Lincoln Institute Campus

Historical Marker #1930 in Shelby County notes the location of the Lincoln Institute, which was founded to educate African American students.

In the wake of the Supreme Court Decision of the 1904 Kentucky Day Law, which legally segregated public and private educational facilities in the state, a decision was made by the Berea College board to build a school for African American students. Berea was the only school in the state that had been racially integrated at the time and was therefore the only one affected by the decision.

The state legislature easily passed the Day Law, which was named for Kentucky state representative Carl Day of Breathitt County. The House approved the law 73 to 5, while the Senate voted 28 to 5. The law took effect in the summer of 1904, and Berea was soon charged with violating the law. The case proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld it in 1908. Supreme Court justice and native Kentuckian John Marshall Harlan provided a dissenting vote. He was discouraged by the decision, which meant that United States citizens could not learn in an interracial environment if they so wished. The Day Law remained in effect until 1950, when it was amended to allow black Kentucky students to attend schools if the institution approved. Not surprisingly, Berea was the first college to open its doors to African American students.

The Lincoln Institute was established on Lincoln Ridge in Shelby County, between Frankfort and Louisville, on more than 400 acres. It formally opened in October 1912. The school specialized in training educators and offered vocational education programs. During the Great Depression, the school fell on difficult financial times. Although the school did not receive any state funds, the Institute was buoyed by the economic support of William Henry Hughes, a wealthy Lexington African American. Although the school began receiving state support in the 1940s, it was not enough to keep it open. In 1947, the school was deeded to the state and became a public high school. The 1954 Supreme Court decision "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka" started the desegregation of all schools in the United States. Although the process was slow, it closed many of the traditional black schools. The last class graduated from the Lincoln Institute in 1966.

Today, the grounds serve at the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Job Corps Training Center. There, young people receive the valuable skills needed to succeed in life though a no-cost program provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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