Interview with Nanine Watson, March 28, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - Introduction and early childhood

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Partial Transcript: My name is Le Datta Grimes and I'm here today speaking with Nanine Neal Watson.

Segment Synopsis: Nanine Watson is introduced. She is a UK alum, and she discusses her very early childhood in Georgetown, Kentucky. She examines the segregation of education and neighborhoods, and where she grew up.

Keywords: Black business owners; Black neighborhoods; Education; Georgetown (Ky.); Kentucky; Rural; Segregation

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Southern States.; Childhood; Georgetown (Ky.); Race relations--Kentucky

00:07:18 - Family businesses

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Partial Transcript: Let me go back just a little bit to make sure I get the names of your grandparents.

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about the family businesses that her parents and grandparents had owned, and the way that it influenced her life and her upbringing.

Keywords: Black businesses; Black churches; Green book; Hotels; National African American Museum

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American churches; African American families; African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Religion.

00:11:51 - Black life in Lexington and grade school

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Partial Transcript: I was gonna say, so where did you actually grow up in Lexington?

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about what it was like to grow up black in Lexington. She talks about her experiences at various levels of school in both segregated and integrated schools, especially as an upper class black person and the privilege that brought her.

Keywords: Black business owners; Black communities; Integration; Microaggressions; Racism; Segregation; Violence

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American families; African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Childhood; Integration; Lexington (Ky.); Segregation in education--Kentucky

00:18:38 - Watson's family

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Partial Transcript: Describe your father for me. What did he look like physically?

Segment Synopsis: Watson describes her parents, her mother being the one who instilled good values in her and her father being the one who instilled the need to work hard in her. She talks about how they uplifted her, and how they were put down by the strict Jim Crow laws.

Keywords: Blackness; Families; Family; Jim Crow Laws; Mixed race; Relationships; Segregation

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Race identity.; Family histories.; Race relations--Kentucky; Segregation--Kentucky--Fayette County; Segregation--Law and legislation--United States.

00:23:48 - Education in the home

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Partial Transcript: How was education talked about in your home?

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about her experiences with education in the home, and how college was seen as an escape for her. Her father pushed for her to go to a white school because he viewed them as better, while she really wanted to go to Howard University.

Keywords: Howard University; Integrated schools; Kentucky State University; University of Kentucky; White schools

Subjects: African American college students.; College choice; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Social conditions; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Integration; Kentucky State University; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky.

00:26:18 - Undergraduate experience

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Partial Transcript: When did you graduate high school? What year?

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about her undergraduate experience and living at home in her time at college, which separated her from fellow black students and made it difficult for her to forge connections with other black students.

Keywords: Black Student Union (BSU); Black students; Family relationships; Social relationships

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African American families; African Americans--Economic conditions.; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Social conditions; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Universities and colleges.

00:30:55 - Education at UK

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Partial Transcript: So talk about what--your major, and, you know, your discipline.

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about being an education major at the University of Kentucky, the very few black people that were on campus, and the confidence she had in herself despite the little support she received from the university.

Keywords: Black social life; Black students; Education; Integration; Teaching; Undergraduate

Subjects: African American college students.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Social conditions; Education; Integration; Segregation in higher education.; Teaching; Universities and colleges.

00:37:53 - Teaching and the black experience

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Partial Transcript: Why'd you choose education?

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about her experience as a teacher and the general black experience, struggling with mental health due to desegregation and the treatment of people of color in "white" spaces. She examines how isolated she felt due to the lack of privilege of being black.

Keywords: Education; Integration; Isolation; Mental health; My Old Kentucky Home (Song); Racial slurs; Racism; Teaching

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Education--Study and teaching; Lexington (Ky.); Segregation.; Teachers--Kentucky; Teaching

00:42:31 - Black social life and blackness in education

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Partial Transcript: So did you--I think you said that, that you did go to the student center sometime and hang out, those kinds of things.

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about the black experience of being at UK and what black students did to stick together. She talks about many black students unfortunately not finishing, and how she was isolated due to not living on campus.

Keywords: Black students; Dormitories; Dorms; Student centers; University housing

Subjects: African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Housing.; African Americans--Recreation; African Americans--Social life and customs.; College environment; College integration; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Social conditions; Universities and colleges.

00:45:01 - Life after college and leaving Lexington

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Partial Transcript: So talk about life after college and returning to UK for a second time.

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about her life after graduating. She discusses how the actual graduation was not very important to her, working for the Fayette County Public Schools, and the growth of black neighborhoods in Lexington and how that created a sense of community for her.

Keywords: Belonging; Black neighborhoods; Community; Fayette County Public Schools

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Societies, etc.; Teachers--Kentucky; Teaching

00:49:19 - Returning to UK and graduate school

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Partial Transcript: So how did, um, how did you make the decision to return to UK?

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about the little change that she saw between her undergraduate career and her graduate career at the University of Kentucky. She talks about the changes she saw later as she came back to UK and saw many black students and professors in the medical school.

Keywords: Black medical students; Graduate schools; Medical field; Racism; Undergraduate; University of Kentucky

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Social conditions; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky--Lexington; Universities and colleges.

00:54:11 - Race relations on campus

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Partial Transcript: So, what kind of interactions did you see between, uh, blacks and whites on campus?

Segment Synopsis: Watson talks about the little interracial mixing that happened between blacks and whites on campus, but that things quickly changed when more people of color started coming to campus.

Keywords: Black students; Interracial dating; Medical schools; Race relations; White students

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Social conditions; Race relations.; Universities and colleges.

00:57:06 - Campus on goings and athletics

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so is there anything you feel like we've not talked about concerning your experience with UK, be it your undergraduate experience, your graduate experience, or?

Segment Synopsis: Watson touches on John F. Kennedy visiting campus and the shock campus felt when he passed, and Adolph Rupp's intense racism and refusal to take black student athletes for the basketball team.

Keywords: Adolph Rupp; Athletics; Basketball; John F. Kennedy; Lexington (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.); Racism; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky athletics

Subjects: African Americans--Education (Higher); College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Social conditions; Discrimination in education.; Discrimination.; Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Race discrimination.; Segregation--Kentucky--Fayette County; Universities and colleges.

01:01:09 - Civil rights movement

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Partial Transcript: And I wish I had been there, 'cause I was--oh, I didn't tell you, I was very active in the civil rights movement.

Segment Synopsis: Watson discusses her time and work in the civil rights movement and the activism she participated in in Lexington. She reflects on some of the big issues facing people of color of the time, and realizing how dangerous it was to be black in southern states, especially in places like Atlanta where it was much more dangerous to protest and be an activist.

Keywords: Activism; Atlanta (Ga.); Civil rights; Demonstrations; Emmett Till; Lexington (Ky.); McCann Civil Rights Movement; Segregated facilities; Segregation; Sit-ins

Subjects: African Americans--Southern States.; Civil rights demonstrations; Civil rights movements--United States; Civil rights--Law and legislation; Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Discrimination.; Integration; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky--Lexington; United States--Race relations.

01:08:28 - UK family legacy / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: So, I understand that your family has a legacy here at UK.

Segment Synopsis: Watson discusses her family legacy at the university and the interview is concluded.

Keywords: Family; Siblings; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky