Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jesse L. Amburgey, July 3, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:09 - Integration of the schools in Redfox (Ky.)

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Partial Transcript: You know, one of the things that I--what I think what I probably can get from you...

Segment Synopsis: Amburgey describes becoming the principal of the segregated, one-room school in Redfox, Kentucky. When he moved back to the community to start his new job, a judge had just ruled that the white students of Redfox could not be bused to the new, consolidated school if the African American students were not also bused. Amburgey had to figure out how to integrate too many new students into a too small space, appease white parents who didn't want a black teacher instructing their children, and reassure black parents who didn't want a white teacher "abusing" their children. Amburgey notes that the high schools were easier to integrate when you had black athletes to unite the teams and the community.

Keywords: 1954; 1955; 1963; Abuse; African American high schools; African American students; African American teachers; Athletics; Basketball players; Black high schools; Black students; Black teachers; Board of education; Busing; Community; Consolidated school districts; Creek beds; Dams; Desegregation; Elementary schools; Funding; Hazard (Ky.); High schools; Integration; Kentucky; Knott County (Ky.); Lawsuits; One room schoolhouses; Physical education teachers; Principals; Problems; Racism; Redfox (Ky.); Schools; Segregation; Sports; Tension; White community; White students

Subjects: African American neighborhoods; African American teachers.; African Americans--Civil rights--Southern States; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Busing for school integration; Discrimination in education.; Integration; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Segregation in education--Kentucky

GPS: Redfox (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.214722, -82.943889
00:10:14 - African American population in Redfox / Busing students for school and for sports

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Partial Transcript: Um, well you know in, uh, Redfox, it's such an interesting area.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer and Amburgey note that most of the African American population in Knott County is in Redfox. Amburgey talks about playing sports in high school and the different teams they would play, including the black high schools. There was no African American high school in Redfox, so black students were bused to Hazard.

Keywords: African American communities; African American high schools; Baseball; Basketball; Black communities; Busing; Census; Churches; Community sports; Hazard (Ky.); High schools; Integrated communities; Integration; Knott County (Ky.); Players; Populations; Redfox (Ky.); Segregated communities; Transportation

Subjects: African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; African Americans--Societies, etc.; Busing for school integration; Integration

00:12:47 - Integrated in play and at church, but segregated at school

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Partial Transcript: Well, how is it that, that, that was such a strong opposition toward the integrative process, and yet they were all going to church together?

Segment Synopsis: Amburgey talks about the lack of logic with keeping schools segregated, while people are integrated at church, in their community, and when children play.

Keywords: Baptist churches; Churches; Equality; Philosophy; Racism; Religion; Religious doctrine; Religious people; Small community; Socialization

Subjects: African American churches; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Religion.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; Integration; Race relations--Kentucky

00:14:59 - "Not so much slavery as free labor" and other thoughts on why slavery wasn't "as bad" in the Kentucky Appalachia region

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Partial Transcript: Well, you know, there's something else I noticed in Redfox, for a community that small, is there seems to be a strong freedom of the mixture of the races.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer, Carl Smith, speaks for a few minutes on his thoughts about how Appalachia had fewer slaves, and shares that he has read that slavery in Kentucky was "not so much slavery as free labor because the blacks worked there in the fields alongside the whites. And they fought--their common enemy was the, was the Indian." He then goes on to surmise that religion helped people be more open to integration, and says that he has read that "it was never a slavery like you find, say in Lexington, where they were selling slaves and all of that over there. Of course it has never been in Kentucky the way it's been in the South because of the agricultural situation." He wonders if there were other sociological factors that impacted that more willing integration and 'lesser' slavery. Amburgey states that he just thinks it was religion.

Keywords: Appalachia Mountains; Enslaved peoples; Free labor; Generations; Hazard (Ky.); History of Kentucky; Indians; Indigenous peoples; Integration; Lexington (Ky.); Manifest Destiny; Marriage; Miscegenation; Native Americans; Race; Religion; Revolutionary War; Segregated schools; Segregation; Slave trade; Slavery; Slaves; Sociological factors; The South; Worked in the fields

Subjects: African American churches; African Americans--Crimes against.; African Americans--Race identity.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination.; Indians of North America.; Native Americans.; Racism; School integration--Kentucky; Slavery--United States.

00:17:56 - Welfare in Knott County (Ky.) / Undocumented histories of Appalachia

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Partial Transcript: Well the, um--of course I, uh, I also got a printout on--well, not a printout, but I got a report on the, uh, welfare situation in that part.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer and Amburgey briefly talk about the high percentage of Knott County residents that were on welfare. They then talk about the migration of African Americans to the mountains for mining jobs. Amburgey also talks about how they relocated some historical cabins from a hollow that was going to be flooded.

Keywords: African Americans; Agriculture; Appalachian Mountains; Appalachian region; Cabins; Coal mines and mining; General population; History; Kentucky Association for Community Action; Knott County (Ky.); Migrations; Mothers; Poor; Poverty; Redfox (Ky.); Relocation; Reservoirs; Slave cabins; Tourism; Welfare; Working class; Written history

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Public welfare.; Racism; Slavery--United States.; United States--Race relations.

00:24:21 - African American churches and traditions

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Partial Transcript: I could be wrong, but I get a feeling that, you know, it's, it's pretty, abnormal and very relaxed, uh, relationship that people have in this little, small community.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer and Amburgey talk about African American churches in the region and some of their practices. Near the end of the interview, they circle back to the desegregation of the Redfox School.

Keywords: African American churches; African American ministers; Appalachian Mountains; Appalachian region; Berea (Ky.); Black churches; Black culture; Black ministers; Black tradition; Church services; Churches; Communities; Foot washing; Funerals; Greetings; Racism; Redfox Elementary School; Relationships; Segregation; Speaking in tongues; Traditional; White churches; White ministers

Subjects: African American churches; African American clergy.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Religion.; Discrimination in education.; Segregation in education--Kentucky