Tag Archives: KY

This Halloween, Seckatary Hawkins and the Fair and Square Club Solve the Mysteries of Stoner’s Boy and The Gray Ghost

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Long before Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys took center stage in the hearts of young readers as the iconic teen detectives, Seckatary Hawkins and his gang of “Fair and Square” boys were solving mysteries and stopping crimes along the riverbanks of the Ohio River. Beginning in 1918, the members of the Fair and Square Club captured the imagination of thousands of children and adults alike, as they explore the diverse Kentucky landscape in pursuit of adventure, mystery, and doing good. For over three decades, Schulkers’ creation provided inspiration to many young readers, including Harper Lee, who references his work in her iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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The tales of Seckatary Hawkins made their debut in The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking the nation by storm with weekly installments of Stoner’s Boy. The series continued with the exciting sequel, The Gray Ghost, in 1922. These tales soon spread to hundreds of newspapers seck_enquirer_cover-copyacross the country, eventually becoming the first children’s stories broadcast over the radio. By 1926, the popular serials had been turned into books, and over the next thirty-three years, the adventures of Seckatary Hawkins and the members of the Fair and Square Club would not cease to run in US newspapers, as well as inspiring the creation of comic strips, magazines, fan clubs, radio shows, and movies until 1951.

The enduring popularity of these adventure stories is based on a number of factors. Schulkers’ love of children and his realistic characterization of the boys in his stories appeals to adults and adolescents alike. Schulkers stands out for his apt depiction of Kentucky river boy dialogue, which allows the average Kentucky child to relate, as well as adults who can fondly reminisce about their childhoods. For today’s readers, the stories provide a portrait of boyhood in rural Kentucky nearly a hundred years ago, appealing to those who romanticize about a past that they couldn’t be a part of. seck-map-copy

 

Building on his own experiences, Schulkers creates an imaginative and dramatic setting for his river boys to adventure through.  Based on his childhood playgrounds on the riverbanks of the Licking, Kentucky, and Ohio rivers, the mountainous Cumberland River, and the cave country of Versailles, the Seckatary Hawkins gang brought to life for readers what it was like to live and play along those settings.

Building on wholesome values of   courage, honesty, loyalty, and common sense; patriotism, faith, friends, family, and fair play, Seckatary Hawkins and his band of friends teach valuable lessons to young readers. In these stories anyone, no matter their size, age, social status or appearance, can excel and do good things if they have faith in themselves and rely on the virtues of being “Fair and Square.” Teaching effective ways of handling bullies, the adventures of the Fair and Square Club show children a world where they can take charge of unpleasant situations and turn them fun, while still respecting themselves and others.

 

Buy the Books:

UPK_Stoner's Boy  UPK_The Gray Ghost

A Toast to National Bourbon Heritage Month

September is a most wonderful time—when the weather starts to cool, leaves start to turn, and the world turns its attention to the Commonwealth for National Bourbon Heritage Month! We’ll be celebrating this genteel and genuinely Kentucky holiday with cocktail and food recipes, new books, and a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails6.inddTo kick things off, enjoy a celebratory tipple of “The Rutledge Rebellion,” created by Jason Start of Martini Italian Bistro in Louisville, representing Four Roses Distillery. “The Rutledge Rebellion” took first prize at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival Mixed Drink Challenge in 2014 in the Bourbon Punch Category. Named for Four Roses master distiller emeritus, Jim Rutledge, “The Rutledge Rebellion” won the honor of being the official cocktail of the 2015 Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Try your hand at this well-crafted recipe from Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler’s newest book, More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails. Cheers!

The Rutledge Rebellion

Rutledge Rebellion via The Kentucky Standard

The overall winning drink, ‘The Rutledge Rebellion’ (photo by Kacie Goode. Used with permission from The Kentucky Standard.)

1 1/2 ounces Four Roses Small Batch bourbon
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce pomegranate juice
1 ounce apple pureé
(3 apples, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 cup simple syrup, 1/2               cup water, and 1/2 cup lemon juice—blended and                 strained)
or 1 ounce apple juice
2 ounces dry champagne
1 syringe Bittermens Tiki bitters

Combine ingredients in a pint glass and stir. Fill with ice, garnish with an orange slice and a mint sprig and serve with a straw.

Singing the Summer Southern Harmony

There’s something about music during the summertime—outdoor concerts, guitar-playing on the porch, festivals across the globe. One of the oldest and most popular southern singing traditions is that of “Shape Notes.”

Shape notes have been in use by classrooms and congregations for more than two centuries, and arose to simplify the notation, teaching, and arrangement of songs. Rather than traditional musical notation heads, shapes are substituted that correspond to different sounds:

Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do

William Walker’s Southern Harmony and Musical Companion was first published in 1835. During the nineteenth century, when advertising was mainly by word of mouth or relatively sedate ads in weekly and monthly papers and pamphlets, Southern Harmony sold about 600,000 copies, and is perhaps the most popular songbook ever printed.

9780813118598 As far as is known, Benton, Kentucky, is the only place where the Southern Harmony is still used regularly. The Big Singing, usually held on the fourth Sunday in May, has been an annual event since 1884. Before World War II it is said that many thousands attended; as many as four extra trains in each direction were added to bring in the crowds.

 

Preface to the 1835 edition:

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The CD included with Southern Harmony and Musical Companion contains more than 300 tunes, hymns, psalms, odes, and anthems, including “New Britain (Amazing Grace),” “Happy Land,” “O Come, Come Away,” “Wondrous Love,” and many, many more. The recordings were made at the Big Singing in Benton, Kentucky, between 1966 and 1992. We’ve included two of the more popular tunes, “New Britain” and “Newburgh” below.

Classic Kentucky Confections for a Sweet 4th of July

 

The Fourth of July holiday is all-American: bombastic, creative, unique, celebratory, commemorative, joyful, and unconstrained. And what’s more American (or more Kentucky) than apple pie?

Celebrate with new and vintage apple-flavored favorites from some of UPK’s best-loved cookbooks:

Click here to download a PDF of all the recipes to print.

Blue Grass Baked Apple Dumplings


 

Blue Ribbon Apples


 

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Duncan Hine's Apple Pie-2

 

John Morrissey: Rogue, U.S. Representative, Racing Icon

Though there won’t be another historic Triple Crown win at Belmont Park this year, racing history looms large in New York state. Just north of Elmont—where the Belmont Stakes are run—is Saratoga Springs, home of the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame and Saratoga Race Course.

sm_MorrisseyThe third oldest racetrack in the United States, Saratoga Springs saw its first thoroughbred race card on August 3, 1863, organized by John Morrissey, who was at the time operating a  gambling house in the resort town. An Irish immigrant, an enforcer for Tamany Hall, a professional boxer, and a prodigious gambler, John Morrissey was—if nothing else—an unlikely candidate to become one of the most important figures in the history of Thoroughbred racing. But despite being the kind of man who made a fortune in the Gold Rush, won fame as a prizefighter, found political success through Boss Tweed’s machine, and challenged William Poole (better known as “Bill the Butcher”), Morrissey’s name has escaped many history books.

Nicholson_FinalNow, James C. Nicholson (author of The Kentucky Derby and Never Say Die), finally does justice to this rags-to-riches story in The Notorious John Morrissey: How a Bare-Knuckle Brawler Became a Congressman and Founded Saratoga Race Course. Nicholson traces Morrissey’s remarkable life while also shedding light on fascinating issues of the era, such as the underground prizefighting economy, the rancorous debate over immigration, and labor laws that protected owners more than workers. He digs most deeply, however, into the business of Thoroughbred racing and Morrissey’s role as the founder of Saratoga Race Course.

In advance of this year’s Belmont Stakes, and the start of Saratoga’s racing schedule, we spoke with Nicholson about Morrissey’s improbable life and why Saratoga and its founder are instrumental to understanding of horse racing’s history.

How did you first get introduced to Saratoga Race Course and John Morrissey’s story?

I worked at the horse auctions in Saratoga for a few summers during college and grad school. Unglamorously, my most important duty was helping remove horse manure from the facility. After work, some of my fellow “muck crew” members and I would often trot over to the nearby racetrack to catch a race or two. I was fascinated by the little pieces of folklore and anecdotes about “the old days” that were casually passed around by racegoers, but it was difficult to know if someone was talking about 150 years ago or fifteen years ago. Some of those stories included vague allusions to John Morrissey, who, I learned, had operated the casino at the center of town and had been responsible for bringing Thoroughbred racing to Saratoga. He sounded like an intriguing character, and, in doing research for my first two books, I was surprised to learn that relatively little had been written about him in over a century.

What led Morrissey to begin his career as a political enforcer and his involvement with gang violence?

Morrissey came to the United States from Ireland as a small child, and he grew up quite poor in the lively little town of Troy, New York, on the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal, with seven sisters, an alcoholic mother, and an unskilled father. He was an ambitious young man and realized early on that his ability to endure a beating was perhaps his greatest personal asset. In addition to jobs in factories as a preteen, Morrissey was a bouncer in a tavern and worked on riverboats as a deckhand. He was surrounded by rough crowds throughout his adolescence, when fighting was both entertainment and a means of survival for many young men in upstate New York. After moving to New York City in his late teens, Morrissey’s toughness continued to serve him well. He worked as a political enforcer for the Tammany Hall political machine and as an immigrant runner, meeting new arrivals on the docks and helping to find them work and shelter in exchange for political allegiance to Tammany.

Morrissey had several encounters with William Poole, who was portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis in the film The Gangs of New York. Can you describe their relationship?

Poole was a butcher by trade, and he led a New York City gang called the Bowery Boys. Leonardo DiCaprio played the rival of Daniel Day-Lewis’s character. DiCaprio’s character contains elements of John Morrissey. Morrissey, an Irish-Catholic Democrat, and Poole, a “native” American Protestant Know-Nothing, were bitter rivals within the ethnically and politically charged environment of mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan. The two men had tense encounters within the saloon and sporting circles in which they operated, and Poole beat Morrissey nearly to death in a well publicized encounter months before Poole was killed by Morrissey’s associates in a Broadway tavern.

It would be a stretch to call the film historically accurate, but it does capture some of the spirit of that era. The film does a good job conveying the notion that New York’s Five Points district was a hotbed of violence, poverty, and corruption, and it effectively depicts the deadly hostility between nativists and immigrants, as well as the political power of Tammany Hall. But the film plays rather loose with historical events and historical figures. Perhaps the most glaring creative liberty taken is the fact that Poole was actually murdered in 1855 following a barroom dispute with Morrissey, while, in the film, the Poole character is killed in the New York City draft riots of 1863. But Gangs of New York does accurately portray Poole as a virulent nativist who wielded serious local power.

sm_Morrissey boxingMorrissey turned from criminal to prizefighter, eventually becoming national champion. Today boxing has various sanctioning organizations and clearly defined weight classes. That wasn’t the case in Morrissey’s time, can you elaborate on the differences?

When Morrissey entered the American boxing scene, fights were governed by the London Prize Ring rules, which were far more permissive than the Marquess of Queensbury rules (published in 1867) that modern boxing fans would recognize. In Morrissey’s era, fights were conducted without gloves (“bareknuckle”), and the rules permitted grasping and throwing, but not gouging, biting, or low blows. A round was completed when one fighter was knocked to the ground, and there were no limits as to the length of a fight—some lasted well over 100 rounds. There were no official weight classes, and prizefights had to be conducted in semi-clandestine fashion, as the sport was outlawed nearly everywhere in the United States.

There were also no formal boxing federations like the ones that would emerge in the twentieth century. Championships were largely determined by public acclaim and recognition by the sporting press. That process was less unwieldy than it might sound, however, as the sports community was relatively small and insular by modern standards, and a large percentage of the major figures in American boxing could be found in one of a handful of New York saloons that catered to the sporting crowd. In 1849, Tom Hyer was universally acknowledged as the finest fighter in the nation, earning the informal title of Champion of America following his victory over Yankee Sullivan. When Hyer retired in the early 1850s, Sullivan staked a dubious claim to Hyer’s title by virtue of having been the last fighter to lose to the champion. When Morrissey beat Sullivan, he took the title. Morrissey’s defeat of Hyer’s hand-picked challenger, John C. Heenan, in 1858, cemented his claim to the American championship, as well as his place of honor in the annals of boxing history.

How much of Morrissey’s past was brought up in his campaign, did this have a large effect on his chances? Was it unusual to have that kind of background as a politician in that era?

No one had ever seen someone with Morrissey’s checkered past and deep involvement with boxing and gambling rise so quickly in American politics. Journalists were highly critical of his candidacy for Congress, but, much like what we have recently seen with Donald Trump, the attention that newspapers paid to Morrissey only added to his status as a celebrity and ultimately helped him to appeal to voters.

Describe Morrissey’s connections to Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall? Without their backing do you think it would have been possible for him to win?

Tammany Hall was the major power broker in New York City Democratic politics from the 1850s well into the twentieth century. Morrissey had ingratiated himself to Tammany leadership by providing muscle in local elections. Those relationships facilitated his subsequent election to U.S. Congress. Morrissey eventually had a falling out with Boss Tweed and the Tammany Democrats, and he led an insurrection that contributed to Tweed’s downfall. But without Tammany’s early support there would have been no way a man with Morrissey’s past could be a congressman.

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What makes Saratoga such an important facet in the American Thoroughbred industry?

One of the most appealing aspects of horseracing, in addition to the wide variety of participants and enthusiasts it attracts, is its connection to the past. Nowhere is that connection more tangible than in Saratoga. Generations of racing fans have made Saratoga an annual destination, and the well-preserved Victorian architecture there provides a tangible link to a bygone era. The presence of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame right across the street from the racetrack serves as a reminder of the deep history of racing at Saratoga, which, for over 150 years, has attracted wealthy industrialists and financiers, itinerate gamblers, vacationing families, and vagabond horsemen. This hodgepodge of humanity was an integral part of the festive atmosphere at Saratoga race meets 150 years ago, and it remains so today.

James C. Nicholson is the author of The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event and Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry. His newest book, The Notorious John Morrissey: How a Bare-Knuckle Brawler Became a Congressman and Founded Saratoga Race Course is available now.

Gems of the Backlist: ‘The Appalachian Photographs of Earl Palmer’

Here at the University Press of Kentucky, we recently completed an initiative to digitize all of the books that we’ve published since our founding in 1943. It was a lot of work going through more than 1300 books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there was a book that we just couldn’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:

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“Palmer has given us the best view we will ever have of life and work in the Southern Appalachians. . . . His magnificent collection of photographs preserves the old way of life for us to study and ponder.”—Harry Caudill, author of Night Comes to the Cumberlands

For more than fifty years, mountain-born Earl Palmer traveled the Southern Appalachians with his camera, recording his personal vision of the mountain people and their heritage. Over these year he created, in several thousand photographs, a distinctive body of work that affirms a traditional image of Appalachia—a region of great natural beauty inhabited by a self-sufficient people whose lives are notable for simplicity and harmony.

 The Appalachian Photographs of Earl Palmer collects more than 120 representative photographs from the photographer’s collection. Jean Haskell Speer, who was emerita director of the Appalachian Studies Program at Virginia Tech, conducted extensive interviews with Palmer to write a biographical and critical commentary. Palmer’s photographs, Speer argues, are significant cultural statements that depict not so much a geographical region as a particular idea of Appalachia.

from the preface by Jean Haskell Speer:

“Earl has spent a lifetime, as he puts it, “conjuring” Appalachia, creating a rich and complex Appalachian vision in pictures. He believes the highest and best vision of Appalachia is rooted in its past, made manifest in its traditional culture and in those persons who remain emblems of the past in the present. In fact, Earl’s photographs may be said to constitute a kind of mountain manifesto, a public declaration of his intention to create a particular Appalachian world.

Earl has photographed Appalachia according to his world view. He has seen the mountaineer as both historically real and eternally mythic. He has made a photographic record of what has been real, if now only remembered, and he has created a vision of Appalachia’s past as he wishes it to be remembered. Earl has understood the power of the photographic image to preserve and to persuade, especially to build a rhetorically powerful argument through repeated and consistent images.

The photographs chosen for this volume from Earl’s collection of twenty to thirty thousand negatives represent the mainstream of his work. They include some of his most critically acclaimed and popular photographs, some historically and culturally valuable photographs, and photographs that illustrate Earl’s concept of “Appalachianness.” The photographs were made over a period of more than fifty years from 1936 to 1988. Geographically, they represent the heartland of Southern Appalachia, covering portions of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. . . .

For most of his photographs Earl writes extensive captions that are intended to be evocative more often than informational. They are narratives that mix historical fact with Earl’s imagination in short vignettes about mountain life.”

We’ve selected a few photos to share here, but many more await in The Appalachian Photographs of Earl Palmer.

click the images to view full-size.

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

Discovering the “Reel” Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was nominated for president on this day in 1860, the first step toward a legacy that continues to shadow those who have worked in the Oval Office since. 156 years later, Abraham Lincoln: the man, is remembered more often as Abraham Lincoln: the myth. With few photographs and even fewer audio recordings, it is difficult for the modern American to grasp our 16th president beyond the iconic speeches and cultural conceptions that loom large in our collective memory.

Even more influential are the countless speeches, poems, statues, songs, books, portraits, plays, and movies that have attempted to represent him. Filmmakers in particular have failed to agree on how to best represent Lincoln on the screen. In the modern era, movies have played the largest role in shaping public memory of America’s 16th president.

Lincoln before Lincoln Brian J. SneeIn the new book, Lincoln before Lincoln: Early Cinematic Adaptations of the Life of America’s Greatest President, author Brian Snee examines six influential screen representations—The Birth of a Nation (1915), Abraham Lincoln (1930), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Sandburg’s Lincoln (1974-1976), and Gore Vidal’s Lincoln (1988)—to reveal how our national perception and memory of Lincoln is adapted and commemorated. The way we depict Lincoln can teach us a lot about the man, and about ourselves. Lincoln’s life, politics, and his untimely death are not simply a part of history, but are also a part of America’s story and how Americans define themselves.

Covering more than a century of film from the silent era up to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012)—a film which, he argues, marks a seismic shift in the way Hollywood presents the Great Emancipator on screen—Snee shows how Hollywood has adapted the image of our greatest president on the screen, thus shaping and changing his image in the minds of all Americans.

In the following excerpt from Lincoln before Lincoln, Snee considers two of our most recent cultural monuments to the Great Emancipator:

Great Emancipator: Lincoln before Lincoln

In 2009, an unknown writer named Seth Grahame-Smith published what would become a best-selling cult novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The generic mash-up gave Grahame-Smith, who had earned a degree in film from Emerson College, his first real literary success. The book, which lists Jane Austen as coauthor, was quickly optioned by a major film studio, although today the project remains mired in preproduction.

Grahame-Smith next penned another future cult classic, one that Hollywood would waste no time in bringing to the big screen: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The adaptation was produced by Tim Burton and took the form of an action-horror hybrid that cast Lincoln as a secret assassin who battles vampires, destroying the creatures who feed on the blood of slaves, and with them the need for slavery itself. Although the film performed well in theaters, it was universally panned by critics, who objected not to its historical absurdity but rather to what they saw as a dearth of artistic merit. Whatever the critics thought, audiences loved it. After a half century without a major theatrically released film, Lincoln was back. And he was pissed.

Just four months after Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appeared in theaters, audiences were offered a far more reverent Lincoln film. Rumors of a Spielberg-directed Lincoln picture had circulated in Hollywood for nearly a decade, ever since Spielberg had optioned the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The film was scripted by Tony Kushner and starred Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. The narrative focused on the final months of Lincoln’s life, including and especially the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the end of the Civil War, and the buildup to Lincoln’s assassination. To say that it was an enormous success, both financially and critically, would be an understatement. The film was nominated for dozens of awards, and it grossed nearly $300 million.

file_569066_lincoln-movie-poster-08222012-110324For the purposes of [Lincoln before Lincoln], what matters more than the many stark and obvious differences between Spielberg’s Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the one thing they share in common: a focus on Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. Beginning with D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation—an overtly racist film that laments the demise of the Confederacy and celebrates the formation of the Ku Klux Klan—Hollywood routinely minimized or simply ignored Lincoln’s role as the emancipator. Lincoln has enjoyed many incarnations: Savior of the Union, Great Commoner, and the First American, among others. Before 2012, Hollywood had celebrated them all but neglected one: Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.

Like the famous Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Hollywood subtly reinforced the notion that freeing the slaves was not among Lincoln’s most significant achievements. By accident or design, American movies and miniseries routinely left the emancipator on the cutting room floor while giving a starring role to one of Lincoln’s other manifestations. It was a century-long act of historical revision and powerful memory work likely to have shaped how several generations of American’s understood both Lincoln and his relation to race. And although it came to a very visible end in 2012, it leaves us to ask: How did popular movies and miniseries invite Americans to understand themselves and to remember Lincoln before Lincoln?

Eat Your Words!

Test your Bar-B-I.Q. with this Word Search of fall-off-the-bone terminology from The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry. You’ll find a Word Bank of all the terms below. Print off your own copy to share here.

BBQ WORD SEARCH_Grid

Barbecue Ham Owensboro
Brisket Hardwood Pit
Burgoo Hickory Pork
Chipped Kentucky Sassafras
Coal Knife Sauce
Cornbread Lamb Style
Festival Meat Vinegar
Fork Mutton Western
Fried Okra

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.