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Importing Negro Miners/Strikebreakers from Kentucky
Start Year : 1874
End Year : 1899
Negro strikebreakers were first employed in 1855 by the steamship company Morgan Line. In the late 1800s, when white coal miners would go on strike, there were several instances when mine owners imported non-union Negro miners from Kentucky and other southern states as replacements. According to authors Greene and Woodson, importing Negro strikebreakers had increased the number of Negro mine workers; there was a demand for experienced miners, this was especially true during the 1922 coal strike, and Negro miners were drawn to the higher wages. In spite of the labor demand and the promise of higher wages, the arrival of Negro miners/strikebreakers many times led to confrontations with striking miners and union leaders. Below are a few instances of Negro miners from Kentucky being imported to other states during the late 1800s.

  • Hocking Valley, OH - 1874 - when the regions white miners went on strike due to lower wages and unfair company policies, mine owners could not break the strike and Negro miners were brought in from the South. It was the first time that a large number of Negro miners had been used to break a strike. The 400-500 men came from the mining districts of Memphis, Louisville, and Richmond. For mine operator John Martin, bringing in the Negro miners was the "great triumph over Trades-Unions." When news of the Negro miners circulated through Nelsonville, New Straitsville, and other nearby communities, the Negro miners were confronted by the striking miners and their families. More than 100 Negro miners crossed the picket line to join the striking miners, and once funding was provided, they left Nelsonville. Those who remained were resented, as were the mine operators. Some of the white miners went back to work, and there were fights between the white miners and the Negro miners, and as a result, more Negro miners left the area. For more see H. G. Gutman, "Reconstruction in Ohio: Negroes in the Hocking Valley Coal Mines in 1873 and 1874," Labor History, vol 3, issue 3, pp.243-264, quote on page 256.
  • Chicago, IL - June 1877 - Wilmington & Vermillion Coal Company at Braidwood - Alanson Sweet, champion wage cutter, cut the wages of Braidwood miners twice in 1876, and announced another cut for spring of 1877, followed by a cut in the winter of 1877. Fifteen hundred miners struck for higher wages. The coal company hired armed guards, and Sweet announced that the striking miners would not be paid for their last month of work. June of 1877, Sweet imported Negro miners from Kentucky and West Virginia. "With the mines filled with colored men, it is believed that the Company will not be burdened with the expense of another strike for many years." In retaliation, the strikers ran 400 Negro miners and their families out of town. Two Illinois militia regiments escorted them back into town. By November, several hundred striking miners returned to work and accepted the cut in wages. Most of the Negro miners returned home, while a few continued working in the Braidwood mine. See 1877: Year of Violence by R. V. Bruce, quote on page 384.
Negro miners from Kentucky who were still in Braidwood in 1880, from the U.S. Federal Census:
  1. Nilson Clark (b.1859)
  2. George Collins (b.1855)
  3. Benjamin Cox (b.1840)
  4. Hanson Edwards (b.1855)
  5. George Ewbanks (b.1858)
  6. James Harris (b.1835)
  7. George Hulbart (b.1857)
  8. William Jones (b.1849)
  9. Amos Rogers (b.1850)
  10. Charles Smith (b.1857)

  • Terre Haute, IN - December 1897 - Cabel Mining Company - the Indiana state labor commissioners criticized the company for declining the proposal from their striking miners and importing 100 Negro miners from Kentucky (75 from Hopkins County), and for posting armed guards at the mine. In spite of the condemnation, the Cabel Mining Company imported even more Negro miners from Kentucky to take the place of the striking miners. See p.18 in First Biennial Report of the Indiana Labor Commission, 1897-98 [available at Google Book Search]; "Indiana labor commissioners severely critici[s]e importers of Colored miners," Alton Telegraph, 12/09/1897, p.5; and "More Negro miners," The Indiana State Journal, 12/08/1897, p.2.
  • Arkansas and the Indian Nation Territory - March 1899 - the miners went on strike for better wages and working conditions, and when the mine managers could not convince them to return to work, the coal companies came together and organized a group of agents who were dispatched to Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama to gather both white and Negro strikebreakers. The coal companies were the Choctaw Coal and Railroad Company, Southwestern Coal and Improvement Company, Kansas and Texas Coal Company, Central Coal and Improvement Company, and Western Coal and Mining Company. For more see A History of the Coal Miners of the United States by A. Roy.
  • Mansfield, AR - April 1899 - federal court Judge Rogers issued an injunction that prevented striking miners at Huntington, AR, from interfering with the Negro miners imported from Kentucky for work in the mines owned by the Kansas and Texas Coal Company. The governor of Arkansas had instructed the sheriff of Huntington to stop all future transports of Negro miners from being unloaded within the state. Judge Rogers had the U.S. Marshals serve the sheriff with an injunction. See "Clash over Negroes," Hutchinson News, 04/25/1899, p.2.
  • Evansville, IN - June 1899 -Sunnyside Mine - 30 Negro miners were approaching the mine when they were ambushed by armed striking miners. Armed guards returned fire. Two Negro miners were expected to die from their wounds, while the rest were sent back to Kentucky the following day. See "Strikes Elsewhere," The Independent (NY), June 29, 1899, vol.51, issue 2639; and "Battle at a mining camp," New York Times, 06/22/1899, p.2.
For more see 1917 photo of African American strikebreakers from Kentucky and a second photo, both at Ball State University Digital Media Repository [online]; The Negro Wage Earner by L. J. Greene and Carter G. Woodson, quote on p.293; W. C. Whatley, "African-American strikebreaking from the Civil War to the New Deal," Social Science History, vol.17, issue 4 (Winter, 1993), pp.525-558; Black Coal Miners in the United States by P. Nyden; and E. Arnesen, "Specter of the Black strikebreaker: race, employment, and labor activism in the industrial era," Labor History, vol.44, issue 3 (August 2003), pp.319-335.

Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Alabama / Arkansas / Illinois / Indiana / Indian Nation Territory / Ohio / Tennessee/ Virginia / West Virginia

Improvement Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World
Start Year : 1899
The first African American Elks organization, Improvement Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World was founded by Benjamin F. Howard from Covington, KY, and Arthur J. Riggs from Shelbyville, KY. The lodge was located in Covington, having been chartered in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1899. A Kentucky Historical Marker at the site contains a summary of the history. For more see the Kentucky Historical Marker Database [number 1956]; and History of the Improvement Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the world 1898-1954 by C. H. Wesley.
Subjects: Fraternal Organizations, Benevolent Societies
Geographic Region: Covington, Kenton County, Kentucky / Shelbyville, Shelby County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

In Old Kentucky
This Litt and Dingwall dramatic production, from the early 1890s, included an almost entirely white cast; it told a story that revolved around Kentucky hillbillies. The African Americans of the cast were the children who played in the Pickaninny Band; their acting, playing, dancing, and comic antics were meant to exemplify the fun life of African Americans in Kentucky. Initially, there was to be a colored band of men in the production who were to go by the name of Woodlawn Whangdoodles. Instead, a street band of boys from Indianapolis, IN, made up the African American members of the production. When the boys got to be too old or too tall, younger and smaller boys from Indianapolis replaced them. The show became a hit; the band and pickaninny brass bands in general were in demand throughout the United States. For more see Out of Sight: the Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895, by L. Abbott and D. Seroff. See photos of scenes from In Old Kentucky at the University of Washington Libraries' Digital Collection.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Kentucky

Independent Colored Clubs Movement
Start Year : 1885
End Year : 1922
In response to the discontent of African Americans with the longstanding political parties, Independent Colored Clubs were formed throughout the United States as early as 1885, and as late as 1922. One of the early Independent Colored Clubs in Kentucky was formed in Paris, KY in January of 1887. The club, renamed the Independent Party of the Colored Race, maintained the right to act only with political parties that would guarantee Colored people the fullest rights of free American citizens. One of the main points of contingency was education and decent schools for Colored children. The initial meeting of the Independent Colored Club of Paris was held at the 2nd Baptist Church; the meeting was described in the newspaper as a "mass meeting"; the club was said to have 600 members. For more see "Paris, Ky." in the column "Independence in Kentucky" on p.1 of the New York Freeman, 02/05/1887. Even earlier clubs were formed in 1885. The Independent Colored Club of Staunton, VA was formed in September of 1885, and intended to vote for the Democratic state ticket. For more see "Political Notes" in Peninsula Enterprise, 09/12/1885, p.2. Another club in 1885, was the East End Independent Colored Club in Springfield, OH. Sam Spears was the president, and Sam Garrett was secretary. The club had about 40 members. For more see "A New colored club," Springfield Globe-Republic, 09/16/1885, p.3. The Young Men's Colored Independent Political Club was located in Omaha, NE, in 1886 [source: The Omaha Daily Bee, 11/02/1886, p.6, column 1]. In 1887, the Independent Club of Colored Virginians, located in Washington, D.C., was formed with colored men from the state of Virginia with the object for "the improvement of the general condition of the colored people of the State and the preservation of the good name and welfare of the Commonwealth." For more see The Washington Bee, 09/10/1887, p.1, bottom of column 3 & columns 4-5. In 1888, Independent Colored Clubs were being formed in West Virginia, which was seen as a revolt against the Republican Party. There was thought to be 10,000 colored voters in West Virginia, which could give the Democrats a victory. For more see The Weekly Herald [Baltimore], 04/27/1888, p.4, column 1, item 9]. Other Independent Colored Clubs mentioned in local newspapers, were located in New York City, NY, and Helena, MT, in 1888; New Hope, VA, in 1889; the Colored Citizens' Independent Club in Los Angeles, CA, and in San Francisco, CA, both in 1890; the Independent Colored Club establishd by John W. Robbins in Grand Rapids, MI, in 1890 [source: R. M. Jelks, "Making opportunity: the struggle against Jim Crow in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1890-1927, Michigan Historical Review, v.19, no.2, Fall 1993, pp.36 & 38]; St. Paul, MN, in 1892; Anaconda, MT in 1894; the Independent Colored Club of Homestead, PA, in 1895; Seattle, WA, 1896; Independent Colored Political Club in Des Moins, IA, and the Independent Colored Club in Kansas City, MO, both in 1897. In Nicholasville, KY, the Independent Club of Colored Voters was formed by R. C. O. Benjamin in 1897. For more see "The Colored Independent," Richmond Climax, 10/13/1897, p.1. Still more clubs at the turn of the century were the The Colored National Independent Political Club in Point Pleasant, VA in 1900; and the Independent Colored Men's Club in Salt Lake City, UT in 1901. In 1908, the Young Men's Independent Club, Colored, was held in Marion, KY, at the home of William M. Goodall, 414 Center Street. For more see "President and War Secretary Taft characterized as enemies," Crittenden Record=Press, 07/02/1908, p.7. In Louisville, KY, in 1909, the Independent Colored Political League was formed with headquarters in the U. B. F. Hall at 9th and Madison Streets [source: "Negroes have knives sharpened for Vaughn," Louisville Courier-Journal, 05/19/1909, p.4]. There was a club in Omaha, NE, in 1910 known as the Independent Colored Political Club. In 1910, the Independent Colored Club of Winchester met at Orren Bate's store in Poyntersville to declare A. Floyd Byrd the Democratic nominee. The club was said to have a membership of leading Colored citizens, including Orren Bates, and Jim Nickels and Dennis Daniel as the secretaries. For more see "Negroes from Byrd Club," Winchester News, 11/01/1910, p.1. Clubs mentioned in later newspaper articles were the Independent Progressive Colored Club and the Good Citizens League of Indiana, both formed in 1912 in Indianapolis, IN; Colored Independent Club in Tulsa, OK, and in Hillsboro, NC, both in 1914; the Independent Colored Club of Lima, OH, in 1919; and the Henry Ford for President, Independent Colored Club No.1, said to have formed in Birmingham, AL in 1922 [source: "Can you beat it?," The Appeal, 06/03/1922, p.2].


  • 1885 - Springfield, OH - East End Independent Colored Club
  • 1885 - Staunton, VA - Independent Colored Club
  • 1886 - Omaha, NE - Young Men's Colored Independent Political Club
  • 1887 - Paris, KY - Independent Colored Club (renamed) Independent Party of the Colored Race
  • 1887 - Washington, D.C. - Independent Club of Colored Virginians (members from Virginia)
  • 1888 - Helena, MT - Independent Colored Club
  • 1888 - New York, NY - Independent Colored Club
  • 1888 - West Virginia - Independent Colored Clubs
  • 1889 - New Hope, VA - Independent Colored Club
  • 1890 - Grand Rapids, MI - Independent Colored Club
  • 1890 - Los Angeles, CA - Colored Citizens' Independent Club
  • 1890 - San Francisco, CA - Colored Citizens' Independent Club
  • 1892 - St. Paul, MN - independent Colored Club
  • 1894 - Anaconda, MT - Independent Colored Club
  • 1895 - Homestead, PA - Independent Colored Club
  • 1896 - Seattle, WA - Independent Colored Club
  • 1897 - Des Moins, IA - Independent Colored Political Club
  • 1897 - Kansas City, MO - Independent Colored Club
  • 1897 - Nicholasville, KY - Independent Club of Colored Voters
  • 1900 - Point Pleasant, VA - Colored National Independent Political Club
  • 1901 - Salt Lake City, UT - Independent Colored Men's Club
  • 1908 - Marion, KY - Young Men's Independent Club, Colored
  • 1909 - Louisville, KY - Independent Colored Political League
  • 1910 - Omaha, NE - Independent Colored Political Club
  • 1910 - Winchester, KY - Independent Colored Club
  • 1912 - Indianapolis, IN - Good Citizens League of Indiana (Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church)
  • 1912 - Indianapolis, IN - Independent Progressive Colored Club
  • 1914 - Hillsboro, NC - Colored Independent Club
  • 1914 - Tulsa, OK - Colored Independent Club
  • 1919 - Lima, OH - Independent Colored Club
  • 1922 - Birmingham, AL - Henry Ford for President, Independent Colored Club No.1

Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections
Geographic Region: Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky / Nicholasville, Jessamine County, Kentucky / Marion, Crittenden County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kenucky / Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky / United States

"Information Wanted" (Newspaper ads)
Start Year : 1854
End Year : 1946
Placing ads in African American newspapers was one method former slaves used to search for family members who had been taken away, or ran away, or who had been left behind. This type of search was a long shot given the extremely low literacy rate among the newly freed slaves. Success depended on someone reading the ad, recognizing the names, and contacting the persons mentioned in the ad. There is no evidence to support the success or failure of the practice, which was continued into the 21st Century. As early as 1865, the standard heading for the ads was "Information Wanted." An example in the June 24, 1870 edition of The Elevator newspaper [CA] on p. 4 reads, "Mrs. Charlotte Powell of Sacramento wishes information of her relatives, consisting of her father, mother, three brothers, and two sisters. Her father's name was Sam Mosley; he was owned by a man named Joe Powell, who lived in Kentucky at a place called Amandy." Five years earlier, The Black Republican newspaper [LA] ran a series of "Information Wanted" ads with very brief content; the following comes from the April 29, 1865 issue, p. 2: "Mrs. Ritty Green wishes to find her son Dudley Green. Both are from Scott County Kentucky, near Georgetown. Any information respecting him may be addressed to this newspaper. ap29." The ads sometimes included a line encouraging other African American newspapers to copy and run the ad, such as the following, published in The Freeman newspaper [IN] on April 18, 1891, p. 8: "Of, "Billie" Kay, sometimes known as Billie Burse, who thirty-five or eight years ago lived in Hopkinsville, Ky., but shortly afterward moved to the state of Missouri. The name Kay was his master's name, by which he was generally known. Any information relative to him or children will be thankfully received by Mrs. Susan Hillyard, Indianapolis. Care of the Freeman. [Missouri paper please call attention.]" The ads continued to be published by African American newspapers until the late 1940s, but with a noticeable change that had started around 1900: more ads were being published for relatives and friends in search of those they had lost contact with well after the Civil War, and ads for agencies such as insurance companies that were searching for missing heirs. The change was actually a return to the previous use of the "Information Wanted" ads prior to 1865 and in reference to free African Americans. The ads appeared in the Frederick Douglass' Paper as early as 1854. An example is the following ad printed June 30, 1854, on p. 3: "Evelina Evans, who resided in New York City in the year 1850, left that city and went to Canada the same year; since that time she has not been heard from by her relations. Her husband's name was James Evans. Address her uncle, Henry Jackson, Evansville, Indiana. Papers friendly to the cause of Humanity, please notice."
Subjects: Freedom, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Slavery in Kentucky, Sources
Geographic Region: Kentucky

Integration at Gainesville Elementary (Hopkinsville, KY)
Start Year : 1965
When 27 year old Ronald I. Johnson became principal of the African American Gainesville Elementary School in 1965, it was thought to be the first integration of school administrative personnel in Hopkinsville, KY. Johnson had been a basketball coach for five years prior to becoming principal. For more see "White basketball coach heads Ky. Negro school," Jet, vol. 28, issue 15 (07/22/1965), p. 55. See also entries for African American Schools in the NKAA Database.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky

Irons, Sandra Jean
Birth Year : 1940
Irons was born in Middlesboro, KY, to Roy and Rosa Green Carr. She is a graduate of Kentucky State University, and Purdue University. Prior to becoming an educator, she was a social worker with the Ohio Department of Social Welfare. In 1971, she became president of the Gary, IN, Teachers Union and continues as president today. Since 1974, she has been a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (AFT). She was the first vice president of the NW Indiana Federation of Labor in 1987, and became president in 1995. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1980-2006.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Welfare (Social Services) Organizations, Migration North, Social Workers, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky / Gary, Indiana

Iroquois Park (Louisville, KY)
Start Year : 1924
In 1924 two African American teachers, Margaret Taylor and Naomi Anthony, took their students to Iroquois Park for an outing. As they were leaving, the security guards and a group of whites informed the teachers that the park was for whites only. The teachers said that they were not aware of the restriction and would look into the matter. A scuffle of sorts occurred; after the teachers and students were roughly handled, it was termed a near riot, and the teachers were arrested. After several hours the women were taken to the downtown police station where a large crowd of African Americans had gathered. African American leaders and white city leaders debated the issues. The outcome -- the teachers were reprimanded by the school board, the courts fined Naomi Anthony $10 for attacking a park guard, and the Board of Park Commissioners adopted a resolution of segregation in the Louisville public parks. For more see Life Behind a Veil, by G. Wright.
Subjects: Parks & Resorts, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Court Cases
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Irvin, Theophilus, Jr.
Birth Year : 1915
Death Year : 2009
Theophilus Irvin, Jr. was the first African American to become a Kentucky Racing Commissioner, he issued licenses and tested the horses for drugs. He served in that post from 1979-1995. Irvin had been working with horses since he was a boy, he worked with his father who was a horse trainer. In 1931, when Theophilus Jr. was 15 years old, he began breaking horses at the Hickory Farm. He got his first trainers license in 1947 at Narragansett, RI, and would later train horses for persons such as J. Graham Brown and Keene Daingerfield. Theophilus Irvin, Jr. was the son of Ada Morton Irvin and Theophilus Irvin, Sr. The family of four lived on 511 Chestnut Street in 1920, according to the U.S. Federal Census. The family lived at 549 Thomas Street in 1932 [source: Polk's Lexington (Kentucky) City Directory]. Theophilus Irvin, Jr.'s birthdate is given as August 22, 1915 in the Kentucky Birth Index. He was married to Olive Bell Irvin (1914-1996). For more see J. Hewlett, "Theophilus Irvin , 93, dies - first African-American employed by the Ky. racing commission," Lexington Herald-Leader, 04/02/2009, Obituary section, p.95, and L. Taylor, "Winner of a different sort," Lexington Herald-Leader, 04/28/1999, p.A6.
Subjects: Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, Betting, & The Derby
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Irvin, Theophilus, Sr.
Birth Year : 1882
Death Year : 1967
Theophilus Irvin, Sr. was a horse trainer who was born in Clark County, KY, the son of Laura and Rev. Dudley Irvin. His birth date is given as October 22, 1882 in the Social Security Death Index and on Irvin's WWI Draft Registration Card. He was the husband of Ada Bell Morton Irvin and the family lived at 511 Chestnut Street in Lexington, KY. Irvin worked at the racetrack, he was employed by Will Perkins Stables. He was also listed in the 1910 U.S. Census as a foreman at the racetrack. Irvin and his previous wife, Lou J. Shelton Irvin, were living with his wife's family on Thomas Street. In the 1920 census, Ada B. Morton Irvin is listed as Theophilus Irvin's wife and the couple had two sons [they would later have more children, including Theophilus Irvin, Jr.]. By 1932, Theophilus Irvin, Sr. was employed as a janitor at the Lexington Telephone Company and the family lived at 549 Thomas Street in Lexington, KY [source: Polk's Lexington (Kentucky) City Directory]. The telephone company was later owned by Bell Telephone and Irvin continued working at the telephone company until his retirement. He died in 1967. For more see the obituary of Theophilus Irvin, Sr., "Retired employee of Bell Telephone Co." Lexington Herald-Leader, p.15, C1.
Subjects: Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, Betting, & The Derby, Telephone Company Employees, Telephone Inventions, Telephones and Race
Geographic Region: Clark County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Irvine, Bobby Lee
Birth Year : 1935
Born in Spencer County, KY, he was the first African American mayor of Taylorsville, KY, elected in 1980. He received the highest number of votes for the non-partisan councilmen positions. For more see "Three Kentucky cities have black mayors," in 1982 Kentucky Directory of Black Elected Officials, 6th Report by Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, p. 20.
Subjects: Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Mayors
Geographic Region: Taylorsville, Spencer County, Kentucky

Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum
Start Year : 2002
The museum is "dedicated to establishing a public facility to highlight individual biographies and display artifacts, art and written work" of "distinguished African-American artists, writers and others contributing to the community." The Isaac Hathaway Museum is now located at 644 Georgetown Street in the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center in Lexington, KY. The museum was organized in December 2002, and an office was opened on North Broadway, then moved to the Heritage Art Gallery in April 2005. The museum opened in the Lexington History Center in April 2007 and moved to the Georgetown Street location in July 2011. The Robert H. Williams Cultural Center is housed in the building that served as the Lexington Colored Orphan Industrial Home. For more see J. Hewlett, "Black history museum gets new home - will move into history center," Lexington Herald-Leader, 12/25/2006, Main News section, p. A1. See also the NKAA entry for Isaac S. Hathaway.
Subjects: Genealogy, History, Community Centers and Cultural Centers
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Isbell, Louis
Birth Year : 1818
Isbell was free born in Kentucky and at the age of 20 moved to Chicago. He participated in Chicago's first recorded sports competition in a race between Isbell, a Native American named White Foot, and a man on a horse; Isbell won the race. According to author Perry Duis, who cited articles in the Chicago Post and the Chicago Democrat, Isbell was the fastest and most popular runner in the Chicago area for ten years. He retired and became a full-time barber after coming in second in a race in 1847 that took place before more than 1,000 spectators. For more see Challenging Chicago: coping with everyday life, 1837-1920, by P. R. Duis, pp. 171-172.
Subjects: Barbers, Migration North, Track & Field
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois

Ishmaelites of Kentucky
There are two discussions about the existence of the the Tribe of Ishmael.

According to earlier sources, between 1785 and 1790, an Islamic denomination called Ishmaelites was first noticed in Nobel County (now Bourbon County), KY. The group was led by Ben and Jennie Ishmael. Individual members were of a multiracial background of African, Native American, and poor whites. The first generation included escapees from slavery and the Indian Wars, all having made their way to Kentucky from Tennessee, North & South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. In the early 1800s, the Ishmael's son John led the group across the Ohio River to the area that today is part of Indianapolis; soon afterward the group became a nomadic community. They were viewed as odd and referred to as gypsies. The group was suspected of having a high infant death rate, and in the 1880s it was common for the children to be taken away from their parents. Adult members were arrested on an array of charges, then imprisoned, committed, or bound to servitude. By the late 1800s, three-fourths of the patients at the Indianapolis City Hospital (a mental institution) were from the Tribe of Ishmael. In 1907 the compulsory sterilization law was passed in Indiana, and the procedure was used to further reduce the number of new births by Ishmaelite members. For more see Black Crescent: the experience and legacy of African Muslims in the Americas, by M. A. Gomez, pp.196-200; and O. C. M'Culloch, "The Tribe of Ishmael: a study on social degradation," Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction at the Fifteenth Annual Session Held in Buffalo, NY, July 5-11, 1888, pp. 154-159. See also The Tribe of Ishmael: a group of degenerates... at the Eugenics Archive website.

According to more recent sources, the Tribe of Ismael is a myth, and Ben and Jennie Ishmael were Christians. One of the current sources is the 2009 title Inventing America's "Worst" Family by Nathaniel Deutsch. The book traces how the Ishmael Family, a poor Christian family that included a Civil War veteran, was used as a representation of the urban poor in the late 1800s, then during the 1970s, became a very much admired family credited with founding an African American Muslim movement and community. For additional information see E. A. Carlson, "Commentary: R. L. Dugdale and the Jukes Family: a historical injustice corrected," BioScience, vol.30, issue 8 (August 1980), pp. 535-539; R. Horton, "Tribe of Ishmael" in The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, by D. J. Bodenhamer, et al.; and E. F. Kramer, "Recasting the Tribe of Ishmael," Indiana Magazine of History, v.104 (March 2008), pp.36-64 [available online in IUPUI Scholar Works Repository].
Subjects: Communities, Early Settlers, Freedom, Hoaxes, Kentucky African American Churches, Migration North, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work
Geographic Region: Nobel County (Bourbon County), Kentucky / Indianapolis, Indiana / Tennessee / North Carolina / South Carolina / Virginia / Maryland

Isom, Bob and Albert
The Isom brothers, Robert L. "Bob" (d.1897) and Albert "Bert", were Kentucky jockeys. They were referred to as light-weight jockeys, and are remembered as riders for Jack Chinn, owner of Lissak [the horse was sold to Sidney Paget in 1898]. The lesser known of the Isom brothers was Albert who was a jockey as early as 1895 when he and Bob rode for the Burns and Waterhouse Stable in San Francisco, CA. Albert also rode for various horse owners at the race courses at Latonia, the New Louisville Jockey Club, Newport, Lexington, and the Oakley Race Course near Cincinnati, OH. Bob Isom, the better known of the two brothers, rode the two-year-old Kentucky horse Lissak to victory in San Francisco in 1894; it was the first time Lissak had raced in California. The following year, June of 1895, Bob Isom rode the horse to victory in the Detroit $5,000 International Derby [not a real derby] held in Detroit, MI. Bob Isom had been a jockey as early as 1894, he rode in San Francisco in December of that year and there was a bumping incident that later resulted in a fight and Bob Isom stabbed jockey Robert Combs. August of 1895, Bob Isom was in Lexington, KY, when he was thrown while exercising a yearling colt owned by Judge J. R. Jewell. In May of 1896, it was reported that Bob Isom was dying from consumption, but in August of 1896, he rode aboard the horse Billy C and was narrowly defeated by Cal Leonard aboard Antidote. The race took place at Kapioloni Park in Hawaii; Bob Isom had been sent to Hawaii to recuperate from his illness. The following year he rode at both Oakley and Ingleside [California]. Bob Isom died of consumption [tuberculosis] in San Francisco, November of 1897, and his body was shipped to Lexington, KY for burial in African Cemetery No.2 [source: KY Certificate of Death #2385]. For more see "The turf," The Salt Lake Herald, 11/20/1894, p.2; "California racegoers..., The San Francisco Call, 05/22/1895, p.5; "Lissak won a derby," New York Times, 06/26/1895, p.6; "The Detroit Derby," Daily Racing Form, 07/28/1896, p.1; "Albert Isom attempts suicide," Central Record, 08/17/1899, p.4; "Stock and turf news," Bourbon News, 12/02/1898, p.5; see the Daily Racing Form; "Done in 1:04," Hawaiian Gazette, 08/04/1896, p.5; "Fight between jockeys," Galveston Daily News, 12/02/1894, p.4; "Jockey Isom injured," Columbus Evening Dispatch, 08/23/1895, p.9; "Gossip from the turfmen," The Daily Review, 05/03/1896, p.2; "Bob Isom, the jockey, dead," New York Times, 11/18/1897, p.4; "Bob Isom...," Semi-weekly Interior Journal, 11/19/1897, p.3 [top of column 4]; "Death ended career," Courier-Journal, 12/18/1904, p.29.
Subjects: Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, Betting, & The Derby, Tuberculosis: Care and Deaths, Suicide
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / San Francisco, California


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