Interview with Lillian Gillespie Delaney, June 11, 1997

Lillian G. Delaney was born on March 1, 1925 and is a native of Lexington, Kentucky. She was the second of five daughters. Her mother, Ethel Carter, was from Mortonsville, and her father, Wallace Gillespie, was from Midway; both communities are located in Woodford County, Kentucky. Her father received an elementary education and was a mechanic for Taylor Tire; her mother graduated from high school in Lexington in 1942 and worked in the home. She says they did not travel much because her father sold the car to purchase their house, but Mr. Taylor would let her father borrow a car. She remembers her father being a good provider during the Depression. Delaney talks about her education in Lexington while growing up and mentions various teachers. Delaney discusses how segregation affected her family and recalls they learned at home how to deal with segregation outside of the black community. She notes that Lexington "was not as bad as some other places further south", but remembers having limited contact with white people while growing up. She graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Delaney remembers she went to Kentucky State University after her father died, where she earned a double major in Chemistry and Sociology, and was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She recalls that it was more expensive to attend K.S.U., but U.K. was not open to blacks at that time. Delaney recalls the only employment opportunities open for black women during this time were in teaching or the medical field. She worked as a playground director with the Parks and Recreation Department during the summers while she was in college. After graduation, Delaney went to Maysville, Kentucky in 1946 to teach mathematics and physics for one year. She mentions the "dual salary" system, where white teachers were paid more than blacks for the same position, but this was not the situation when she came back to Fayette County to teach. She attended graduate school at Ohio State in the summer of 1949 for additional core curriculum work. She notes that U.K. was open to blacks, but it was more difficult to get in. The following year, she transferred to U.K. and earned her Master's degree in 1952. She also became certified to teach physical education. Delaney taught at Douglas High School from 1947-1963. She describes the process of desegregation of the schools during this period. Delaney moved to Leestown Middle School for one year then transferred to Tates Creek High School, where she became the first African-American instructor.

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