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O'Banyoun, Simon Peter
Birth Year : 1798
Death Year : 1875
Simon Peter O'Banyoun, said to have been born in Fayette County, KY, was an escape slave who made his way to Canada around 1820. He was the son of a slave woman and an Irish slave owner whose last name was O'Bannion [source: BHS Quarterly, Autumn 1995, v.2, no.3, pp.4-5, online]. In Brantford, Ontario, Simon Peter O'Banyoun became a British citizen and was minister of an African Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1840s and 1850s, and later joined the British Methodist Episcopal Church [source: The Journey from Tollgate to Parkway by A. Shadd]. Simon P. O'Banyoun was said to be a very respected and influential man in Brantford, Ontario. He donated land for the first AME Church in Brantford, it was located at the corner of Dalhousie and Murray Streets. O'Banyoun and Henry W. Bibb, who had also escaped slavery in Kentucky, wrote "Yankee Prejudice" in Bibb's paper Voice of the Fugitive, 01/30/1852. Simon P. O'Banyoun is mentioned on p.110 in Natasha L. Henry's book Emancipation Day: celebrating freedom in Canada; Peter O'Banyoun gave a speech at the Emancipation Day celebration in Brantford, Ontario, August 1, 1856. Simon Peter O'Banyoun was the husband of Sophia Wright, they were married in Brantford, Ontario, July 19, 1832, and the couple would have several children including singer Rev. Joseph O'Banyoun who was head of the O'Banyoun Singers. The group's name was in honor of Peter O'Banyoun. For more see Family Trees in or Ancestry Library Edition; and "Black History Month: Canadian Jubilee Singer Joseph O'Banyoun" an Olive Tree Genealogy Blog; and see "Simon Peter O'Banyoun" in Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro: his anti-slavery labors in the United States, Canada & England by S. R. Ward; and in The Black Abolitionist Papers, v.2, Canada, 1830-1865 by C. P. Ripley.


*In Kentucky, the last name was probably spelled O'Bannon. There were a few men with the last name O'Bannon who received land grants in Kentucky in the late 1700s and early 1800s. For more on Kentucky land grants see Kentucky Land and Property, a FamilySearch website.

Subjects: Freedom, Migration North, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Ogden, Geraldine Cox
Birth Year : 1919
Death Year : 1998
On September 30, 1954, Mrs. Geraldine Cox Ogden was the first white student admitted to Kentucky State College [now Kentucky State University]. She was a part-time student, taking a 2 credit hour course toward her bachelor's degree in physical education at the University of Kentucky. Ogden lived in Frankfort, KY. R. B. Atwood, president of Kentucky State College, wanted the admission of Mrs. Ogden to be handled quietly, and said that he felt it was time to enroll a white student since Negro students were being enrolled in other state colleges. Mrs. Geraldine Cox Ogden left Kentucky State College after one week, she took a job in Lexington. For more see document "Kentucky State admits white student," 10/04/1954, pp.38-39 within the file Kentucky State College (Frankfort), Louisville Municipal College, & West KY Vocational Training School (Paducah), part of The Claude A. Burnett Papers: The Associated Negro Press, 1918-1967, Part 3: Subject Files on Black Americans, 1918-1967, Series A, Agriculture, 1923-1966 -- Proquest History Vault; p.108 in Fifty Years of Segregation by J. A. Hardin; and "Kentucky State College admits first white student," Jet, 10/14/1954, p.25. See also the NKAA entry for Betty Marie Ellis, the first white student to apply for admission to Kentucky State College. See also Barry Coleman Moore, the first white football player at Kentucky State College.
Subjects: Education and Educators
Geographic Region: Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky

Ohio County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870
Start Year : 1850
End Year : 1870
Ohio County, located in the western region of Kentucky, was established in 1798 from a portion of Hardin County, and was named for the Ohio River. The county ran along the river before it was divided into additional counties. Hartford is the county seat, and was named for a deer crossing, hart ford. The land was part of a grant that Gabriel Madison received from Virginia, and Fort Hartford was one of the first settlements in the area. The 1800 county population was 1,223, according to the Second Census of Kentucky: 1,069 whites, 151 slaves, and 3 free coloreds. The population increased to 10,919 by 1860, according to the U.S. Federal Census, and excluding the slaves. Below are the number of slave owners, slaves, free Blacks and free Mulattoes for 1850-1870.

1850 Slave Schedule

  • 327 slave owners
  • 865 Black slaves
  • 268 Mulatto slaves
  • 40 free Blacks
  • 9 free Mulattoes
1860 Slave Schedule
  • 320 slave owners
  • 825 Black slaves
  • 547 Mulatto slaves
  • 20 free Blacks
  • 9 free Mulattoes
1870 U.S. Federal Census
  • 1,190 Blacks
  • 132 Mulattoes
  • About 42 U.S. Colored Troops listed Ohio County, KY, as their birth location.
For more see Ohio County in The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by J. E. Kleber; Spider Webs, a Steamer-trunk, and Slavery by L. E. Lindley and E. L. Bennett; Papers (bulk 1857-1863), 1843-1947, Slavery - Emancipation [letters from a former slave in Liberia]; and Interview with Eva Carmen Rearding Her Life (FA154), Manuscript and Folklife Archives.
Subjects: Slave Owners, Slaves, Free Blacks, Free Mulattoes in Kentucky, 1850-1870 [by county N-Z]
Geographic Region: Ohio County, Kentucky

"Ol Man River" / "Long Haired Mama"  Song Controversy
Start Year : 1927
End Year : 1959
The song, "Ol Man River," written in 1927, has been referred to as a Negro folk song and is credited to Jerome Kern for the music and Oscar Hammerstein II for the lyrics. There is also a claim that the song was originally written as "Long Haired Mama," by Maury Madison from Kentucky. Maury Madison [born William Renick Smith] and his parents are listed as white in the U.S. Federal Census. However, in 1959, The Commercial Appeal newspaper identified Maury Madison as a Negro who wrote "Ole Man River." The story was reprinted in various newspapers in the United States [sources: "Long-haired Mama," in The Florence Times, 10/10/1959, p. 4, and in the Kentucky New Era, 10/06/1959, p. 4]. The song "Long-Haired Mama" had been written by Maury Madison in 1927 when he was living in Paris, France. According to Sigmund Spaeth, the song was copied as "Old Man River" and credited to Jerome Kern; it was the opening song to Kern and Hammerstein's musical, Show Boat, sung by Paul Robeson [source: "Says Negro, not Jerome Kern, wrote 'River'," Jet, 10/15/1959, p. 61]. The matter of who actually wrote the song was said to have been settled out of court with Maury Madison receiving $5,000 in compensation. The story had actually come to light in 1933 in the New York Times when Spaeth, referred to as "The Tune Detective," noted that the song "Old Man River" was "a remarkable imitation of the real thing...." "In 1927 there was published in Paris a song named 'Long Haired Mamma,' by Maury Madison, with the opening measures of its chorus practically identical with the corresponding part of 'Ol Man River.' - - [source: O. E. Dunlap, Jr., "Trailing the Songs" within the article "100,000 Melodies are on tap for a network - The Tune Detective sleuths ten popular songs," New York Times, 10/08/1933, p. X11].  The name Maury Madison was an alias for William Renick Smith, a musician and composer born in Paris, KY. His birthday is given as July 5, 1893, on the New York Passengers List (for the Immigration Authorities), dated 08/27/1931, p. 55, No. 5. Madison had first applied for a passport in 1920 in Los Angeles, CA, under the name William R. Smith [source: U.S. Passport Application #168772, dated 01/28/1920]. On his application, William R. Smith said that he lived in Los Angeles, CA, and was a newspaper writer who would be leaving from New York on April 15, 1920, to travel abroad for six months to gather literary material from France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, and England. William Renick Smith's World War I draft registration card, completed May 24, 1917, says that he was a reporter at the Houston office of the Galveston News. During the 1920s, he would make several trips to Europe, and while abroad, he published a number of songs written in both English and French, penned under the name of Maury Madison. One of his earliest songs, "By the Shenandoah," was published in 1913 in Dallas, TX, under the name William Renick Smith [available at the Virginia Historical Society Library]. The Maury Madison Papers, 1926-1950 are held at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection includes music written by Madison after his return to the U.S. in 1931, when he began writing music to accompany poems written by U.S. Presidents and their families. The collection also includes songs for the play Out of the Blue by Leslie Hollingsworth. In 1942, Maury Madison was noted as living in Winchester, KY, when four of his songs were copyrighted: "We Shall Win" w Douglas McArthur and melody #23599; "Bataan Went Out Fighting" w Douglas McArthur #14933; "Glorious Old Banner" w William McKinley #10762; and "Harbor in Hawaii" #6287 [source: Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3, Musical Compositions, New Series, v.37, Part 1, First Half of 1942, Nos. 1-5].  William Renick Smith [Maury Madison] was the son of Curtis Pendleton Smith (b. 1863) from Indiana, and Anna E. Renick Smith (b. 1866) from Paris, KY.  The family left Kentucky around 1897 and lived in Dallas, TX, where Curtis P. Smith was a lawyer and served as Mayor of Dallas (1906-07) [source: City Mayors of the City of Dallas]. Curtis P. Smith died in Dallas on February 20, 1919 [source: Texas Death Index].  By 1920, William Renick and his mother were living in Los Angeles, CA. They both applied for passports in 1920 to visit Europe, and both returned to the U.S. on August 9, 1920, aboard the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria [source: List of United States Citizens (for the Immigration Authorities), p. 11, No. 3]. William Renick and his mother traveled together, making several trips to Europe during the 1920s. His mother, Anna E. Renick Smith, died in Winchester, KY on March 17, 1956 [source: Kentucky Death Index]. William Renick Smith also died in Winchester, KY, September 30, 1961 [source: Kentucky Death Index].  William Renick Smith and his parents are buried in the Paris Cemetery in Paris, KY. No official documents have been found that indicate William Renick Smith [Maury Madison] was African American.



See Paul Robeson singing "Ol Man River" (in Showboat, 1936) on YouTube. 
Subjects: Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers
Geographic Region: Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky / Paris, France, Europe / Los Angeles, California / Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky

Old Anderson County: Black & White Oral History Project
Start Year : 1980
End Year : 2005
The following information comes from the description on the "Pass the Word" website. "These interviewees were born in Anderson County and their ancestors were original settlers in the area. The information gathered represents attitudes, mores, food ways, educational opportunities, and political intentions of both groups-country and city--from about 1890 to present. Also explored, were the issues of housing, recreation and courting."


Access Interview  See list of interviews at "Pass the Word" website.
Subjects: Oral History Collections
Geographic Region: Anderson County, Kentucky

Old Danville Road Cemetery
Located in Jessamine County, it was the first African-American cemetery restored in the Jessamine County Historical and Genealogical Society restoration project, which began in 1999. Interred in the small cemetery is the family of Edward Bridges, a Civil War soldier of Company L, 5th Colored Cavalry. Bridges died in 1921. The cemetery is located on farmland that he owned, and the property is still owned by family members. For more see J. Barmmer, "From Beneath the Shadows," Lexington Herald-Leader, section B, 09/13/04.
Subjects: Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries
Geographic Region: Jessamine County, Kentucky

Olden, Clarence E.
Birth Year : 1904
Death Year : 1981
Clarence E. Olden, from Paducah, KY, was a trumpet player and band leader. He also played the saxophone. He left Kentucky for New York in the early 1930s, and opened at the Apollo Theater around Christmas Day of 1934. In 1940, Clarence and his wife Iva (1905-1991) were lodgers at the home of Mildred Harris on Lexington Avenue in Columbus, OH, and both were listed as musicians [source: U.S. Federal Census]. Clarence Olden was head of the band known as Clarence Olden and His Dixie Rhythm Boys. Kentucky trumpeter Jonah Jones was once a member of the Clarence Olden Band. The band name was later changed to the Clarence Olden Orchestra. During WWII, Clarence Olden worked at the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Plant in Columbus, OH, and due to financial constraints, he merged his band with Earl Hood and His Orchestra. Olden took over the Hood Orchestra in 1951. In 1957, Olden gave up his job at the plant and quit playing music, he bought a grocery store. In 1964, his wife, Iva Olden, was shot at the store during a robbery [source: "Clerk shot," The Times Recorder (Zanesville), 07/01/1964, p.1]. Clarence Olden was the son of Onine Olden Danner, according to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, and he was the stepson of Artis Danner who died in 1940 according to Kentucky Death Certificate, State File #5020. {The spelling of the name "Onine" was taken from her signature on the death certificate of Artis Danner.} For more see Columbus: the musical crossroads by D. Meyers et. al.; and Clarence Olden, trumpeter, saxophonist, bandleader, April 1, 2012, by A. Howard, a Columbus Bicentennial blog.

See photo image of Clarence Olden at the Columbus Metropolitan Library website.
Subjects: Businesses, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers
Geographic Region: Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky / New York / Columbus, Ohio

Olden, James Clarence "J.C."
Birth Year : 1884
Death Year : 1967
James C. Olden was a Baptist minister and a civil rights leader in Louisville, KY. He was born in Murfreesboro, TN, the son of George Olden who had been a slave in Oldham County, KY, before running away to join the Union Army during the Civil War. Rev. J. C. Olden came to Kentucky around 1949 and developed the Militant Church Movement (MCM) in Louisville. MCM was a civil rights organization that led in many protest campaigns, including the Interracial Hospital Movement that initiated the desegregation of Kentucky hospitals in 1953. Rev. Olden also led in the 1953 effort to bring Everett Lee, Jr. [Sylvia Olden Lee's husband] to Louisville, where he become the first African American to direct a white orchestra, and the first orchestra director to perform before an integrated audience in Louisville. Rev. Olden had been a civil rights activist prior to coming to Kentucky; in 1948, while a visiting minister at Salem Methodist Church in Harlem, NY, he led a national campaign against segregation in transportation. J. C. Olden was a graduate of Fisk University, where he sung in a quartet with Roland Hayes, Lem Foster, and Charles Wesley. He was a second tenor in Hayes' Apollo Quartet in 1910. In 1913, Olden married Sylvia Alice Ward (b.1889 in New Orleans, LA), a pianist and vocalist; they had met while students at Fisk. Sylvia Ward had turned down a singing position with the Metropolitan Opera in 1913, because the job came with the stipulation that she not tell anyone that she was Colored. Many years later, the first African American with the New York Metropolitan Opera would be Sylvia Olden Lee (1917-2004), musician, vocalist, and vocalist coach; the daughter of Sylvia and Rev. J. C. Olden. Sylvia O. Lee grew up in Washington, D.C. where her father was pastor of the Plymouth Colored Congregational Church. The Oldens were also international travelers. In 1926, Rev. Olden and his wife returned to the U.S. from Southampton, England, aboard the ship Majestic, according to the New York Passenger Lists. For more see To Stand and Fight by M. Biondi; and "Schiller Institute Dialogue with Sylvia Olden Lee, Pianist and Vocal Coach" 02/07/1998, [reprinted from Fidelio Magazine, vol. 7, issue 1 (Spring 1998)]. See photo image of James C. Olden and his then son-in-law, Everett Lee, in the Courier-Journal, "Black History Month | 1953 Everett Lee," 02/01/2010.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Civic Leaders, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work, Hospitals and Clinics: Employment, Founders, Ownership, Incidents
Geographic Region: Murfreesboro, Tennessee / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Oldham County, Kentucky / Detroit, Michigan

Older African American Soldiers from Kentucky during the Civil War
Start Year : 1861
End Year : 1865
This entry is In response to a patron's reference question about the ages of the oldest African American Union soldiers from Kentucky during the Civil War. Below are the names of a few of those soldiers. Please keep in mind that many of the African American soldiers who enlisted during the Civil War were former slaves whose birth dates were not documented. The enlistment of African Americans resulted from a number of federal orders. On July 17, 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act that freed the slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army. The act was meant for the employment of African American men in the military for labor services. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863 and called for African American men in states that had withdrawn from the Union to enlist in the Union Army for battle purposes. This order did not apply to Kentucky because the state had not seceded from the Union. By October of 1863, all border states were enlisting African American men, except in Kentucky where slaves were used as labor for the military. Nonetheless, Camp Nelson, KY was on its way to becoming the third largest recruiting and training station for African American men and would provided the Union Army with more than 10,000 African American soldiers. Kentucky was second to Louisiana in terms of states that provided the most African American soldiers during the Civil War. See Camp Nelson, Kentucky: a Civil War history by R. D. Sears; and Civil War Day by Day: an almanac, 1861-1865 by E. B. Long.

U.S. Colored Troops - Kentucky

Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers who Served with the United States Colored Troops: Infantry Organizations, 41st through 46th; Microfilm Serial: M1994; Microfilm Roll: 20.
Name Age Birth Year

+ -
Enlistment Date Branch of Service
Frank Bourdyne 55 1809 August 12, 1864 42nd U. S. Colored Infantry
Stephen Boyd 57 1808 February 1, 1865 13th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery
John Bradley 56 1809

Caldwell Co.
January 20, 1865 13th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery
Henry Carter 58 1806

July 24,1864 -

40th U. S. Colored Infantry
Ephraim Erving 56 1809

February 27, 1865 Independent Battery, U. S. Colored Light Artillery
Edward Evans 70 1794

June 10, 1864 - Pennsylvania 45th U. S. Colored Infantry

Moses Fraiskill 56 1808

Jefferson Co.
June 24, 1864 8th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery
Daniel Harris 65 1799

Hardin Co.
August 23, 1864 18th U. S. Colored Infantry
Prophet Mcfarland 56 1809

Daviess Co.
April 12, 1865 6th U. S. Colored Cavalry
Major Payne 55 1808

August 13, 1863 49th U. S. Colored Infantry

Subjects: Military & Veterans
Geographic Region: Kentucky

Oldham County Colored Fair Company
According to authors Lipscomb and Johnston, the Oldham County Colored Fair Company owned its own fair ground. Source: "The Colored People: the commercial status of the Colored people of Kentucky" on p.190 in The Commercial History of the Southern States, by A. B. Lipscomb and J. H. Johnston [available at Google Book Search].
Subjects: Colored Fairs, Black Expos, and Chautauquas
Geographic Region: Oldham County, Kentucky

Oldham County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870
Start Year : 1850
End Year : 1870
Oldham County is located along the Ohio River and is bordered by four Kentucky counties. It was formed in 1823 from portions of Henry, Jefferson and Shelby Counties, and named for William Oldham who fought in the American Revolutionary War. The original county seat was West Port, and in 1827 was moved to the new town of LaGrange [also spelled La Grange], which was named for the French estate of the Marquis de Lafayette. In 1828, the Kentucky General Assembly moved the county seat back to West Port, and ten years later, the county seat was moved permanently to La Grange. The 1830 county population was 1,127 [heads of households], according to the U.S. Federal Census, and the population increased to 4,852 by 1860, excluding the slaves. Below are the number of slave owners, slaves, free Blacks, and free Mulattoes for 1850-1870.

1850 Slave Schedule

  • 468 slave owners
  • 2,118 Black slaves
  • 306 Mulatto slaves
  • 36 free Blacks
  • 14 free Mulattoes
1860 Slave Schedule
  • 369 slave owners
  • 2,031 Black slaves
  • 319 Mulattoes
  • 35 free Blacks
  • 2 free Mulattoes [James Newman and Liter Poetch]
1870 U.S. Federal Census
  • 2,224 Blacks
  • 569 Mulattoes
  • About 44 U.S. Colored Troops listed Oldham County, KY, as their birth location.
For more see the Oldham County entry in The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by J. E. Kleber; A Survey of African-American Cemeteries, Oldham County, Kentucky, 2004 by the Oldham County Historical Society; and History & Families Oldham County, Ky by the Turner Publishing Company.
Subjects: Slave Owners, Slaves, Free Blacks, Free Mulattoes in Kentucky, 1850-1870 [by county N-Z]
Geographic Region: Oldham County

Oliver, Joel Peter, Jr. and Wilma
Start Year : 1939
In January of 1939, Dr. Joel P. Oliver, Jr. (1903-1958) and a woman named Wilma, who was white, were arrested in Louisville, KY, for violating the Kentucky statute that prohibited interracial marriage. The couple may not have known that there was an anti-miscegenation law in Kentucky. The more they explained why they were in Kentucky, the more their story changed. With a reminder about the law, the couple told the police that they had not gotten married in Kentucky, but rather, they had married in New Mexico two years earlier. Both Dr. Oliver and Wilma were taken into custody from the Negro hotel where they were guests. Since the mid-1800s, Kentucky laws prohibited whites from marrying Negroes within the state [the statute was repealed in 1967]. The law did not apply to those who had married outside Kentucky. The couple explained that they were not from Kentucky, but that they were just passing through the state; they were driving from Lubbock, TX, to Chicago, and had stopped to rest in Kentucky. Dr. Oliver, who practiced medicine in Texas, told authorities that he had just passed the Illinois medical examination and was moving to Chicago to establish his new practice. Nonetheless, both he and Wilma were put in jail, each under a $5,000 bond, and there would be additional charges. Louisville authorities contacted the Lubbock authorities for background information on the couple. It was found that they each owned the car that they had driven to Kentucky. Dr. Oliver's car, however, bore a license plate that came from another car that he owned. When police searched the cars, they found weapons, drugs, and a large sum of money. It was also found that Wilma was not Dr. Oliver's wife [her last name was not printed in the newspaper articles]. Dr. Oliver was born in Texas, and had practiced medicine in New Orleans before moving to Texas with his actual wife, Frances Mouton Oliver, a beautician who was the youngest sister of Jelly Roll Morton. Dr. Oliver had a medical practice and a sanatorium in Lubbock, TX. His wife Frances (1900-1982) had owned a beauty parlor, and the couple lived at 2112 E. Avenue B, according to the 1936 Lubbock City Directory. The news of the arrest of 35 year old Dr. Oliver and 27 year old Wilma had spread quickly in Louisville; Dr. Oliver knew a few people in the city. When the couple appeared in police court, the room was packed with Negro supporters. To the spectators' surprise, the couple was cleared of four misdemeanor counts: violating Kentucky's prohibition against interracial marriage; adultery; carrying concealed weapons; and disorderly conduct. There were no further questions about the money since Dr. Oliver was a respected physician who treated both Negroes and whites in Lubbock. The crowd cheered in response to all the good news. However, Dr. Oliver and Wilma remained under a $5,000 bond for violating the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 and were to appear in court on February 7, 1939. Dr. Oliver returned to his wife and home in Texas. He died in 1958, according to the Texas death index, and after his death, his wife Frances moved back to New Orleans. For more see "Negro doctor and white wife held in Kentucky," The Coshocton Tribune, 01/27/1939, p. 12; "Negro doctor, companion held," Lubbock Morning Avalanche, 01/27/1939, p. 2; and "Negro doctor, white wife cleared of misdemeanors," The Coshocton Tribune, 01/31/1939, p. 1. For more on Francis Oliver see P. Hanley, "Jelly Roll Morton: an essay in genealogy."
Subjects: Medical Field, Health Care, Court Cases, Interracial Marriage and State Laws
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / New Orleans, Louisiana / Lubbock,Texas

Oliver, Samuel
Birth Year : 1852
Death Year : 1907
Samuel Oliver was a jockey from Kentucky; he died in Philadelphia, PA, June 15, 1907 [source: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificate Index]. Oliver lived in Lower Merion and is buried in Philadelphia.
Subjects: Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, Betting, & The Derby
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Lower Merion and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Oliver Scott's Refined Negro Minstrels
Start Year : 1890
End Year : 1904
The company had previously been the A. G. Field's Colored Minstrels; Oliver Scott purchased the company in the 1890s. The company did not originate in Kentucky but disbanded in Middlesboro, KY, in 1904. "While the show was in progress, the manager caught the 9:30 train and left town, owing 22 people two weeks' salary." For more see The Ghost Walks: a chronological history of blacks in show business, 1865-1910, by H. T. Sampson. View a theatrical poster of Oliver Scott's Refined Negro Minstrels at the Library of Congress (image may be enlarged).

Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Businesses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Railroad, Railway, Trains, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky

"On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier"
Both the 1995 and 2004 editions of this work include the biographies and experiences of African American soldiers from Kentucky who were members of the all-Black regiments of the United States Army from 1866-1917. For more see On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier: biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1917, by F. N. Schubert; and On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II: new and revised biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1917, by F. N. Schubert and I. Schubert.
Subjects: Military & Veterans
Geographic Region: Kentucky

O'Neal, Arnetta Black
Birth Year : 1910
Death Year : 1984
O'Neal was the first African American administrator at the Fayette County Central Office of Education. She became the coordinator of elementary language arts in 1965 and retired in 1975. O'Neal began her teaching career in Richmond, KY, and later taught at the segregated Douglass Elementary School in Lexington in 1937. She would become one of the first African American teachers at a previously all white elementary school. In the community, she was a girl scout leader, and chaired the board of the Bob W. Brown Housing for the Handicapped. She was also chair of the Trinity Baptist Church Blind Buddies Program. O'Neal was born in Madison County, the daughter of John and Viola Black; the family of eight lived on East Main Street in Richmond, KY, in 1920, according to the U.S. Federal Census. O'Neal was the wife of Damon S. O'Neal. She was a graduate of West Virginia State College [now West Virginia State University] and the University of Kentucky. For more see J. Hewlett, "Educator, volunteer Arnetta O'Neal dies," Lexington Herald-Leader, 03/10/1984, Obituaries section, p.D10.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Scouts (Boys and Girls), Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

O'Rourke, James Ralph , Sr.
Birth Year : 1913
Death Year : 1999
In 2008, it was discovered that James R. O'Rourke, Sr. was the first African American graduate of the University of Kentucky School of Library and Information Science. He graduated in 1957. Prior to his enrollment, O'Rourke had been named head librarian at Kentucky State University (KSU), a position he held from 1949-1975. Before coming to Kentucky, O'Rourke was a history instructor and served as head librarian of Stillman Junior College [now Stillman College]. O'Rourke was a 1935 graduate of Stillman Junior College, a 1947 sociology and economics graduate of Talladega College, and a 1947 graduate of Atlanta University [now Clark Atlanta University], where he earned a B.S. in Library Science. He had owned a drug store and a shoe repair shop. He had been a singer, an actor, a barber, a Pullman Porter, and shoe shiner. In Kentucky, he was a library leader. O'Rourke was the author of several articles and co-authored the Student Library Assistants of Kentucky (SLAK) Handbook, which was distributed throughout the United States and to some foreign countries. O'Rourke and C. Elizabeth Johnson, Central High School Librarian, had co-organized SLAK in 1952; it was the only state-wide organization of its kind in the United States. The organization was created to spark students' interest in library science and provided scholarship opportunities to seniors who planned to go to college. O'Rourke also led an annual workshop to assist public library employees in getting certification, and he provided library training. He was one of the first African American members of the Kentucky Library Association (KLA). He also held several positions in community organizations. He was a civil rights advocate and served as presiding chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in Lexington, KY, 1966-67. He was a member of the Governor's Planning Committee on Libraries, 1967-68, and co-chairman of the Lexington (KY) Librarians Association. O'Rourke was the last chairman of the Librarian's Conference of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association, 1952-1956. He was a member of the American Library Association, the Southeastern Library Association, and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He was a member of the Kentucky Black History Committee of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, and was a co-contributor to the Commission's publication, Kentucky's Black Heritage. He left Kentucky a few years after his retirement from KSU in 1975 and settled in North Carolina. James R. O'Rourke, Sr. was born in Tuscaloosa, AL, the oldest child of Sally Reese and Timothy R. O'Rourke. He was the husband of George M. Wright O'Rourke [also a UK Library School graduate, 1966], and the great-grandson of Evalina Love and Shandy Wesley Jones. Shandy Jones was a slave who was freed in 1820 and later became an Alabama Legislator, 1868-1870 [see Descendants of Shandy Wesley Jones and Evalina Love Jones by Pinkard and Clark]. This information comes from the vita and the memorial tribute to James R. O'Rourke, Sr., provided by Dr. James R. O'Rourke, Jr. In 2009, the University of Kentucky Libraries and the School of Library and Information Science nominated James R. O'Rourke for the Lyman T. Johnson Torch Bearer Award (posthumously) for his work and dedication to librarianship in Kentucky. The award was received by his son, Dr. James R. O'Rourke, Jr.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Actors, Actresses, Authors, Barbers, Education and Educators, Librarians, Library Collections, Libraries, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Pullman Porters, Fraternal Organizations, Pharmacists, Pharmacies, Shoes: Finishers, Makers, Repairers, Shiners, Stores
Geographic Region: Tuscaloosa, Alabama / Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / North Carolina

Our Colored Citizens (Maysville newspaper)
Start Year : 1900
End Year : 1915
About the middle of December, 1900, the Daily Public Ledger newspaper in Maysville, KY, had a column entitled "Our Colored Citizens." The column was dedicated to brief notes about African Americans in the city. On page one of the December 15, 1900, issue is a request for submissions; the first sentence of the column reads, "Send in news if you want it printed." The column can be found on any of the four pages of the various newspaper issues, and in the last available papers, published in 1912, the column was still called "Our Colored Citizens." The Daily Public Ledger was a four-page Republican newspaper that was founded in 1892. Thomas A. Davis was one of the eight original owners, and he would become the sole owner until 1907, when the paper was sold to Arthur F. Curran [sources: Chronicling America information website and A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians, vol. 3, by E. P. Johnson]. In 1912, Daily Public Ledger was changed to Public Ledger, and the column "Our Colored Citizens" was continued in the retitled newspaper at least through December of 1915. Issues of the Daily Public Ledger and Public Ledger are available online at Kentucky Digital Library - Newspapers. Issues of the Daily Public Ledger are also available at Chronicling America.
Subjects: Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Colored Notes in Kentucky Newspapers
Geographic Region: Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky

"Our Old Kentucky Home" (Performance)
Start Year : 1898
The Civil War drama production, written by John E. Bruce and Henrietta Vinton Davis, opened in 1898 and played in northern cities. Davis (1860-1941, born in Maryland) was an elocutionist and considered a premier African American actor. She later became a political activist. Davis directed the staging of Our Old Kentucky Home and had the principle role of the Creole slave, Clothilde. For more see A History of African American Theatre, by E. Hill.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Actors, Actresses
Geographic Region: Kentucky

Our Women and Children
Start Year : 1888
End Year : 1890
This women's magazine was established in the 1880s by William J. Simmons sometime after he had established the American National Baptist Convention at State University (Simmons University, Louisville, KY). The magazine was published by the American Baptist, the state Baptist newspaper. The staff consisted of women associated with State University. The magazine coverage included African American juvenile literature and the work of women in the denomination and in journalism. Some of the women writers and contributors were Mary V. Cook-Parrish, Lucy Wilmot Smith, Ione E. Woods, Lavinia B. Sneed, and Ida B. Wells. The magazine had a national reputation and readership. When William Simms died in 1890, so did the magazine. For more see Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1879-1930, by L. H. Williams.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work, Women's Groups and Organizations
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Owen County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes,1850-1870
Start Year : 1850
End Year : 1870
Owen County, located in north-central Kentucky, was formed in 1819 from portions of Franklin, Gallatin, and Scott Counties. It is bordered by five counties, and was named for Abraham Owen, an early Kentucky Legislator who was killed in 1811 during the Battle of Tippecanoe. The county seat is Owenton, which was also named for Abraham Owen. In 1820, the county population was 305 [heads of households], according to the U.S. Federal Census, and the population increased to 11,535 by 1860, excluding the slaves. Below are the number of slave owners, slaves, free Blacks, and free Mulattoes for 1850-1870.

1850 Slave Schedule

  • 367 slave owners
  • 1,220 Black slaves
  • 294 Mulatto slaves
  • 48 free Blacks [most with last name Lucas]
  • 2 free Mulattoes [Palina Skilman and Benjamin Yancey]
1860 Slave Schedule
  • 398 slave owners
  • 1,299 Black slaves
  • 361 Mulatto slaves
  • 46 free Blacks
  • 23 free Mulattoes
1870 U.S. Federal Census
  • 995 Blacks
  • 174 Mulattoes
  • About 26 U.S. Colored Troops listed Owen County, KY, as their birth location.
For more see Owen County in The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by J. E. Kleber; New Liberty by C. Roland; Big Eagle Country by R. R. Williamson; and History of Owen County, Kentucky, "Sweet Owen" by M. S. Houchens.
Subjects: Slave Owners, Slaves, Free Blacks, Free Mulattoes in Kentucky, 1850-1870 [by county N-Z]
Geographic Region: Owen County, Kentucky

Owens, Darryl T.
Birth Year : 1937
Born in Louisville, KY, Darryl T. Owens was the first African American assistant prosecutor in Louisville police court, the first African American Assistant Kentucky General, and the first African American president of the Louisville Legal Aid Society. In 2005, he was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly for House District 43 (Jefferson County). He wrote the forward for Louisville in World War II. Owens is a graduate of Louisville Central High School, Central State University (B.A.), and Howard University School of  Law. For more contact the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission; and see M. Williams, "The Honorable Darryl T. Owens" in Who's Who of Black Louisville, 3rd ed., p.59.

See photo image of Darryl T. Owens on his Kentucky Legislature website.
Subjects: Lawyers, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Legislators, Kentucky
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Owens, Edward, III
Birth Year : 1957
In 1984, Owens was the first African American to be appointed Assistant Commonwealth Attorney in Fayette County, KY. Owens was born in Lexington, KY, the son of Ollie Bell and Ed Owens, Jr. He is a 1984 graduate of the University of Kentucky Law School and also earned his undergraduate business degree at the school. Owens had worked with the law firm of Shirley Cunningham and John Merchant, located on Georgetown Street, prior to his appointment to the Commonwealth Attorney's Office. Owens had also been in private practice. In 1987, Owens left the Commonwealth Attorney's Office. He was suspended from practicing law in 1988 due to the mishandling of a real estate deal when he was in private practice. Owens would leave Kentucky and become senior vice-president of affordable housing with American Residential Mortgage. He was a commissioned examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. In 2003, he became the director of community affairs with Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, OH, and in 2005 was named Senior Vice President of Fifth Third Bancorp. For more see M. Davis, "Prosecutor takes nothing for granted," Lexington Herald-Leader, 12/26/1984, City/State section, p. B1; T. Toliver, "Ex-Fayette Prosecutor suspended from practicing law," Lexington Herald-Leader, 01/28/1988, City/State section, p. B5; "Owens heads Fifth Third Department," The Cincinnati Post, 03/01/2003, Business section, p. B8; and "Fifth Third promotes Ed Owens III," The Cincinnati Post, 11/05/2005, Business section, p. B8.
Subjects: Bankers, Banks, Finance, Financial Advisors, Lawyers, Migration North, Court Cases, Housing, Fair Housing, Open Housing, Housing Agencies
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Owensboro Area Obituary Index
Start Year : 1890
This database is not exclusively African American in focus; it has been added to this site as a source for locating obituary information. The database is an online index of obituaries taken from the Owensboro Messenger and the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. The index was developed by and is maintained by the Daviess County Public Library in Owensboro, KY. Presently, the online database covers the time periods: 1842-1919, 1920-1989, and 1990-present.
Subjects: Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries
Geographic Region: Owensboro, Daviess County, Kentucky

Owensboro Black Expo
The 33rd Black Expo was held in Owensboro, KY, in July 2005 after a two year hiatus due to low participation. The outdoor festival included a parade, pageants, and basketball games. The event raises scholarship money and awareness in the African American community. For more see D. Blackburn, "Black Expo returns after two year absence," Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, 07/29/2005; and J. Campbell, "Four-day Black Expo kicks off Thursday," Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, 07/26/2005.
Subjects: Colored Fairs, Black Expos, and Chautauquas
Geographic Region: Owensboro, Daviess County, Kentucky

Owensboro (KY) Negro Chautauqua
Start Year : 1906
End Year : 1930
Often said to be one of the first of its kind, the Owensboro Negro Chautauqua was established by A. O. Gutherie and Samuel Barker [source: "Black Chautauqua" in Kentucky Humanities, Fall 2012, pp.12-13]. The chautauqua events were part of a national movement to promote literacy and higher education along with music and art, all for the social advancement of the people. In 1907, the Owensboro Negro Chautauqua was held at the fairgrounds located at E. 18th Street. Tobe Brown's Louisville orchestra provided the music; Tobe Brown was a Shelbyville native. Also present was speaker Miss Vera Lee Moore, a teacher at Walden University, the historically black college that was located in Nashville, TN from 1865-1925 [source: "Owensboro Chautauqua," The Nashville Globe, 08/09/1907, p.1]. Vera Lee Moore spoke on August 2, 1907, Woman's Day, and there were about 1,000 persons in attendance. The actual starting date for the Owensboro Negro Chautauqua was probably 1906, according to the article "Kentucky's greatest entertainment: Eight Annual session of the Owensboro Negro Chautauqua..." in The Freeman newspaper dated July 11, 1914. Special train fares were arranged for those attending the chautauqua, as with the colored fairs in Kentucky; in 1909, the fare from Cloverport to Owensboro was $1.35 round trip "good to return three days from date of sale [source: The Breckenridge News, 06/23/1909, p.5, bottom of 2nd column]. Ida B. Wells was the featured speaker in 1910; she drew a crowd of 1,200. There were also professional colored baseball exhibition games. The 1910 Owensboro Negro Chautauqua was announced in Lyceumite & Talent: the lyceum magazine dated June 10, 1910, on page 82, along with the mention of the Kansas City Chautauqua for Negroes [online at Google Books]. The Owensboro Negro Chautauqua organization was incorporated in 1914 and that year the annual event was held July 18-26. The music was performed by the Hamilton Military Band from Lexington, KY. The 1915 chautauqua was held August 8-15 and the Hamilton Military Band from Lexington, KY, provided the music again [source: "Negro Chautauqua," Hopkinsville Kentuckian, 07/29/1915, p.4; and "Owensboro Negro Chautauqua" in The New York Age, 08/26/1915, p.7]. The overall chautauqua movement ended in the early 1930s. For more information see Music in the Chautauqua Movement: from 1874 to the 1930s by P. Lush; The Chautauqua Movement: an episode in the continuing American revolution by J. E. Gould; see p.647 for information about "Negro Chautauqua" within the article "Durham, North Carolina: a city of Negro enterprise" by B. T. Washington, Independent, v.70, pp.642-670 [article within Black Thought and Culture database by Alexander Street Press]; and see "Chautauqua Movement" by S. Birden within the Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education by E. F. Provenzo Jr. and A. B. Provenzo [Online Sage Publication].
Subjects: Colored Fairs, Black Expos, and Chautauquas
Geographic Region: Owensboro, Daviess County, Kentucky

Owsley County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870
Start Year : 1850
End Year : 1870
Owsley County, located in eastern Kentucky, was formed in 1843 from portions of Breathitt, Clay, and Estill Counties. It is surrounded by five counties and was named for William Owsley, a Kentucky governor who also served in the Kentucky House and Senate, and was Kentucky Secretary of State. The county seat is Booneville, named for Daniel Boone. The 1850 county population was 3,956, according to the U.S. Federal Census, and the population increased to 5,223 by 1860, excluding the slaves. Below are the number of slave owners, slaves, free Blacks, and free Mulattoes for 1850-1870.

1850 Slave Schedule

  • 41 slave owners
  • 114 Black slaves
  • 22 Mulatto slaves
  • 7 free Blacks [last names Orchard, 1 Jenkins, 1 Butcher]
  • 15 free Mulattoes [last names Butcher, Ross, 1 Clark, 1 Ferey, 1 Goosey]
1860 Slave Schedule
  • 29 slave owners
  • 77 Black slaves
  • 35 Mulatto slaves
  • 3 free Blacks [last names Hornsby, 1 Buford]
  • 15 free Mulattoes [last names Goosey, Ross, 2 Norman, 1 Smith, 1 Ward]
1870 U.S. Federal Census
  • 26 Blacks [last names Cawood, Guess, Minter, 1 Pendleton, 1 Ambrose]
  • 17 Mulattoes [last names Cawood, Ross, 3 Ambrose, 1 Bowman, 1 Clark, 1 Minter]
  • At least one U.S. Colored Troop listed Owsley County as his birth location [Allen Jett].
For more see Owsley County in The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by J. E. Kleber; and Owsley County, Kentucky, and the Perpetuation of Poverty by J. R. Burch.
Subjects: Slave Owners, Slaves, Free Blacks, Free Mulattoes in Kentucky, 1850-1870 [by county N-Z]
Geographic Region: Owsley County, Kentucky


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