Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Wesley Hatch, May 1, 1994

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Ancestors' enslavement

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Partial Transcript: Okay, go ahead.

Segment Synopsis: John Wesley Hatch talks about his mother and father's upbringing. His father was carpenter and his mother was a nurse. His father's grandfather's family was enslaved and sold in Kentucky when he was around 14, in 1838. He and his brother went to the same farm and never saw their mother or sisters again. His sixteen year old sister committed suicide within the first year of being sold. He held onto hope that the younger sister would come out alive and would remember him. Of Hatch's four grandparents, three had lived in slavery. Two of Hatch's grandfather's sisters were teenagers when slavery ended and they told stories of rebellion. His grandfather and grandmother married and moved to Louisville.

Keywords: Enslaved; Enslavement; Families; Family history; Farms; First-hand stories; Grandfathers; Grandmothers; Grandparents; Kentucky; Murder; Sold; Suicide; Thomas Bell

Subjects: African American families; African American farmers.; African Americans--Economic conditions; African Americans--Genealogy.; African Americans--Social conditions; Family histories.; Family history.; Genealogy; Racism; Slavery; Slavery--United States.; Slaves.

00:07:40 - Childhood

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Partial Transcript: So did you go to school in Louisville then?

Segment Synopsis: Hatch says moved a lot during his childhood because his father became an African Methodist preacher. He lived in Louisville the first 6 years of his life before he moved. His mother became a teacher and his father wanted to become an engineer. In 1942, he moved back to Louisville for two more years. He talks about a history teacher that was the best teacher he's ever had. He talks about another move with the church to Springfield and finishing high school in Lebanon, Kentucky.

Keywords: Changing schools; Churches; Larry Johnson; Louisville (Ky.); Moving; Preachers; Shelbyville (Ky.)

Subjects: African American churches--Kentucky; African American families; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Kentucky--Louisville

00:15:00 - Employment discrimination and college

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Partial Transcript: You said that your parents met at Lincoln Institute?

Segment Synopsis: Hatch talks about where his parents went to college, what they majored in, and the jobs they have now. Hatch says he couldn't get hired for any jobs because of his race, so he then decided to go to college.

Keywords: Colleges; Kentucky State College; Kentucky State University; Lincoln County (Ky.); Racism; Schools

Subjects: African American college students; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination in employment.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism

00:16:58 - Choice of college

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Partial Transcript: What were your options as you looked around as a high school senior?

Segment Synopsis: Hatch talks about which colleges he was considering. He mostly considered schools with family connections or church connections. He says that other, higher up schools like Yale and Harvard were above his reach. No place in Kentucky allowed for a person of color to get a master's degree. He attended Kentucky State University. His uncle was only allowed to get his degree during the summer, not during the normal school year.

Keywords: Colleges; Harvard University; Kentucky State College; Kentucky State University; Knoxville College; Racism; Yale University

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African American families; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; College environment; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers.; Discrimination in education.; Discrimination in higher education; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Minorities in higher education; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

00:20:13 - Law school / Black press

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Partial Transcript: Then, I'm trying to get an understanding of your desire for law school.

Segment Synopsis: Hatch says he didn't have anyone influencing his interest to go to law school but he thought that it looked like a good lifestyle. He talks about how he wrote for the Chicago Bee and discusses the agenda of the black press.

Keywords: Advocacy; Equality; Justice; Law schools; Laws; Role models; Social justice

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African American journalists; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Newspapers.; African Americans--Politics and government.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism

00:24:03 - Experience of racism and segregation at a diner

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Partial Transcript: I remember this diner.

Segment Synopsis: Hatch talks about how he went to dinner with his father and because he was black he wasn't allowed to go through the front door, he had to go around back because there was a white man in the restaurant. His father just decided to leave and talked about personal dignity and how they shouldn't have to be segregated. German prisoners were allowed in the diner but the black people that were sent off to fight them were not allowed in.

Keywords: Detroit (Mich.); New York (N.Y.); Personal dignity; Racism; Segregation

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism

00:28:55 - Kentucky State University

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Partial Transcript: When you got to K State as a freshman--

Segment Synopsis: Hatch talks about Kentucky State University and its cosmopolitan environment. It was a different dynamic but there were not a lot of options because it was a small black school. There was standard racist text about what black people were like. He chose to major in sociology and political science. He stayed at Kentucky State for two years before he decided to go to law school. He wanted to attend Howard University Law School.

Keywords: Cosmopolitan; Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); Howard University; Intimidating; Kentucky State College; Kentucky State University; Law schools; Racism

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; College environment; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers.; Discrimination in education.; Discrimination in higher education; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Minorities in higher education; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

00:39:40 - Kentucky State University law school via the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So then for one semester you were the only student with--

Segment Synopsis: Hatch was the only student in the Kentucky State University law school (offered through the University of Kentucky) for two semesters. There was no law library, and the Attorney General told him that black people have no business becoming lawyers and that "their people" need more teachers and preachers. A professor slipped and used a racial slur to one of his responses in class.

Keywords: Kentucky State College; Kentucky State University; Law schools; Professors; Racial slurs

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; College environment; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers.; Discrimination in education.; Discrimination in higher education; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Minorities in higher education; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; University of Kentucky

00:49:09 - Segregation and racism at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: We continued to think, well if this doesn't work out, you know, I'll go to Howard.

Segment Synopsis: People Hatch met recommended he go to Howard University to get a proper law education, but it seemed out of reach due to finances. His family financed his first year of law school. He doesn't recall any other black students at the University of Kentucky, except two others who also had accommodations with Kentucky State University. He says that it wasn't better for him to be in a "real" college class compared to the classes they had previously arranged at Kentucky State. He talks about some professors segregating him in their classrooms, while others did not. He was not able to go to the Student Center or sit next to a white person, he was only allowed to sit near a white person if they sat with him. Some white students would befriend him and be polite to him.

Keywords: Finances; Funding; Howard University; Law schools; Money; Tuition

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; College costs.; College environment; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers.; Discrimination in education.; Discrimination in higher education; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Minorities in higher education; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; University of Kentucky

01:00:05 - Arkansas / Military

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so you decided to hang 'til the end of the semester.

Segment Synopsis: Hatch went to Arkansas and got a job teaching to get enough money to go to law school. After a couple years, he got drafted into the Korean War. The first time he experienced an unsegregated environment was in the army. He stayed in the army for a couple of years. He did not keep contact with the university.

Keywords: Arkansas; Desegregation; Equality; Law schools

Subjects: African American teachers.; African American veterans.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Integration; Korean War, 1950-1953--Veterans; Race discrimination.; Racism; Teachers; Teaching; United States--Race relations.

01:03:23 - Racial discrimination in higher education

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Partial Transcript: Dr. Hatch, you know, the--what's interesting about history is how--(laughs)--how it reads differently in different settings.

Segment Synopsis: Hatch talks about how there are some majors that the university will kick people of color out of, giving an example of a girl who tried to go into medical school. He says that black people were robbed of opportunities in the education system.

Keywords: College majors; Opportunities; Success; Unsuccessful

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; College environment; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers.; Discrimination in education.; Discrimination in higher education; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Minorities in higher education; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Universities and colleges--Faculty.