Interview with Juan E. Hernandez, July 18, 1997

Project: University of Kentucky: The African American Experience Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Dr. Juan E. Hernandez recalls his tutor when he was growing up in Cuba, and explains that his grandfather provided one for his grandchildren and the people who worked for him. He remembers reading the newspapers in 1914, when World War I began. He came to the United States as a tourist in 1926 and visited fourteen states. Hernandez talks at length about his life near Camaguey, Cuba, his flight from Cuba to the United States in the 1930s, and individuals who helped him escape. He mentions a job offer from General Charles Pelot Summerall, President of the Citadel, to teach cadets Spanish, which he did not accept. He recalls his journey from Cuba to Kentucky. Hernandez taught at Kentucky Wesleyan College while working on a degree in chemistry. During this time, he also attended classes at UK. He earned his master's at UK as well as a Ph.D. in abnormal psychology. Dean Doug Boyd, of the College of Communications and Information Studies, later asked Hernandez to join the faculty although "he promised himself he'd never hire a Latin". Hernandez joined the UK faculty in 1936 and remained in Lexington after the Cuban Revolution. Hernandez recalls no discrimination in Lexington but states that there was prejudice at the university. He compares the racial situation on campus with the racial situations in Cuba and Haiti. He remembers his first day of teaching, where his department head, Dr. Roberta Wilson Server threatened to report him because he talked to a janitor. Hernandez recalls his first African-American student was a UK employee, Henry Cannon. Hernandez mentions several other students, including Maureen Strider, whose father accused Hernandez of failing her because of her color. He states he had no racial incidents of any kind in his classes. Hernandez emphasizes that teachers should consider students the most precious thing in the world. He notes that he makes no distinction between his students because of their color, and that it is the teacher's responsibility to teach all students.

Interview Accession

2000oh080_af609

Interviewee Name

Juan E. Hernandez

Interviewer Name

Sharon Childs

Interview Date

1997-07-18

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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Hernandez, Juan E. Interview by Sharon Childs. 18 Jul. 1997. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Hernandez, J.E. (1997, July 18). Interview by S. Childs. University of Kentucky: The African American Experience Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Hernandez, Juan E., interview by Sharon Childs. July 18, 1997, University of Kentucky: The African American Experience Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7t1g0hx799