Interview with Robert R. Jefferson, June 5, 1978

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Index
X
00:00:14 - Personal background / involvement in the Urban League

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm Edward Owens. I'm working with the Urban League on their oral black history project. I'm talking to Mr. Robert Jefferson, chairman of the board of the Urban League.

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson talks about his background, including his experiences with school segregation as a teenager. He goes on to discuss what the Urban League is and how he became a member of the organization.

Keywords: Community involvement; Community relations; Race relations; Urban League; racial tension

Subjects: Lexington (Ky.); Segregation--Kentucky--Fayette County; Urban League of Lexington (Ky.).

00:06:30 - Opposition to Urban League / Lexington-Fayette Human Rights Commission / housing discrimination

Play segment

Partial Transcript: In 1967, when the Urban League was formed in Lexington, was there any opposition to it from the white community?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson discusses the initial reaction of the white community to the formation of the Urban League. He also discusses the main function of the Lexington-Fayette Human Rights Commission and its evolving relationship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Housing and Urban Development organizations. Jefferson also discusses housing discrimination in Lexington.

Keywords: Community relations; EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission); Lexington (Ky.); Lexington-Fayette Human Rights Commission; Race relations

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington.; Discrimination in housing

00:12:14 - Impact of discrimination / attitude towards non-violent movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Going back to your school days, --(clears throat)-- excuse me, when you were in high school, let's say, how was the relationship at that time between the black students and the black faculty?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson discusses how and why discrimination impacted his education. He also mentions why he is not an advocate of the nonviolent movement.

Keywords: Black education; Black identity; CORE (Congress of Racial Equality); Civil rights movement; NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People); Racial discrimination; Social activism

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions

00:17:35 - Leadership in the Civil Rights Movement / 1971 federal lawsuit

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You said that during this time there was no ministerial leadership in Lexington.

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson discusses the role of black church leaders in the civil rights movement. He also talks about the 1971 federal lawsuit which was filed in a effort to make the local school system compliant with HEW guidelines for integration.

Keywords: Black church leaders; Church leaders; Civil rights movement; Fayette County School Board; HEW (Health, Education, and Welfare); Human Rights Commission; Integration; Political activism; Social activism; Teacher integration

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington

00:23:20 - Full integration and its impact on the black community

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And although there was an assumption of ours, when the actual case was resolved by, uh, the implementation of the school plan, that, that's what happened...

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson continues to discuss the full integration of Lexington public schools, including the outcome of the court case and its aftermath. He mentions the closing of three of the four black schools.

Keywords: Black schools; Community relations; Integration; Race relations; political activism

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Discrimination--Law and legislation--Kentucky

00:28:51 - Black school facilities / employment discrimination / black councilmen

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did these elementary schools have, per se, inadequate facilities or inadequate teaching?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson talks about the status of black school's facilities, including the unsafe conditions of some of the black schools. He also talks about the state of race relations in Lexington mainly related to employment practices of the city including the sanitation and police departments. He goes on to talk about Lexington's black councilmen.

Keywords: Block voting; City employment; Harry Sykes; Lexington (Ky.); Quota system; Race relations; Racial discrimination; Racism

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Discrimination in employment

00:35:24 - Leadership of black councilmen / his children's education

Play segment

Partial Transcript: After he had been in office and had run again and being re-elected, do you think that he had...what the blacks thought he should ought to accomplish in the office?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson discusses his feelings about the leadership of Lexington's black councilmen. He also talks about his children's experiences in Lexington public schools. He mentions why he decided to send his children to predominantly white schools.

Keywords: Advocacy; Black leadership; Lexington (Ky.); Political activism; Race relations; School segregation

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington

00:40:11 - Subtle discrimination / local businesses and the Urban League

Play segment

Partial Transcript: ...but it was assumed, based on the attitude of the teachers, that blacks did not have the competency especially black males, to learn...

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson discusses the relationship between blacks and whites in integrated schools, he places emphasis on the different experiences for black male and female students.

Keywords: Black identity; Local businesses; Race relations; Racial discrimination; Urban League

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Discrimination in employment

00:45:07 - IBM's impact on the black community

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You emphasized that the representative from IBM was black. Did that in any way reflect your opinion of the tokenism, or the fact that these people don't have the hiring and firing power?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson talks about IBM's role in expanding the employment opportunities for blacks in Lexington. He mentions how Lexington did not provide many high paying jobs for blacks. He goes on to talk about the other employment opportunities blacks had in Lexington, including his own job hunting experience as a recent graduate.

Keywords: Black community; Black employment; Equal opportunity employment; Happy Chandler; IBM

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Economic conditions; Albert Benjamin, Jr.; Employment--Kentucky

00:51:40 - Unity and leadership in the black community

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now, can you see, with the future growth of Lexington, can you see opportunities opening up for black people still more?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson talks about why he categorizes the black community as complacent. He goes on to discuss the lack of unity and leadership among black church leaders and the impact it has had on the black community. Jefferson also mentions the election of Theodore Berry.

Keywords: Black church leaders; Black churches; Black community; Black community leadership; Black voters; Community involvement; Payoff vote; Religion; Theodore Berry

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions; Voting

00:57:04 - The evolution of racism

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson mentions his overall feelings about racial inequality, including his time in the Air Force. He goes on to talk about how racism has changed over the course of the civil rights movement and his life, noting that racism has become more subtle. He also mentions the impact racism has had on the younger generation.

Keywords: Black identity; Military desegregation; Race relations; Racial discrimination; Racial equality; Subtle racism

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Economic conditions; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions

01:02:01 - Black class structure during slavery / involvement in politics

Play segment

Partial Transcript: There's one thing that we didn't cover that I think that one has to consider when evaluating Lexington per se, especially as it relates to blacks.

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson discusses the black class structure prior to the civil rights movement. He also talks about his first political campaign in which he was attempting to get elected to the school board.

Keywords: Black politicians; Black precincts; Black voter turnout; Lexington School board; Lexington school system; Political campaigns

Subjects: African Americans--Politics and government; Political campaigns--Kentucky--Lexington

01:11:22 - Black social programs

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well thank you sir, is there anything else that you would like to add?

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson discusses various black social programs that aimed at aiding the black community, including helping the black youth. He also talks about the problems black social programs faced in regard to getting federal funds.

Keywords: Black social agencies; Black youth; CALF (Community Action Lexington-Fayette); Communities; Community agencies; Great Society movement; Local government; Micro City Government; OEO (Office of Economic Opportunity); Revenue sharing; Social agencies; White power structure

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Economic conditions; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions; Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.

01:17:47 - Accusations against Micro City and CALF and its impact on black social agencies

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We recognized that there was an attempt to do this. Number one Micro City was the first victim...

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson talks about the financial situation Micro City and CALF faced after both organizations were accused of mishandling federal funds.

Keywords: Black social agencies; Black social programs; CALF (Community Action Lexington-Fayette); Federal funding; Federal funds; HEW (The United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare); Local government; Micro City Government; Revenue sharing; Social agencies; Urban League

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Economic conditions; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions

01:26:28 - Black councilmen support

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The government, the local government is--we have a new mayor so, the question as to whether or not he will allocate this money...

Segment Synopsis: Jefferson talks about the need for the support of the black councilmen in regard to getting the necessary funding for various social agencies.

Keywords: Advocacy; Black councilmen; Black representation; City council; Councilmen support; Lexington Mayor

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Economic conditions