Tag Archives: Louisville

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

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ICYMI: Holiday News Break Edition

Welcome back from the holiday break! Pardon us while we brush off the cobwebs and shake out the mothballs in our brains…

Our break was full of all kinds of exciting news and tidbits, like this fascinating article from Terri Crocker (The Christmas Truce: Myth, Memory, and the First World War) in the New Republic:

New Republic Shot

“Perhaps it is time we stopped expecting history to behave like a good story—featuring obvious heroes and villains, a dash of irony and a clear moral, with a football match thrown in for good measure—and start assuming it looks more like real life: messy, inconclusive and hard to pin down. Since history is, after all, just life that happened in the past, it’s time for us to get over our need for simplicity, and accept that the past, just like the Christmas truce, is always a lot more complicated than we want to believe.”—Terri Crocker for the New Republic

Crocker also published an editorial, “Civility: The True Lesson of World War I’s 1914 Christmas Truce” in the Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal.

Over the break we also celebrated Bradley Birzer’s russell_kirk7.inddRussell Kirk: American Conservative, a biography of the great public intellectual, being named one of the Library of Michigan’s Notable Books of 2016. Kirk’s The Conservative Mind shaped conservative thought in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Elsewhere, Russell Kirk was listed as one of the Best Books of the Year by Daniel McCarthy, editor of the American Conservative

The high-flying, tumbling, falling, gutsy heroines in Molly Gregory’s Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story have been featured in the New York Timesthe New Republic, Variety.com, on NPR’s Weekend Edition, and now in the Washington Post.

“Much like the story of women in almost any industry, this one is a tale of struggle, progress and tempered triumph. . . . In her engaging and enlightening book, Gregory digs into this little-known corner of Hollywood history and gives voice to the women who have risked their lives for a few (perilous) moments on the big screen.”—Becky Krystal, Washington Post

Stuntwomen_copy

For the late holiday shoppers, The Baltimore Sun suggested Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of Our Greatest President, and the Louisville Courier-Journal had a whopping 38 suggestions for local books to give as gifts, including: Kentucky By Design, The Birth of Bourbon The Manhattan Cocktail, and Venerable Trees.

Bawden_Miller_CoverThis morning, on the first day back in the office after break, we were greeted with a lovely surprise from the inimitable columnist Liz Smith, who offers this excellent preview of Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era, one of our most anticipated books of 2016!

“[A] dazzlingly entertaining new book. . . . [Conversations with Classic Film Stars] is a treasure trove of info, scintillating gossip and outright, downright dishing.”—Liz Smith, New York Social Diary

We hope you had a restful holiday (or a grand adventure!) Holler at us in the comments or on Twitter and let us know how you spent your winter break.

The Woman Who Was Almost a Ghost

Hello again spooky spirits! Halloween is just a day away and we have got the perfect story to prepare yourself for the night of the dead. Today’s featured story comes from Kentucky Hauntings: Homespun Ghost Stories and Unexplained History, in which beloved storytellers Roberta Simpson Brown and Lonnie E. Brown present a thrilling collection of paranormal tales that will appeal to anyone looking for a friendly scare. Weaving together factual accounts of unexplained events, peculiar headlines, and local legends passed down from a time when most homes lacked electricity, Kentucky Hauntings combines stories with commentary on historic customs. From “telling the bees” about a death in the family, to a friendly “fool’s errand” practical joke gone horribly wrong, and from terrifying haunted houses to the lifesaving “Bathtub Ghost,” readers are transported to a world of age-old superstitions and paranormal experiences. Whether shared around the fire on a crisp autumn night or whispered in a huddle of close friends at a summer sleepover, these eerie stories will thrill and excite anyone who loves a good scare. But what makes today’s story so cool is that it actually comes from the personal experiences of one of the book’s authors.

ghost

The Woman Who Was Almost a Ghost (From Kentucky Hauntings by Brown)

Several years ago, the Louisville Ghost Hunters held the Mid-South Paranormal Conference at Waverly Hills Sanatorium. An area was set aside for book signings and paranormal readings. Many people walked by our table, but the crowd often came in spurts. One afternoon when the crowd had thinned out, a man walked up to our table and asked if we had a minute. Of course, we said yes. He said he would rather not give his name because he thought there might be people connected to his story who might still be living, and he didn’t have their permission to tell the story. He said that he needed to tell someone, though; the story bothered him because it was so strange.

When he mentioned the name of the house, we recognized it immediately. We had passed it on a tour organized by Robert Parker, Mr. Ghost Walker. We had heard lots of strange stories about the house, but we had never heard this one. If you are interested in taking the tour, contact Mr. Ghost Walker (502-689-5117).

There is an old house in Louisville that was once used as a family dwelling, with one section used as an office by a doctor in family. It was rumored that this doctor used to perform illegal abortions in this office, but it was a subject mostly kept hush-hush. Many years passed and the family moved away. The doctor closed his practice and died a few years later. The rumors died with him, and the house stood empty. One day, a man and his wife were walking down the street where the old house stood. As they approached, the woman stopped abruptly and held tightly to her husband’s arm. She had never seen the house before, but she became very fearful and began to shake.

“What’s wrong?” asked her husband.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s that house! I can’t go near it!”

“We’ll be by it soon,” he said. “There’s nothing there to hurt you.”

He urged her on, but still she clung tightly to her husband. By the time they were even with the doctor’s old office, the woman began to cry and tremble uncontrollably. She had never acted this way before, and her behavior surprised both her and her husband. He was at a total loss as to what he should do, so he practically pulled her down the street. When they got past the house, she calmed down and felt normal again. Neither could figure out why she acted so strangely.

After they arrived home, the woman’s two uncles happened to come by for a visit. She was always glad to see them because the rest of her family was dead. She had always felt particularly close to these uncles.

“You look a little pale,” one uncle said. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” agreed the other uncle. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

Still a little shaky from the odd experience at the old house, she told them what had happened. Her husband confirmed the strange incident. The uncles listened without interrupting. When she finished, they exchanged glances. Then one uncle spoke.

“I guess there is something you should know,” he said.

“It might explain what happened.”

“Then tell me, please,” she said.

“The family never wanted you to know,” he said, “but when your mother was carrying you, she was having a very difficult time. Finally, it got too much for her, so she went to the doctor at that house to get an abortion. The two of us were at the house when she left, and we followed her to see where she was going. No one in our family supported abortion, so we rushed into the doctor’s office just as he was ready to abort you! We stopped him and took your mother home. Your mother always regretted what she almost did and was grateful to us for stopping her from making a terrible mistake. Maybe that accounts for the way you felt.”

The woman and her husband thought about it and decided that maybe that was the explanation. Maybe somehow she had slipped back in time and felt what she may have felt in the womb when she almost became a ghost before she was born!

For more stories like this one and to learn more about Kentucky Hauntings, click the image below:

Stop Four: The Restaurants of Bardstown Road

Our next stop on our Journey Through the Bluegrass is none other than the eclectic and energetic Bardstown Road of Louisville, KY. What is so special about this area, you ask? Aside from the mass quantities of coffee shops and men sporting extravagant beards and corduroy, this is actually a great part of town to find some delicious grub. But not just any grub. We’ve recently been acquainted with the story of Huang “CoCo” Tran, the owner of a series of restaurants on Bardstown Road. Here is an excerpt from UPK author Aimee Zaring’s Flavors from Home that gives insight to the inspirational and captivating story of this Vietnam immigrant turned restaurant owner and guru:

“CoCo’s childhood was relatively normal and happy in Vietnam’s southcentral coast province of Quang Ngai—a well-known Vietcong stronghold during the Vietnam War and the setting of Tim O’Brien’s classic short story “The Things They Carried.” Her father was a businessman and a prominent supporter of democracy. When the political climate changed, creating instability in her hometown, she moved to the family’s city home in Saigon, where she lived from 1965 to 1975.

During this period, her mother died in a plane crash. CoCo, only eighteen at the time, helped her older sister raise their younger brothers and sisters. CoCo also assisted in her sister’s restaurant, Cafe Mimosa (the same name she later gave to her own restaurant in Louisville). However, CoCo wasn’t allowed to cook at the restaurant, and her sister used to shoo her out of the kitchen. CoCo admits that cooking wasn’t her forte. Everything she knew about cooking she had learned by watching her mother and sister and the servants in her parents’ household. What happened when she did cook? “I burned the rice. I cook terrible,” she says.

CoCo Tran in her Roots/Heart & Soy kitchen

CoCo made up for her lack of cooking skills with her keen senses. “I taste. I smell. I look. That’s the way I cook. That’s the way I learned.” She sampled dishes at other restaurants and reported back to her sister. “I know what’s goodand what’s not.”

When she wasn’t helping at the restaurant, CoCo worked as a pharmaceutical representative, a job that required travel. She was visiting her childhood home in Quang Ngai when her life—and the lives of her countrymen—took a drastic turn. On April 30, 1975, Communist troops from North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of

South Vietnam invaded and overtook Saigon, ending the war and a century of Western influence. CoCo found herself in the midst of a mob scene as she tried to make her way to a ferry and return to Saigon. Her older sister, who was unable to leave at the time, asked CoCo to escort her adopted eleven-year-old daughter to freedom and safety. CoCo still recalls, even thirty-odd years later, the horrific accident that occurred just hours after the child was entrusted to her care. With thousands of people fighting their way onto the ferry, CoCo and the young girl were pushed into the water as they boarded. CoCo surfaced. The child never did. CoCo spent the rest of the day and night frantically searching for the little girl. Eventually she had to return to Saigon—alone and defeated. (She never forgot the child and spent the next three decades trying to locate her. Finally, in 2008, she found her niece alive and well in Vietnam with two children of her own.)

Because of CoCo’s father’s politics, the family knew they were no longer safe in Vietnam. On May 2 CoCo and members of her extended family—twelve adults and six children—left Saigon with only some cash and some gold and an extra change of clothing. The only thing they knew for sure was that they would pay any price for freedom.

The family members staggered their individual departures to avoid arousing suspicion and reconnected near Long Hai beach, where American ships were supposed to be waiting to pick up refugees. No ships were in sight. The family negotiated with a fisherman, paying him to transport them on his small, poorly supplied fishing boat toward international waters. CoCo remembers how dark it was that first night at sea and how terrified she was, not knowing where they would end up or whether they would even survive another day. Finally, in the distance, they spotted a merchant ship. Just when they thought their luck had turned, the captain of the Taiwanese merchant ship demanded the exorbitant sum of $9,000 for food and transportation. They gave him everything they had and traveled from port to port, alongside cows and buffalo. They stopped at Thailand, Hong Kong, and Okinawa, but each port refused them entry. At the time, no official refugee program existed to support the people who were fleeing Vietnam. Without relatives or sponsors at these port cities, no country was willing to take in CoCo’s family.

Meanwhile, CoCo’s younger brother, Tran Thien Tran, was in America working tirelessly to find a way to help his stranded kin out on the open seas. He was living in Kentucky, attending the University of Louisville’s J. B. Speed School of Engineering. The family’s hope was that

Tran could find them local sponsors so they could join him in the States. After thirty-six days at sea, the Trans finally got word that Taiwan would admit them, on the condition that they not stay on the island for an extended period. Back in the States, sponsoring groups from local churches and the University of Louisville, along with a few individual households, rallied to assist the Tran family.

A grainy photo from the Louisville Times shows a tearful CoCo giving her brother a long-awaited hug at Standiford Field airport. It is hard to reconcile this woman with the confident, relaxed, successful restaurateur sitting across from me now and smiling broadly, brown eyes shining behind maroon-rimmed glasses—the American Dream personified.”

CoCo's Spring Rolls

CoCo’s Spring Rolls

Since coming to Kentucky, Coco has opened five establishments, all of which can be found in the eastern Louisville area:

The Egg Roll Machine (1981) — the first Chinese fast-food restaurant in Louisville
     1543 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205
Cafe Mimosa (1984) — Louisville’s first modern Vietnamese and French cuisine restaurant
     1543 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205
Zen Garden (2000) — the first Asian vegetarian restaurant in Louisville
     2240 Frankford Road, Louisville, KY 40206
Zen Tea House (2008) — an add-on to Zen Garden focusing on tea
     Closed
Heart and Soy/Roots — CoCo’s latest project, two conjoining “sister” restaurants
     1216 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205

If you feel touched by CoCo’s amazing tale, you will definitely want to check out the rest of Zaring’s Flavors from Home which shares fascinating and moving stories of courage, perseverance, and self-reinvention from Kentucky’s resettled refugees. Each chapter features a different person or family and includes carefully selected recipes.

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

After The Fall of Saigon: Starting from Scratch in Kentucky

Fall of SaigonToday marks the 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, and the end of the Vietnam War. For many Vietnamese families who did not subscribe to the ruling Communist Party’s politics, the withdrawal of American forces also meant their own evacuation from the country they called ‘home.”Huong “CoCo” Tran was among those South Vietnamese civilians for whom Vietnam was no longer safe.

After fleeing her homeland, CoCo started her new life in Louisville, Kentucky. First, packing ice cream cones at the Derby Cone factory, then later, after a lucky break and a lot of hard work, as a restaurateur. A pioneer in the Louisville restaurant industry, she opened Egg Roll Machine—the first Chinese take-out restaurant in the city in 1980, Café Mimosa—the first Vietnamese restaurant in the city in 1986, Zen Garden—the first Asian vegetarian restaurant in the city in 1999, and Zen Tea House—Louisville’s first and only Asian tea house. Her newest ventures are Heart & Soy and Roots—also vegetarian. Flavors from Home - University Press of Kentucky

And though CoCo is unique, her story of courage, perseverance, and self-reinvention is not wholly uncommon. Each year, the United States legally resettles tens of thousands of refugees who have fled their homelands. As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

The following excerpt, from Flavors of Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, illuminates the aftermath of the Fall of Saigon through the eyes of a survivor who has redefined what it means to be a Kentuckian and an American.


Flavors from Home - University Press of Kentucky Coco Tran in her Roots and Heart & Soy kitchen

Huong “CoCo” Tran in the kitchen of her restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky.

On April 30, 1975, Communist troops from North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam invaded and overtook Saigon, ending the war and a century of Western influence. CoCo [Tran] found herself in the midst of a mob scene as she tried to make her way to a ferry and return to Saigon. Her older sister, who was unable to leave at the time, asked CoCo to escort her adopted eleven-year-old daughter to freedom and safety. CoCo still recalls, even thirty-odd years later, the horrific accident that occurred just hours after the child was entrusted to her care. With thousands of people fighting their way onto the ferry, CoCo and the young girl were pushed into the water as they boarded. CoCo surfaced. The child never did. CoCo spent the rest of the day and night frantically searching for the little girl. Eventually she had to return to Saigon—alone and defeated. (She never forgot the child and spent the next three decades trying to locate her. Finally, in 2008, she found her niece alive and well in Vietnam with two children of her own.)

Because of CoCo’s father’s politics, the family knew they were no longer safe in Vietnam. On May 2 CoCo and members of her extended family—twelve adults and six children—left Saigon with only some cash and some gold and an extra change of clothing. The only thing they knew for sure was that they would pay any price for freedom.

The family members staggered their individual departures to avoid arousing suspicion and reconnected near Long Hai beach, where American ships were supposed to be waiting to pick up refugees. No ships were in sight. The family negotiated with a fisherman, paying him to transport them on his small, poorly supplied fishing boat toward international waters. CoCo remembers how dark it was that first night at sea and how terrified she was, not knowing where they would end up or whether they would even survive another day. Finally, in the distance, they spotted a merchant ship. Just when they thought their luck had turned, the captain of the Taiwanese merchant ship demanded the exorbitant sum of $9,000 for food and transportation. They gave him everything they had and traveled from port to port, alongside cows and buffalo. They stopped at Thailand, Hong Kong, and Okinawa, but each port refused them entry. At the time, no official refugee program existed to support the people who were fleeing Vietnam. Without relatives or sponsors at these port cities, no country was willing to take in CoCo’s family.

Meanwhile, CoCo’s younger brother, Tran Thien Tran, was in America working tirelessly to find a way to help his stranded kin out on the open seas. He was living in Kentucky, attending the University of Louisville’s J. B. Speed School of Engineering. The family’s hope was that Tran could find them local sponsors so they could join him in the States. After thirty-six days at sea, the Trans finally got word that Taiwan would admit them, on the condition that they not stay on the island for an extended period. Back in the States, sponsoring groups from local churches and the University of Louisville, along with a few individual households, rallied to assist the Tran family.

A grainy photo from the Louisville Times shows a tearful CoCo giving her brother a long-awaited hug at Standiford Field airport. It is hard to reconcile this woman with the confident, relaxed, successful restaurateur sitting across from me now and smiling broadly, brown eyes shining behind maroon-rimmed glasses—the American Dream personified.

For more on the Vietnam War and the International Community in Kentucky:

2015 Kentucky Derby

Brace yourselves! In a little over a week, the 2015 Kentucky Derby will be here!

Since 1875, Kentucky has been home to this annual event and the Derby’s history is forever intertwined with Kentucky. Each year, people from different states and different nationalities come together in Louisville to take part in what is perhaps the shortest sporting event in history. From mint juleps to colorful, extravagant hats, from the wagers to the crowning of the winner, the Kentucky Derby is sure to please both young and old, male and female.

Here are a list of books for all of you Derby fanatics or Kentucky connoisseurs to prep you for the big day! Take a look!

John Eisenberg draws on more than fifteen years of sports writing experience and a hundred interviews throughout Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, and Arkansas to tell the story almost nobody knew in 1992: the story of and underdog, perseverance, and the overcoming of one’s obstacles.

The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event calls this great tradition to post and illuminates its history and culture.

Never Say Die traces the history of this extraordinary colt, beginning with his foaling in Lexington, Kentucky, when a shot of bourbon whiskey revived him and earned him his name. Author James C. Nicholson also tells the stories of the influential individuals brought together by the horse and his victory—from the heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune to the Aga Khan.

In The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy, author Pellom McDaniels III offers the first definitive biography of this celebrated athlete, whose life spanned the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the adoption of Jim Crow legislation.

Heroes and Horses presents a series of delightful vignettes evoking a way of life almost beyond recall. Bourbon County, the touchstone for Ardery’s life, is the center that holds together the tales in the collection. Stories about Ardery’s family home, “Rocclicgan,” boyhood activities on the farm, and the servants’ kitchen gossip paint vivid portraits of a lost time in Kentucky’s history.

For more than 125 years, the world’s attention has turned to Louisville for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.The Encyclopedia of Louisville is the ultimate reference for Kentucky’s largest city.

Interested in other Kentucky oriented books or just longing for a new book to read this summer, head on over to UPK’s website to check out the rest of our fantastic book selection!!