Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Elmer Lucille Allen, March 26, 2012

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

 

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00:00:00 - College career

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Partial Transcript: Okay, great. Um, well good afternoon Miss--

Segment Synopsis: Elmer Lucille Allen is introduced. She talks about her experience at Louisville Municipal College [now called Simmons College of Kentucky], especially her job in the library. She talks about her favorite classes.

Keywords: Catalogs; Class size; Dewey Decimal System; English; Higher education; Jobs; Learning; Library; Louisville Municipal College; Nazareth College; Simmons College of Kentucky; Simmons University; Speech

Subjects: African American college students.; College environment; College facilities.; College students, Black; College students--Social conditions; Education, Higher; Universities and colleges.

00:05:40 - Sisterhood of Alpha Kappa Alpha

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Partial Transcript: And when you were involved with the sorority then, what, what kinds of things did they do? How many young women were involved with you?

Segment Synopsis: Allen talks about joining the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She talks about their goals and activities, including social action.

Keywords: Alpha Kappa Alpha; Art; Education; Greek life; Howard University; Kamala Harris; Louisville Municipal College; Nazareth College; Philanthropy; Simmons College of Kentucky; Social action; Social justice; Sorority; Spalding University

Subjects: African American college students.; College environment; College students, Black; College students--Social conditions; College students--Social networks; Education, Higher; Greek letter societies.; Universities and colleges.

00:07:59 - Integration of Nazareth College

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Partial Transcript: So I know when you enrolled at Nazareth in 1951, you were one of two African American students?

Segment Synopsis: Allen talks about the first two African American students at Nazareth College, Barbara Miller and Patricia Lauderdale. She talks about starting a scholarship in their honor. She talks about what it was like to integrate Nazareth College and incidents of segregation and racism.

Keywords: Barbara Miller; Brown v. Board of Education; Graduation; Integration; Jobs; Knights of Columbus; Nazareth College; Patricia Lauderdale; Scholarships; Segregation; Spalding University; Thelma Burnley; University of Kentucky; Work

Subjects: African American college students.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; College environment; College students, Black; College students--Social conditions; Education, Higher; Race discrimination.; United States--Race relations.; Universities and colleges.

00:11:56 - Integrating the workforce

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Partial Transcript: Um, how would you say your experiences in one of the earlier integrated colleges in Kentucky helped prepare you for work in the workforce at the time which was still pretty segregated?

Segment Synopsis: Allen recounts her early experiences of social encounters during the times of segregation and her established mindset while being active in collaborative projects.

Keywords: Integration; Interracial; Race; Segregation; Socialization

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; United States--Race relations.

00:14:56 - Lab work

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Partial Transcript: How, how did you feel about the challenges you faced trying to find work in your field right after school? I mean, it's a big shift to go from chemistry to typing, right?

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains overcoming common challenges of entering into the workforce and her variety of transitions while working as a medical technician.

Keywords: African-Americans; Bonds; Brown-Forman Corporation; Communication; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Doctors; Friendships; Greetings; Hospitals; Indiana; Medical; Race; Science; Women

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; COVID-19 (Disease); Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.)

00:23:46 - Applying to Brown-Forman / Marriage and family lineage

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Partial Transcript: So tell me, I, I know we're talking about Brown-Forman now.

Segment Synopsis: Elmer explains her first connections to Brown-Forman, both by family and a formerly associated doctor. Further along she explains the early application process. Her direct family lineage is also explained, while the interviewer and interviewee piece together a time frame.

Keywords: Careers; Chemistry; Childcare; Children; Employment; Family; Labs; Marriage

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Families.; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:33:49 - First days in the Brown-Forman lab / Collingwood Camp

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Partial Transcript: How about your first day there, anything stand out?

Segment Synopsis: Allen describes her early memories of working at the early production building, along with the summer camping trip of the Brown family in Collingwood, Canada. She also describes the changes from close relations with the company owners into a corporate culture.

Keywords: Bourbon whiskey; Canada; Canadian Mist; Chief executive officer (CEO); Fishing; Labor; Malt; Old Forester bourbon whiskey; Relations; Rye whiskey; Work culture

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Families.; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:37:57 - Bourbon analysis

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Partial Transcript: And, um, tell me a little bit about your job in the lab. What did you do?

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains her first analysis role within the lab of Brown-Forman, along with daily operations of the company, including tours, bottling, and connecting with the Kentucky Derby.

Keywords: Bottling; Bourbon whiskey; Byproducts; Chemistry; Horse-racing; Kentucky; Kentucky Derby; Mash; Proof; Proofing; Revenue man; Revenuers; Tours; Wet-chemistry; Whiskey

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:41:41 - First women and African Americans at Brown-Forman

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Partial Transcript: So when you started working there at Brown-Forman, I know you were the first African American chemist, but how many women were there?

Segment Synopsis: Allen names the other women and African Americans within the early days of the company, while explaining the versatility of their positions and integration of minorities into professional roles.

Keywords: Analyzation; Bourbon whiskey; Chemists; Executives; Gender; Laboratory; Minority; Professional; Professions; Race; Scientists; Secretary; Sensory; Whiskey; Women

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:46:44 - Technology and professional development

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Partial Transcript: You know, I came along at a period before technology took place.

Segment Synopsis: Allen details working within the Brown-Forman laboratory prior to technological advancement, while also discussing the benefits of technology and learning equipment functions that turned out to be crucial to professional development. Also, Allen introduces the opportunities presented by the use of technology.

Keywords: Databases; Technological advancements; Technology

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:54:05 - Work-life balance

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Partial Transcript: Well, I know that while you were at Brown-Forman you were also really involved in the community, you had young children. Tell me how you balanced work and career and family.

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains how she was able to balance her time between the community, her family, and career. During the explanation, she describes common routines of her own and support provided by extended family.

Keywords: Balance; Careers; Chickasaw Little League; Chickasaw Park; Family

Subjects: African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Families.; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:56:40 - Industry changes for women

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Partial Transcript: So when you started working at Brown-Forman in '66, that was just a couple years after Congress passed the law that made bourbon a native spirit of, of the United States and set up the, the legal specifications for what made bourbon, bourbon. How did you see the industry change over the time that you were there?

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains the difficulties of recognizing overall changes during the early times of industry development. She talks about her efforts to welcome other women into the industry, while noticing how women began to take on positions outside the role of a secretary. Allen explains her enjoyment of witnessing other women advance into professional positions, while also describing other societal pressures that come along with advancement.

Keywords: Gender; Professional advancement; Race; Roles; Secretary; Welcoming; Women

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Careers.; Families.; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Occupations.; Professions.; Vocation.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry; Women--Employment.; Work.

00:59:55 - Advice for entry into the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: What advice would you give to women who are entering into the field now, in bourbon?

Segment Synopsis: Allen provides advice for women wanting to enter into the bourbon industry, explaining common hardships within the workplace and skills to focus on.

Keywords: Careers; Computer skills; Flexibility; Qualifications; Technology; Travel; Versatility

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Careers.; Families.; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Occupations.; Professions.; Vocation.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry; Women--Employment.; Work.

01:01:26 - Women in the bourbon industry / Predictions after the COVID-19 pandemic

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Partial Transcript: If you were telling a story about women in bourbon, what would your first chapter be?

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer and interviewee discuss the diverse positions that have become possible for women. Further along, she explains the difficulties of predicting daily changes within the industry and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work culture of the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Laboratory; Labs; Pandemics; Predictions; Progress; Remote work; Security; Work from home

Subjects: African Americans--Employment.; Brown-Forman Corporation; COVID-19 (Disease); Families.; Laboratories.; Louisville (Ky.); Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry