Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Judi Jennings, May 11, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:03 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Hey--

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer, Jeff Keith, records the date and time of the interview, then introduces Judi Jennings. The interview takes place in Louisville, Kentucky.

Keywords: Appalachian interviews; Appalachian women; Women of Appalachia

Subjects: Appalachian Region

00:00:56 - Professional engagements with Appalshop

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Partial Transcript: So I thought just as sort of an establishment--

Segment Synopsis: Jennings discusses how Appalshop received a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge grant, which was granted so Appalshop could establish an endowment fund. She tells the interviewer how her experience giving grants during her time at the Kentucky Humanities Council got her involved in Appalshop in a temporary fundraising position. She also discusses her personal reasons for joining Appalshop as a fundraiser. Jennings tells Keith about fundraisers who pledged money to Appalshop, giving Appalshop a total of $1.4 million to run the organization. She discusses the challenges of grants and endowments, making it difficult to secure money for Appalshop without individual fundraising. Jennings talks about her positions as an advisor for various women’s groups.

Keywords: Appalachian stereotypes; Grant writing; Grants; Grassroots fundraising; Personal choices; Welfare

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalshop, Inc.; Career changes; Filmed interviews.; Fund raisers (Persons); Fund raising; Grants-in-aid; National Endowment for the Arts

00:10:20 - Relationship with Elizabeth Barret

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Partial Transcript: She had this vision in making a film about the murder of Hugh O’Connor...

Segment Synopsis: Jennings talks about Elizabeth Barret, a fellow Appalshop fundraiser and filmmaker who wanted to make a film about the murder of Hugh O’Connor, a reporter who had been shot in Jeremiah, Kentucky in 1967. Jennings discusses how she assisted Barret in fundraising for the film, titled “Stranger With A Camera.” She tells Keith about her work researching and collaborating for the film. Jennings recalls attending the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie had been accepted to be screened. She talks about the reactions of Appalachian people to the film.

Keywords: Appalachian people in media; Digital editing; Film producers; Hugh O’Connor; Movies about Appalachia; Stranger With A Camera (Motion picture)

Subjects: Appalachians (People) in motion pictures; Appalshop, Inc.; Filmed interviews.; Motion pictures--Editing.; Motion pictures--Production and direction.; Sundance Film Festival

00:15:49 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: But first I’m curious, if you would, uh, say your full name--

Segment Synopsis: Jennings gives some biographical information and talks about her family background. Her mother is from Eastern Kentucky and her father is from Bourbon County and Paris, Kentucky. She discusses how she received her name from her mother, and talks about her parents’ divorce when she was 6 months old. She talks about her mother’s career and her father’s lack of involvement in her upbringing. Jennings relates her childhood to her present feelings about women, marriage, and Appalachia.

Keywords: Family; Family names; Working class families; Working class women

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Childhood; Divorce; Divorced people; Families; Lexington (Ky.); Parents; Single mothers

00:23:00 - Eastern Kentucky family in the Bluegrass

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Partial Transcript: And, um, and this is because of something you wrote, uh, in '93, no, '96, “My Mama Told Me.”

Segment Synopsis: Jennings discusses the diaspora of Eastern Kentuckians in the early 20th century to urban centers of Kentucky, such as Lexington and Louisville. She talks about her great-grandfather in particular, who lived in Harlan County, Kentucky as a farmer. Jennings also talks about her great-grandmother, a woman of Cherokee descent from Rockcastle County, Kentucky. She then discusses her grandparents, who lived in Madison County, Kentucky and were divorced, possibly due to her grandmother’s alcoholism. Jennings talks about her mother and how she came to live in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.

Keywords: Alcoholism and divorce; Appalachian culture; Bluegrass region; Cherokee ancestors; Rural Kentucky

Subjects: Alcoholism; Appalachian Region; Bluegrass Region (Ky.); Cherokee; Childhood; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Madison County (Ky.); Rockcastle County (Ky.); Rural conditions

00:33:02 - Personal sense of place

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Partial Transcript: H, how did you, or how did you now, make sense of, of, of place?

Segment Synopsis: Jennings talks about how she identifies herself in regard to place. She discusses her mother’s need to assimilate into urban culture and abandon her Cherokee and Appalachian roots. Jennings tells the interviewer how Appalshop let her reclaim parts of her identity, though she believes her PhD ostracizes her from some working class people.

Keywords: Appalachia and identity; Country people; Cultural assimilation; Placelessness; Rural identity; Sense of place; Urban identity

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Assimilation (Sociology); Cherokee; First-generation college students; Identity; Lexington (Ky.); Working class

00:37:58 - Views on feminism

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Partial Transcript: I’m curious to, uh, to revisit also, your, your youth here…

Segment Synopsis: Jennings discusses how her mother influenced her feminist views by raising her child as a single mother. Her mother made her way into the workforce, fought for equal pay, and was self-sufficient at home. She talks about political arguments she had with her mother and her mother’s politically conservative sense of feminism.

Keywords: Community activism; Families and politics; Political conservatism; Politically conservative feminism

Subjects: Community activists; Conservatism; Families; Feminism; Single mothers

00:41:27 - Education and social class in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: First, uh, I’m curious about, in Lexington, uh, to talk a little bit about your education.

Segment Synopsis: Jennings talks about her feelings on the gentrification of her childhood neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky. She discusses her education at Arlington School and her working class upbringing in the neighborhood. Jennings recalls her grandfather, who owned a furniture store in downtown Lexington and did tobacco auctions. She then tells the interviewer about prejudice against Appalachian people in Kentucky and her sense of class consciousness while she was in primary and secondary school. They discuss class differences in Lexington, particularly in public schooling. Jennings recalls her difficulties with math, and her favorite history teacher.

Keywords: Class distinctions; Family stories; North Lexington neighborhoods; Sense of place; Tobacco auctioneers

Subjects: Auctioneers; Childhood; Class consciousness; Families; Lexington (Ky.); Social classes; Working class

01:00:31 - Education at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Uh, since you had grown up in, in Lexington, it’s kind of interesting that you, you ended up at UK, right?

Segment Synopsis: Jennings discusses how she came to be a student at the University of Kentucky. She considered a private women’s college in Kansas but her family was not able to afford the tuition, despite receiving a scholarship. Jennings talks about working at Stewart’s, a department store, to pay her way through college. She discusses her mother’s anxiety about Jennings being a history major, as well as meeting her ex-husband while at UK. She recalls learning about and applying for graduate school, and completing her graduate degree at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: College experiences; Graduate school; Henry Clay High School; History majors; Kentucky college students

Subjects: First-generation college students; Lexington (Ky.); Public universities and colleges; University of Kentucky

01:09:58 - Political activity in the 1970s

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Partial Transcript: It sounds like 1970 though was a, a turning point for you.

Segment Synopsis: Jennings talks about how her political beliefs changed during the 1970s, beginning with the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and her negative beliefs about the Vietnam War. She discusses how the politics of the 1970s influenced her dissertation about the end of the slave trade in the British Empire. She tells the interviewer how she married her college boyfriend before he got drafted, then her reaction when a back injury kept him out of the war. Jennings tells Keith how she and other protestors were tear-gassed and clubbed by Kentucky state troopers during a sit-in at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Anti-war sentiments; College black power movements; Free speech area, University of Kentucky; State troopers; Student protests; Vietnam War draft; Vietnam War protests; Wartime marriages

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Black power; Kent State College; Kent State University; National guard; Political activists; Protest and social movements; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

01:19:41 - Racism in Lexington, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Uh, so, just a quick question then--

Segment Synopsis: Jennings discusses her awareness of race relations while living in Lexington, Kentucky. She tells Keith anecdotes about her family’s racism while living near black neighborhoods on the north side of town and while working at Stewart’s Department Store.

Keywords: Racial slurs; Racism in the 20th century--Kentucky--Lexington; Stewart’s Department Store

Subjects: Neighborhoods.; Race relations--Kentucky--Lexington; Racism; Racism--Kentucky--Lexington

01:24:46 - Further political involvement in 1970s

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Partial Transcript: You were saying that, uh, violence that unfolded in front of you not only affected you politically but it sounds like personally…

Segment Synopsis: Jennings discusses the course of her marriage and her divorce as she became more involved in politics and school organizations while at the University of Kentucky. She talks about her economic situation while in graduate school, as a fellowship allowed her to support herself as a single woman. Jennings tells Keith about her experiences studying in London and how they affected her political ideas. She discusses her involvement in political and consciousness-raising groups while living in Lexington and how it affected her feminist beliefs. She talks about protesting mainstream feminist icon Hillary Clinton for her war policies.

Keywords: Consciousness-raising groups; Divorce--1970s; Graduate students; Social movements--Kentucky--Lexington

Subjects: Clinton, Hillary Rodham; Divorce; Divorced people; Group relations training; Political activists; Universities and colleges--graduate work; University of Kentucky; Women political activists

01:30:30 - Intersectionality and second-wave feminism

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Partial Transcript: I’m curious, as you, as you tell your story and narrate it and, um, about...that political confluence, I mean now we talk about inter--intersectionality and all this, right?

Segment Synopsis: Jennings discusses how she gained an awareness of class consciousness while in London, England and how this belief influenced her political beliefs when she returned to the United States. She talks about how many feminist groups were largely white and middle-class, not allowing space for women of color or lower-class women. She talks about racial and class tensions within the women’s movement of the 1970s. Jennings tells Keith the difficulties she faced with class analysis at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Class analysis; Gender and class; Intersectional feminism; Racial tensions; Women’s movement

Subjects: Class and culture; Class consciousness; Feminism; Intersectionality (Sociology); Second-wave feminism; Sociology

01:36:26 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Well, and as I've talked to you before the camera was rolling and have alluded to already, I look forward to talking to you again...

Segment Synopsis: Keith discusses his goals for the next interview with Jennings, which will focus on Jennings’s work with Appalshop.