Interview with Lyman T. Johnson, July 12, 1987

Project: University of Kentucky Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Lyman T. Johnson was born in Columbia, Tennessee in 1906, and was the first African American graduate student to attend the University of Kentucky. He describes the issues and events surrounding the integration of the UK in 1949. He states that in the 1940s he and some other young educators who were growing into middle age became involved in civil rights, and they were concerned about integrating the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville. Johnson explains that they searched for a talented high school student who would be interested, but had difficulty finding someone who was willing to take the risk. By 1948, some members of the committee began to push Johnson to take on the case himself, and Johnson explains why he reluctantly agreed to apply to the University of Kentucky and then sue the university when he was denied admission.

Johnson describes the humiliation of segregation, and explains the impossibility of creating a "separate but equal" institution in Kentucky where so little money was allotted for education. He recalls teaching at Kentucky State University, Kentucky's only institution of higher learning for African American students, and states that Kentucky State only received the left-over "crumbs" of funding. Johnson explains that he believes that we need to look for the imperfections in our government and find ways of solving them. He states that he only wants equality, so that each person obtain all that he or she is able.

Johnson talks about the Day Law which enforced separate schools for the races in Kentucky. Yet, he explains that the state constitution mandated separate schools for whites and blacks. He discusses the role Berea College playing in the drafting of the Day Law, since they allowed underprivileged people of all races to attend their school. Johnson states that the decision in his suit against the University of Kentucky overturned the Day Law, and he recalls that he was treated very nicely while attending classes on UK's campus during the summer of 1949.

Interview Accession

1987oh111_af312

Interviewee Name

Lyman T. Johnson

Interviewer Name

Doris Weathers

Interview Date

1987-07-12

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Johnson, Lyman T. Interview by Doris Weathers. 12 Jul. 1987. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Johnson, L.T. (1987, July 12). Interview by D. Weathers. University of Kentucky Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Johnson, Lyman T., interview by Doris Weathers. July 12, 1987, University of Kentucky Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7c599z1479