Interview with Harry N. Sykes, June 1, 1978

The first African American city councilman and mayor pro tem of Lexington, Sykes attended and graduated from Kentucky State University in 1952 and received his master's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1959. He recounts his early life and education in Mississippi and Illinois, and recalls teaching mathematics at Dunbar High during the height of segregation in Fayette County; and, he discusses the impact of being a role model and his motivation of students. The effects of segregation in Lexington during the 1950s and the lack of involvement of African American teachers in the civil rights movement are mentioned. Sykes recalls church involvement in the civil rights marches in Lexington and discusses his chairmanship of the Commission on Religion and Human Rights in the early 1960s. Sykes was elected to the Lexington City Council in 1963, and in this capacity he recounts the issues to which he felt strongly. An open housing law, race relations and the foundation of the Lexington Urban League, as well as the fight for the Green Acres development are detailed. Sykes discusses the political battles he fought with Tom Underwood (1969-1971), his 1971 race for mayor against Foster Petit and his role as the first African American city manager in Lexington history.

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