Our Kentucky

Our Kentucky: A Study of the Bluegrass State

Edited by James C. Klotter
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 2
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Our Kentucky
    Book Description:

    Originally published in 1992 in conjunction with Kentucky's bicentennial observations and designed for use in the high school classroom,Our Kentuckyremains one of the most concise, well-written introductions to the Bluegrass State. While the focus is on history, specialists in other fields contribute chapters that provide a comprehensive description of Kentucky's people and their past, present, and future. This expanded edition brings the scholarship up to date, ensuring the book's continued availability for students and general readers.

    State historian James C. Klotter, together with a teachers' advisory group, has gathered nineteen authorities on the Commonwealth, each of whom has written a section in his or her area of expertise. The topics range widely, from architecture to women's rights, from Native Americans to Kentucky's future -- and much in between. Well-respected authors from various disciplines -- including geography, history, literature, religion, journalism, education, and political science -- have crafted concise and stimulating chapters that help explain the state's past, present, and future.

    Designed for use in the Kentucky Studies high school elective course, the book has been praised for covering so many aspects of Kentucky life and for bringing together such a wide array of writers. A special feature is the inclusion of seventeen award-winning essays written by high school students. These brief "sidebars" demonstrate the level of work that can be done by today's young Kentuckians. The combination of essays by students, chapters by experts, and a generous selection of photographs and original documents results in a book that will inform and delight all Kentucky readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5666-8
    Subjects: History, Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Geography
    (pp. 1-16)
    Dennis L. Spetz

    The Bluegrass State, which is officially called a commonwealth rather than a state, contains 40,395 square miles of diverse natural and cultural features. This great variety makes Kentucky an interesting place for geography students to study. While reading this chapter, you are advised to consult an atlas or map to accompany and enrich the text. For a more detailed analysis, consult theAtlas of Kentuckypublished by the University Press of Kentucky orA Geography of Kentuckyby Wilford A. Bladen, both of which are available in many libraries.

    By examining Kentucky’s position on a map of the United States,...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Ancient Past
    (pp. 17-37)
    Nancy O’Malley

    This chapter concerns the study of Kentucky’s prehistoric past through archaeology. Archaeology is part of the larger discipline of anthropology, which involves the study of many aspects of human culture. Archaeology focuses on human cultures and societies that no longer exist as distinct, recognizable groups, although they may still have living descendants. Prehistoric peoples in Kentucky lived during the centuries before the arrival of European settlers in the Americas. In Kentucky, prehistory extends from as early as 12,000 years ago to about A.D. 1750. People who lived in Kentucky during this period are commonly called Indians, Native Americans, or aboriginal...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Government and Politics
    (pp. 38-57)
    Paul Blanchard

    In this chapter, we will examine Kentucky and its politics. Though the word “politics” could be defined in several ways, we are defining it here to mean how decisions are made by those with the authority to make them, decisions that affect the people who live in Kentucky. Our examination of political decision-making in Kentucky will focus on three major topics: (1) our constitution and how it shapes decision-making; (2) major decision-makers (the legislature, governor, and courts); and (3) citizen involvement in decision-making (political parties, elections, and voting).

    Constitutions are important—both at the national level and at the state...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The People and Their Leisure Time
    (pp. 58-76)
    Nancy Disher Baird

    Kentuckians are creatures of habit, and many traditions enjoyed by modern Kentuckians have roots in the commonwealth’s past. Picnics, dances, fairs, park visits, vacations at spas—most activities involved family-oriented work and play and community and school-sponsored amusements. Despite recent technological influences, basic similarities exist between social events enjoyed by those who tamed the wilderness and by their space-age descendants.

    Who were the men, women, and children who initiated and perpetuated Kentucky’s social traditions? In their quest for cheap land, thousands of Virginians, Carolinians, Marylanders, and Pennsylvanians migrated westward. Through Cumberland Gap or down the Ohio River, they fanned out...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Antebellum Era, 1775-1860
    (pp. 77-91)
    Lowell H. Harrison

    Although a surprising number of Europeans had explored in Kentucky before 1775, the first permanent settlements were not made until that year. In March 1775, James Harrod led some fifty men to the site they had abandoned the previous year because of Indian danger, and they completed the cabins and fort that became Harrodsburg. Within weeks Daniel Boone and a party of axmen who had opened a trail through Cumberland Gap for Judge Richard Henderson and the Transylvania Company established on the banks of the Kentucky River a station they called Boonesborough. Other stations soon followed, for neither the Indian...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Religion
    (pp. 92-104)
    Clyde F. Crews

    The hardy pioneers who settled Kentucky not only brought with them into the commonwealth their worldly possessions and often meager fortunes, many of them also transported to the wilderness their ancient religious faith and heritage. Yet, not all of them were particularly pious; historians estimate that somewhat less than 10 percent of the early settlers belonged on a regular basis to any particular church. Nor were they the first people to worship in this storied land of Kentucky. Though little is known about them except from scattered archaeological remains, Native Americans had lived intermittently in the area for thousands of...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Slavery and Antislavery
    (pp. 105-121)
    John David Smith

    The history of slavery and the antislavery movement in Kentucky provide important insights into the central dilemma that confronted nineteenth-century white Kentuckians: their national versus their sectional identity. On the one hand, white Kentuckians’ identification with slavery linked them culturally, economically, and emotionally to the plantation South. But the very nature of Kentucky agriculture and slavery in the commonwealth made the large majority of whites there less willing to sever their ties with the Union over slavery or states’ rights than in the Deep South.

    Positioned on the South’s border—literally sandwiched between the lands of slavery and freedom—the...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Race Relations after 1865
    (pp. 122-135)
    George C. Wright

    Though scholars have often tried to present the view that the racial problems Afro-Americans encountered in postwar Kentucky were not as severe as what they experienced in the Deep South, the facts argue differently. Simply stated, race relations in Kentucky have consistently mirrored the rest of American society, meaning that at no point was the state a “haven” from whatever deplorable situations existed elsewhere.

    What makes the plight of Kentucky’s black citizens all the more significant and telling is that, by comparison with the Deep South, the black population in the Bluegrass State was much smaller and less of a...

  12. CHAPTER 9 At War, 1776-1999
    (pp. 136-155)
    James Russell Harris

    Twenty-three-year-old Israel Boone, dead or dying from wounds received at the 1782 battle of Blue Licks, was left behind by the Kentucky militia’s disorganized retreat. More fortunate, twenty-one-year-old Johnny Green, also wounded, could leave the 1862 battle of Shiloh with his Confederate Fourth Kentucky Infantry. Decades later, in a famous incident of World War II, nineteen-year-old Franklin R. Sousley helped raise the American flag on Mt. Suribachi in the 1945 fight for Iwo Jima. He was later killed in the battle. Since frontier times, the choices made by Kentuckians like these three volunteers or by their societies again and again...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Violence
    (pp. 156-171)
    Robert M. Ireland

    Native American tribes called the area that is today Kentucky the “Dark and Bloody Ground.” For the first 110 years of Kentucky’s statehood, its inhabitants seemed to be trying hard to justify that name. They killed each other at a rate more than twice that of today and often did so for the most trivial of reasons.

    The code of honor had much to do with the high rate of killing in Kentucky in the nineteenth century. A custom rather than a formal law, the code of honor affected men much more than women. Under the code, a man’s reputation...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Economics
    (pp. 172-188)
    Paul A. Coomes

    A quick test: (a) Where are all the Corvettes in the world made? (b) Where is the factory that makes the most sport utility vehicles in the world? (c) the factory that makes the most popular passenger car? (d) the largest air cargo sorting facility in the world? (e) the second lowest electricity prices in the United States? (f) the headquarters for the largest number of fast food outlets in the world? (g) the state with the most number of coal mines? (h) the longest cave system in the world? (i) the geographic center of the United States population east...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Women’s Quest for Reform
    (pp. 189-206)
    Carol Crowe-Carraco

    From statehood to the present, Kentucky women have dedicated their energies and wisdom to improving the conditions under which all Kentuckians live. They often rejected traditional roles and labored for causes that affected the powerless and the poor. Wearing yellow ribbons to identify their allegiance to the suffrage question, they sought legal rights for women and fought for humanitarian causes. For some reformers the franchise was an end in itself; for others the ballot marked only the beginning.

    Kentucky occupies a unique position in the American women’s rights movement; it is one of only two states (New Jersey is the...

  16. CHAPTER 13 From War’s End to the Great Depression, 1865-1930
    (pp. 207-225)
    Melba Porter Hay

    Kentucky emerged from the Civil War in virtual ruin. Although the state had remained in the Union, martial law (law administered by military forces) continued in effect until October 12, 1865—six months after the war had ended. Many felt Kentucky was treated as if it had seceded. As a result of real and imagined abuses of federal power, public attitudes in the commonwealth turned increasingly prosouthern. The state moved quickly to restore civil rights to ex-Confederates and their sympathizers. Governor Thomas E. Bramlette, who had been elected in 1863 as a Union Democrat, issued pardons to those who had...

  17. CHAPTER 14 Literature
    (pp. 226-245)
    Wade Hall

    Kentuckians can be proud of their rich literature. Such talented writers as James Lane Allen, John Fox Jr., Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Robert Penn Warren, Janice Holt Giles, Jesse Stuart, James Still, Wendell Berry, and Bobbie Ann Mason have given Kentucky an important place on the American literary map. It is a literature that has been more than two hundred years in the making. Earlier Kentuckians, however, were too busy taking care of their basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter to have much time for making literature. They read newspapers, political and religious pamphlets and books, the Bible, the almanac...

  18. CHAPTER 15 Performing Arts
    (pp. 246-255)
    Robert Bruce French and Lori Meadows

    Rock and roll, country and bluegrass music, folk songs and dance, drama, musical theater, symphonic and operatic music, ballet and modern dance—Kentucky has it all. And in abundance. But it was not always so.

    The musical trail began modestly in Lexington in the late 1700s. At that time, the city had several singing schools. They were soon followed by private instruction in piano, violin, guitar, flute, and harp. The town also boasted teachers for dancing and fencing. Pianos were built there as early as 1805 by Joseph Green, who advertised that his pianos would hold up in Kentucky’s climate....

  19. CHAPTER 16 Folk Arts
    (pp. 256-269)
    Michael Ann Williams

    All people create art. Every time we take pleasure in the form and beauty of something we make and feel pride in our skill and technique, we are artists. We often think of art as set aside from ordinary life, something to be framed in a gallery. But art also exists in our everyday life. This art of the everyday is called folk art.

    Many forms of folk art can be described as “traditional”— that is, they are learned informally, passed on from friends, neighbors, or community members. Many traditions are quite old, but something does not have to be...

  20. CHAPTER 17 Historic Architecture
    (pp. 270-285)
    Julie Riesenweber

    Kentucky’s historic architecture tells stories about the past much like those written by historians or told by family and neighbors. Buildings and structures stand in every town and along every country road to provide an immediate sense of the past. The history made up of people’s stories can be influenced by poor memory or personal point of view. But buildings represent the past directly, providing historical information without human opinions.

    Many of history’s stories relate great achievements because people tend to write down and tell the most remarkable events.

    Likewise, some architectural studies focus on outstanding buildings. This “great and...

  21. CHAPTER 18 Toward the Modern Era: 1930 to the Present
    (pp. 286-297)
    William E. Ellis

    In the more than seven decades since the beginning of the Great Depression, Kentuckians have faced great changes and challenges. The economic crisis of the 1930s gave way to World War II and economic prosperity in the 1940s. In the fifties, Kentuckians liked “Ike” (Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower) as did most other Americans. The sixties brought the Vietnam War and the beginning of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs. In the seventies, the energy crisis led to a short-lived boom for the Kentucky coal fields. Kentuckians in the eighties experienced increasing economic problems in Appalachia and among...

  22. CHAPTER 19 Education
    (pp. 298-313)
    Thomas D. Clark

    Kentucky’s educational history is woven of many strands of philosophy and experiences. In the quarter century from 1775 to 1800, frontier Kentucky was a social and political island cut off from direct communication with any other organized community. It was also a region that faced heavy physical demands in the exploitation of its virgin lands, a task that demanded strong backs and only limited intellectual capabilities. Nevertheless, a certain amount of native wit and wisdom was needed to survey the land, build houses, open roads, and begin farming and raising livestock.

    Though many of the early settlers who came to...

  23. CHAPTER 20 Kentucky Today and Tomorrow
    (pp. 314-332)
    Al Smith

    Buoyed by a strong national economy, many Kentuckians greeted the new century free of the tensions and fears that agitated the state a hundred years before. In Frankfort, Democrat Paul Patton became governor again in a low-key ceremony attended by seven former governors. Historians and journalists compared the unity with the turmoil of January 30, 1900, when an assassin’s “bullet felled William Goebel, the Democrat in a contested election for governor.

    By contrast, Patton, the last governor of the twentieth century, was re-elected with only token opposition, almost “by acclamation,” a reporter joked. Although Republicans had recently seized control of...

  24. APPENDIX 1: Kentucky Counties
    (pp. 333-344)
  25. APPENDIX 2: Kentucky’s Governors
    (pp. 345-350)
    (pp. 351-356)
    (pp. 357-358)
  28. INDEX
    (pp. 359-388)