Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lorenzo D. Jones, November 17, 1983

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - His childhood home

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Partial Transcript: This room here, the dining room, and the room originally abo--uh, directly above it were over there...

Segment Synopsis: Jones talks briefly about the history and construction of the house he lives in. He explains that a black contractor sawed off a piece of a house, rolled it--pulled by mules, to its present location--and built the current house. Jones' father bought the house from white people in 1907, making them the first black people to live in the house.

Keywords: African American history; African Americans in Kentucky; Discrimination in housing; Family histories; Housing discrimination

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; Discrimination in housing.; Family histories.; Family--History

00:01:49 - His father's early life and education

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Partial Transcript: As a--tell me about your parents.

Segment Synopsis: Jones tells the life story of his own father, Henderson Jones. Henderson was born the year after slavery ended in Kentucky in 1866. His parents had been slaves and were tenant farmers upon full emancipation. Henderson Jones' father died when he was fairly young, and, inspired by a man who'd spoken in Henderson, Henderson Jones went to Evansville to work as a houseboy for a newspaper man. The newspaper man encouraged him to finish high school, and then go to Indiana State Normal School (now Indiana State University). He joined the newspaper man in Washington, D.C. and studied law, graduating from Howard University in 1893, going from there to Chicago to practice law. He was still seeing Jones' mother, who refused to move to Chicago. She eventually persuaded him to come back to Henderson, where he primarily did research for white lawyers. He also worked to create a high school for black children so his children could further their education. He initially worked as the principal of both it and the grade school, and then moved the high school twice as it grew.

Keywords: African American families; African American lawyers; African American leadership; African American politicians; Education; Evansville (Ind.); Family histories; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Howard University; Howard University School of Law; Indiana State University

Subjects: African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American families; African American lawyers.; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American politicians.; African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; African Americans--Genealogy.; Education; Evansville (Ind.); Family histories.; Family--history; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Howard University.; Howard University. School of Law; Indiana State University

00:06:25 - His mother's family and early life

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, what, what was your mother's background?

Segment Synopsis: Jones now talks about his mother's background and family, the Cabells. She and his father were childhood sweethearts, living on adjoining farms. However, her family were "well-to-do"--i.e. owned their own farm. Her parents were slaves. Jones tells a story about the family during slavery and then states that the farm may have been bought by their former owner, but nobody's certain. Her father worked the property until he died, and then her mother ran it. When she died, they divided it among the ten children. His father bought part of it and planned on giving it to Jones, but eventually sold it at Jones' urging.

Keywords: African American families; African American leadership; Cabell family; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Slavery in the United States

Subjects: African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American families; African American leadership; African American politicians.; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education.; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Slavery--United States.

00:09:44 - His father's political and social involvement

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Partial Transcript: Just from what you said, a, a little while ago about your father, I, I would assume he was one of the leading Negros in this area, and the one moving for changes around here.

Segment Synopsis: Jones and the interviewer talk about his father's political and social involvement as a black leader in Henderson and also in Louisville and Lexington. In addition to his general work for the black community, the churches, and the schools, he was also a Freemason. He died at age 87, having retired from working for the schools. Jones states that he knew "every outstanding black" in Kentucky through his father's widespread involvement.

Keywords: African American churches; African American clergy; African American families; African American lawyers; African American leadership; African American physicians; African American politicians; African American teachers; Freemasons; Segregation in education

Subjects: African American churches; African American churches--Kentucky; African American clergy.; African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American families; African American lawyers.; African American leadership; African American physicians; African American politicians.; African American teachers.; African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; Freemasons.; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Segregation in education--Law and legislation; Segregation in education.

00:12:39 - Jones' own life post-college

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Partial Transcript: So, he had retired from the schools--

Segment Synopsis: Jones talks about his young adult life, and his siblings and their lives. He was born in 1905, finished high school in 1923, and went to Howard University, having to drop out and work at various points. He had a sister and two brothers, and now has one living brother. After finishing college, Jones came home, where his mother and father lived alone. He first went into insurance work in Louisville and then Columbus, Ohio, where he was made a district manager and met his wife. His parents went up to Ohio and asked him to come down, because they needed his help and had secured him a job as a coach at the high school. He couldn't make money teaching school, and worked in insurance and waiting tables to make ends meet. His wife couldn't work because she had to take care of his parents.

Keywords: African American families; African American leadership; African American teachers; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.)

Subjects: African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American families; African American leadership; African American teachers.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.)

00:16:54 - Segregation and high school sports

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Partial Transcript: When you were teaching here, and coaching and all of that, did you just play negro schools in sports and things like that?

Segment Synopsis: Jones coached primarily basketball, with some football and even less track. They primarily played other black schools, having to travel far sometimes to get a full schedule. His last year coaching (1944-45) they played "one or two" white schools.

Keywords: African American leadership; African American teachers; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); High school sports; Segregation; Segregation in education

Subjects: African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American leadership; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Segregation; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); High school student activities; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Segregation in education.

00:21:10 - Race relations in Henderson, Kentucky around the early 1920s

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Partial Transcript: Tell me, Mr. Jones, one of the things I'm really interested in is race relations--

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer inquires about race relations during Jones' young adulthood in Henderson. Jones declares that it was better than neighboring towns like Madisonville, Owensboro, and Paducah. For instance, for a couple years, the black high school's basketball team was allowed to play in the white high school's gym.

Keywords: African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American teachers; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Madisonville (Ky.); Owensboro (Ky.); Paducah (Ky.); Race relations; Race relations in Kentucky; Racism; Segregation; Segregation in education

Subjects: African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American teachers.; African Americans--Race identity.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions--To 1964.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Madisonville (Ky.); Owensboro (Ky.); Paducah (Ky.); Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Segregation in education.; Segregation.

00:24:20 - Reasons for better race relations in Henderson / Other black leaders in the area

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Partial Transcript: So, why, why do you think--you, you said that things were better here than Owensboro, Paducah.

Segment Synopsis: Jones explains the reasons for better race relations in Henderson than surrounding towns, citing better black leadership and listing some important black leaders other than his father, who were both politically and civically active, particularly the importance of black physicians. He also mentions the "better class of white people" in Henderson, among whom his family even had friends.

Keywords: African American churches; African American clergy; African American college graduates in Kentucky; African American lawyers; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American physicians; African American politicians; African American teachers

Subjects: African American churches; African American clergy.; African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American lawyers.; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American physicians; African American politicians.; African American teachers.; African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky

00:29:03 - Black businesses in Henderson

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Partial Transcript: And he believed in black business.

Segment Synopsis: Jones talks about the black businesses in Henderson during his youth, listing the black-run businesses and the people associated with them, and what sorts of businesses didn't exist (no black-owned bank in Western Kentucky, for instance). He also tells the story of a black insurance company (Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance Company) and the struggles of establishing it.

Keywords: African American business enterprises; African American lawyers; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American physicians; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.)

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American lawyers.; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American physicians; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.)

00:33:17 - Recreation open to black individuals in 1920s Henderson / The Henderson Ku Klux Klan

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Partial Transcript: What would blacks in a place like this in the 1920s do for recreation?

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks about recreation open to black individuals in 1920s Henderson. Jones responds by talking about a park--which a white man issued to the town in his will, provided it was open to all citizens. However, another group took control of the park, and segregated it. There were also black-owned barbershops that catered exclusively to whites, and a black theatre that hired white employees. He also talks about the small Ku Klux Klan in Henderson and the lynching of a black man.

Keywords: African American business enterprises; African American churches; African American churches in Kentucky; African American clergy; African American leadership; Ku Klux Klan (KKK)

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American churches; African American churches--Kentucky; African American clergy.; African American leadership; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions--To 1964.; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; Discrimination.

00:37:16 - African Americans and legal rights / Trustworthy white individuals in town

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Partial Transcript: Ye--now you mentioned this lynching and things.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer inquires about legal and court issues for African Americans in Henderson in Jones' youth, with Jones saying that while Henderson was "better" than surrounding towns, African Americans still "wouldn't get a fair shake in court," and then adding that they still don't get one now. The importance of trustworthy whites to black leaders is also mentioned.

Keywords: African American lawyers; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American politicians; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Segregation

Subjects: African American lawyers.; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American politicians.; African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Crimes against.; African Americans--Recreation; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Segregation.; United States--Race relations.

00:40:35 - More on recreation

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Partial Transcript: --give you a chance to follow up on recreation.

Segment Synopsis: When asked, Jones expands on recreation available to black individuals in Henderson. There were no pools, so if you swam, you swam in the river. A black graduate of Berea established something called Hi-Y Club (associated with the YMCA) at every black high school in the state. There were pool rooms, and dancing at a place called Benevolent Lodge, but most recreation was organized yourself through church and school.

Keywords: African American business enterprises; African American churches; African American families; African American neighborhoods; Hi-Y Club; Segregation; Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA)

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American churches; African American churches--Kentucky; African American families; African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Recreation; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; Segregation.

00:44:14 - Clarifications about Jones' life timeline / Differences in life for African Americans in different places

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Partial Transcript: Now you left and went to Columbus.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer makes some clarifications about Jones' life. After college, he went from Henderson to Louisville in 1931, from there to Columbus, and returned to Henderson in 1933. With this knowledge, the interviewer inquires about the differences in how African Americans lived in Louisville versus how they lived in Henderson. Louisville, he says, was more segregated, whereas in Henderson, up until fairly recently, a black individual could buy any property they wanted provided they had money and potentially also a white person to back them up. The interviewer also asks if he ever felt the need to change his behavior depending on where he was.

Keywords: African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American teachers; Discrimination; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Race discrimination; Segregation

Subjects: African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American teachers.; Discrimination in housing.; Discrimination.; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Segregation.

00:52:46 - Forms of address / Differences in campaigning for civil rights / Work available for black men in that time and place

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Partial Transcript: Was it common back then, in the '20s, '30s, and so forth, that whites did not call your father or anyone "mister"?

Segment Synopsis: Jones talks about forms of address given to black individuals in Henderson in the time period. White people would generally avoid calling black men by "Mr.", and would call black school teachers "Professor" and black clergymen "Reverend" and would try to call women by their first names. The interviewer asks about "militancy" of pressing for rights and respect in Louisville versus Henderson, with Jones stating that Henderson pressed more for rights in that time because of their good black leadership, which Louisville lacked. They also briefly talk about work and pay black men were allowed in that time and place, as well as an attempt at a black newspaper in Henderson.

Keywords: African American business enterprises; African American churches; African American clergy; African American teachers; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Hopkinsville (Ky.); Princeton (Ky.)

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American churches; African American churches--Kentucky; African American clergy.; African American families; African American leadership; African American teachers.; African Americans--Civil rights; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Hopkinsville (Ky.); Princeton (Ky.)

00:59:31 - Effects of school integration on Henderson

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Partial Transcript: The--did the, uh, changes, that, uh, came about in the 1960s, early '60s, late fifties, early sixties, with the school integration and that type thing, did that put a strain on, on race relations here in Henderson?

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks about the effect of integration on race relations in Henderson. Jones states there wasn't a lot of trouble, and while it did have good effects, with segregation of schools being incredibly expensive, it destroyed black business and hurt black students' school lives.

Keywords: African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American teachers; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); Segregation; Segregation in education

Subjects: African American leadership; African American neighborhoods; African American teachers.; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.); School integration--Kentucky; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Segregation in education--Law and legislation; Segregation in education.; Segregation.

01:04:19 - Documents for records / Closing remarks

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Partial Transcript: Well, Mr. Jones, I, I hope you don't mind if we come back again.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewers ask about any interesting or important documents Jones might have that they could copy and add to their records. He mentions some interesting individuals and how to potentially obtain documents relating to them. There's also a story about an Episcopal Church, and discussion on planning another meeting.

Keywords: African American families; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.)

Subjects: African American families; Henderson (Ky.); Henderson County (Ky.)