Desegregation of UK

Given to the University of Kentucky by the class of 1999, Historical Marker #2022 commemorates the desegregation of UK. In 1948, Lyman T. Johnson filed suit for admission to the university. In March 1949, Federal Judge H. Church Ford ruled in Johnson's favor. That summer, nearly thirty African American students entered UK graduate and professional programs. The undergraduate classes were desegregated in 1954.

Lyman T. Johnson (1906-1997) was an educator and civil rights leader who led the fight for the desegregation of the University of Kentucky. Born in Columbia, Tennessee, he was the eighth of nine children and the grandson of former slaves. After earning a degree from Virginia Union, he received a Masters in History from the University of Michigan. After serving in the U. S. Navy during World War II, he returned to Louisville and taught mathematics, economics, and history at Central High School for sixteen years before trying to gain admission to the UK graduate program. He was an educator in the Louisville Public Schools for forty years and served as the president of the Louisville NAACP. UK awarded Johnson an honorary degree in 1979.

The UK Senior Challenge Historical Marker Project, administered by the Kentucky Historical Society, began in 1994 as a way for the graduating senior class to leave a memorial to the university. Every year since then, the UK historical marker committee has decided on the topic, raised the money, and written the text for the markers.

Images

Lyman Johnson and R. B. Atwood

Lyman Johnson and R. B. Atwood

Lyman Johnson, right, and Kentucky State University President R. B. Atwood, leave federal district court in Lexington, after the court ruled in favor of Johnson's admission to the University of Kentucky, March 1949. Photo courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Lyman Johnson

Lyman Johnson

Lyman Johnson fought for the desegregation of UK and was first African American to be admitted in 1949. Photo courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Becky Riddle, “Desegregation of UK,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed April 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/145.

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