civil rights

yuriy kirsanov, 123rf Stock Photo

Efforts to expand Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act are getting a boost from a Western Kentucky University legal scholar. History Professor Patti Minter is testifying Wednesday in Frankfort in support of a bill that would offer greater legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. 

Rob Canning, WKMS

The oldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King says he thought the United States would be at a different juncture as a nation when it comes to civil rights in the 21st century. Martin Luther King III spoke at the Murray State University 12th Annual Presidential Lecture Series Monday night.

Pogue Library at Murray State University is home to numerous special collections and oral history projects. Tucked among these documents is the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Coretta Scott King and her daughter Bernice at Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral taken by Owensboro native Moneta Sleet Jr. On Sounds Good, Matt Markgraf speaks with Sarah Hopley, Special Collections & Exhibits Librarian, about how this photo, and a thank you letter signed by Sleet ended up in the archives at Murray State.

Murray State University 1961 Shield Yearbook, Courtesy of Wesley Bolin at Pogue Library

A group of six college students walked from Murray State University across the street to a small restaurant, about to quietly protest its “white-only” policy. Entering the establishment, the five white boys from New York ordered meals for the group. When the food was ready, Nancy Tyler Demartra, the first African American to attend MSU full-time and eventually graduate, stood up to pay. When the cashiers refused her money, the entire group said “no, thanks,” and walked out. It took about three months of visits like these, but with the help of others on campus the group finally pushed the restaurant to adopt an “open” serving policy. That was 1961. Fifty-four years later, Nancy speaks with Kate on Sounds Good about her experiences at MSU and her accomplishments in the Human and Civil Rights arenas.

A rural West Tennessee community is pushing the Justice Department to reopen a 75-year-old civil rights murder case.

Elbert Williams is believed to be the first NAACP official killed for seeking to register black voters. Yet the mysterious story of his 1940 murder is not widely known.

Clues about Williams' murder are thought to be buried with him, here in the Taylor Cemetery just outside Brownsville, Tenn.

Local attorney Jim Emison walks to a corner of the cemetery, set off by two towering oaks.

"This is the area where we believe he lies," Emison says.

On the Kentucky side of the border along Tennessee sits a little railroad town named Guthrie, the home of the nation's first poet laureate and three-time Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren, known as "Red" Warren, born in 1905. During the Civil Rights Movement, Warren wrote a book titled Who Speaks for the Negro? featuring interviews with activists like Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr. and many others. For nearly a decade, these interviews have been available online for listening. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte learns more about the digital archive from Mona Frederick, Executive Director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University.

Photos courtesy of Jim Emison

Second Update: NPR's All Things Considered reported on this  effort. Here's the link to their story: Tennessee Community Pushes To Reopen 'Civil Rights Hero' Cold Case

Update: Part two of this conversation, which aired on Sounds Good Friday, June 19, has been added to this story, along with its narrative.  

Brownsville, Tennessee is in Haywood County mid-way northeast of Memphis and southwest of Jackson. On Saturday, the Haywood High School Gymnasium is the site of a Community Memorial Service honoring civil rights activist Elbert Williams on the 75th anniversary of his death. Alamo, Tennessee lawyer Jim Emison retired in 2011 and began a quest to understand more about the death of Elbert Williams, whose murder was never solved. Williams was the first known NAACP official to be killed for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Jim Emison speaks with Kate Lochte on Sounds Good about what he's learned.

UT Martin logo,

The University of Tennessee at Martin hosts its 15th Annual Civil Rights Conference next week. Conference Director, Assistant Professor of History Renee LaFleur previews the multi-day event whose keynote speaker is presidential historian and Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library since 2009, Mark Updegrove. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte speaks with LaFleur about the theme of how President Johnson's "Great Society" contributed to the Civil Rights Movement and other featured speakers at the event.

Allison Crawford

As Alabama becomes the most recent state to issue same sex marriages, some lawmakers there are decrying a federal judge’s decision to strike down the ban and the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene. Kentucky, another largely conservative state, may receive a final decision on its gay marriage ban this summer. The impending decision has some public officials reexamining their role as marriage officiants.

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress

WKMS celebrates Black History Month with a unique collection of vignettes during Sounds Good all month long, a limited-run series on the life and music of Duke Ellington and special programming covering "Race and Fear" in America, the Civil Rights movement from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, and a special report following three African American women coping with breast cancer.