Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Harry J. Johnson, June 14, 1978

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:04 - Personal background / life during the depression

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm speaking with Mr. Harry Johnson, a man who's been a barber in Lexington for sixty-one years. Mr. Johnson, could you start us off by giving us some of your personal background...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his early years in Lexington, including the area he grew up in and his educational background. He also talks about his experience during the Depression in Lexington. He also mentions working as a barber.

Keywords: Black barbers; Black businesses; Black entrepreneurs; Great Depression

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

00:05:02 - Great Depression related programs / new barber liscening law

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, he, organized his share of, what, what did you call 'em, WPA (Works Progress Administration), PWA (Public Works Administration), and all that work projects...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson briefly mentions the work programs started by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. He also talks about a law being passed requiring barbers to get a license and how he never got his license.

Keywords: Antique barber; Black barbers; FDR; Great Depression; New Deal

Subjects: Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945

00:07:58 - Soup lines in Lexington / World War Two

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Mr. Johnson, could you tell us, um, as far the soup line was concerned, did, did everybody take advantage of that?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about the soup lines in Lexington during the Depression, mentioning that blacks and whites were served equally. He goes on to talk about WWII soldiers he knew and their unwillingness to talk about their experiences once they came home.

Keywords: 92nd Division; All black military divisions; Black soldiers; Race relations; Salerno, Italy; Soup lines; WWII (World War II)

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

00:14:24 - Lexington during the civil rights movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Can you tell us something about what Lexington was like during the civil rights movement?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about the situation in Lexington during the civil rights movement, noting that the area did not experience a lot of violence or upheaval. He also discusses the impact integration had on black businesses in Lexington.

Keywords: Black businesses; Civil rights movement; Race relations; Racial tension

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky

00:18:20 - Integrations impact on black businesses

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Upon, upon integration, uh, which we'll say was the ----------(??) a lot of black businesses closed. Why, um, was that?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about black businesses in Lexington and how many of them did not survive after integration. He goes on to talk about how prior to the civil rights movement, a certain part of downtown was mainly black.

Keywords: Black businesses; Downtown businesses; Integration; Lexington Colored Fair; Minstrel shows

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

00:23:35 - Lexington Colored Fair / impact of Day law / blacks and horse racing

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Yeah, what are you talking about? We'd have parades. We used to have the best entertainment minstrels that ever ----------(??) hit this state.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about a black festival that used to be held yearly in Lexington. He goes on to mention the effect the Day law had on black and white relations. He also discusses the connection between the race track and blacks.

Keywords: Black businesses; Day law; Lexington Colored Fair; Minstrel shows; Opera house; Race relations

Subjects: African Americans in horse racing; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions

00:29:15 - Black property owners

Play segment

Partial Transcript: That was the first, that was the first big building and block owned by blacks around here.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about the various businesses and buildings located in the downtown area that were built and owned by blacks. He mentions how is aunt owned property downtown.

Keywords: Black businesses; Black community; Downtown

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