate. 

POWERS, GEORGIA MONTGOMERY DAVIS (b. 1923, Springfield, KY), first woman and first African American elected to the Kentucky Senate.

Georgia Powers Kentucky SenateBorn on October 29, 1923, in Springfield, KY, as Georgia Montgomery, the second of nine children and the only girl of Frances (Walker) and Ben Montgomery, Georgia was always determined to rise above the discrimination her gender and interracial heritage imposed on her. In 1925, the Montgomery family moved to Louisville, where Georgia received the majority of her education. She attended Virginia Avenue Elementary School (1929–1934), Madison Junior High School (1934–1937), Central High School (1937–1940), and Louisville Municipal College (1940–1942).

Additionally, she received certificates from the Central Business School and the United States Government IBM Supervisory School. A year after her graduation from Louisville Municipal College, she married Norman F. Davis. The couple had one son, William F. Davis. In 1968, the couple divorced, and Georgia married James F. Powers in 1973.

Powers began her political career training volunteers for Wilson Wyatt’s U.S. Senate campaign in 1962. She led campaigns for candidates for governor of Kentucky, mayor of Louisville, the U.S. House and Senate, and U.S. president within the next five years. Additionally, she participated in many civil rights activities throughout the 1960s. As one of the organizers of the Allied Organizations for Civil Rights, a group that worked toward the enactment of fair- employment and public-accommodations laws, she helped organize the 1964 March on Frankfort. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the keynote speaker. The next year, Powers helped organize the Kentucky Christian Leadership Conference and attended the historic march in Selma, Alabama, supporting the national Voting Rights Act. Among many other important civil rights activities, she marched with Dr. King in the Memphis sanitation struggle.

In 1967, Powers ran for the Kentucky State Senate with endorsements from the AFL-CIO, the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky and Louisville Education Associations, and the Louisville Chamber of Commerce. She won that seat easily, and her first bill for statewide housing passed in no time. She collaborated with Representatives Mae Street Kidd and Hughes E. McGill in introducing the first open-housing law in the South, which was passed in 1968. Other legislation that she either sponsored or cosponsored included bills for low-cost housing, the Equal Rights Amendment Resolution, and a bill to omit “race” from Kentucky driver’s licenses. She was also the secretary of the Kentucky Democratic Caucus during her entire senatorial career.

While serving in the Kentucky Senate for 21 years, she chaired the Health and Welfare Committee (1970–1976) and served as a member of the Rules Committee (1976–1978) and the Labor and Industry Committee for 10 years (1978–1988). Since her retirement in 1988, Powers has received numerous accolades. In 1995, she published her memoirs, I Shared the Dream: The Pride, Passion, and Politics of the First Black Woman Senator from Kentucky. She also published The Adventures of the Book of Revelation in 1998 and Celia’s Land, a Historical Novel in 2004.

The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia

The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville

The editors of The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia will participate in a panel discussion this Wednesday, August 19 at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville at 6:00 pm. Sponsored by the Filson Historical Society, editors Gerald L. Smith, John Hardin, and Karen Cotton McDaniel will present individuals, events, places, organizations, movements and institutions that have shaped Kentucky’s history. Admission to the event is FREE. For more information on the event, visit FilsonHistorical.org. For more information on The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia, or to purchase the book, visit KentuckyPress.com.

from WHAS 11 Great Day Live (click for video)

WHAS Mack McCormick University Press of Kentucky Kentucky African American Encyclopedia