Berea College Mountain Day

Mountain Day is an annual event organized by Berea College during every fall semester.  On Mountain Day, all classes are dismissed and the labor is cancelled, except for essential labor such as Food Service, Hospital, Boone Tavern, and Public Safety.  Mountain Day celebrates the nature and the environment surrounding us, especially exploring the Appalachian culture and the mountain people of the region.   Mountain Day celebration serves as an example of Berea’s mission “to serve the mountains of Appalachia and to preserve the area’s heritage.”

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The first Mountain Day was held in 1875; yet, the event was first mentioned in the 1907 edition of the College Catalog as an ‘excursion.’  There are no records of the official ‘statement of purpose’ of the Mountain Day; however, it is believed that the nature of Mountain Day was to:

  1. provide an opportunity for alumni to visit the campus and their former teachers and friends,
  2. to provide sanctioned social excursion for students,
  3. to enjoy the Fall color and other natural wonders in immediate vicinity, and
  4. to provide a campus holiday free of classes and non-essential labor (in an e-mail to Shannon Wilson from John Cook).

Mountain Day was traditionally celebrated on the third Monday of the fall term.  If the weather conditions on the designated date were not satisfactory for the celebration of the event, then the event would be cancelled and postponed to the same day of the next week.  If the weather did not improve by the next week, then the event would be omitted for the school year.  Every year a booklet was published that announced the date of Mountain Day and which listed all of the activities, rules and the schedule of performances.  The booklet encouraged professors to not schedule examinations or tests on the day before or after Mountain Day, in order to provide students equal opportunity to enjoy their day off exploring nature, the Appalachian Mountains and local culture.

Throughout the twentieth century there were various changes and additions to the celebration of Mountain Day.  In the early years of celebrating Mountain Day, students would dress up and hike up the mountain.  Eventually, the dress code became less formal and more casual.  Originally students had to sign up by Tuesday before Mountain Day at the Alumni Building in order to participate in the celebrations.  There were wagon trucks that transported the students to the Indian Fort Mountain, and the transportation fee consisted of five cents for women and fifteen cents for men.  The students had excursions to the Pinnacles with their departments, and the college’s administration highly discouraged “wandering alone” or in a group of less than twenty people.  Additionally, female students and male students were expected to hike in separate groups, and if any male student wished to accompany a young woman of another department, then he had to ask for permission from the Department Deans.  It is possible that these restrictions led to the decline in the popularity of Mountain Day; at one point, participation fell to forty to forty-five percent.  In response, the College organized a group of leaders, each of whom were willing to lead a minimum of thirty students through the wilds of Indian Fort Mountain, in order to increase the participation level of the students to at least ninety per cent.

For several years, starting a few years before the Second World War, Berea had three Mountain Days on consecutive weekends because of large student enrollment.  Approximately 1700 students were divided into groups, called the foundation group, the upper division college group, and the lower division college group.  There were contests amongst various groups or organizations of the college.  There were teams of eight students, who represented their particular organization, such as the college’s County Dancers as well as all the athletic teams, who competed for a 300 dollar prize.  The team that had the fastest time climbing up the mountain received the prize.  Students of the “Get Moving Berea College Program” also participated in this contest, but they were simply awarded bonus points.

On Mountain Day, the College chimes played either “She’ll be comin’ round the Mountain” or “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” at six o’clock in the morning to kick off the holiday.

PRESENT:

Berea College usually celebrates Mountain Day on a Wednesday in October.  The celebration of Mountain Day involves hiking up the Indian Fort Mountain, which is located within the seven thousand acres of College’s forest territory.  Students are encouraged to hike up to the East Pinnacle before the sunrise, in order to greet the sunrise atop the mountain.  In recent years, it has been a tradition for several college organizations or clubs, such as the Berea College Choir and the Country Dancers to sing or perform dances respectively upon the rise of the Sun. Mountain Day activities and contests are organized and coordinated by the Department of Campus Activities or Campus Life.  Most of the Berea College’s dance, music and choir groups perform at the Mountain Day event.  Moreover, there are shuttle vans, as well as a hay ride, that transport students to the Indian Fort Mountain, running every half hour beginning eight in the morning until four in the afternoon. Many students choose to go camping the night before Mountain Day and camp out either at the West or at the East Pinnacle.

Dining Services provides lunch at the forest grounds.  Throughout the afternoon students and guests get to enjoy various snacks and treats, some of the most popular treats of which are kettle corn, cotton candy and drinks such as Ale-8.  Students get to enjoy Bluegrass music, watch dance performances, make bracelets, tie-dye T-shirts, etc.  In addition, there are various activities and contests in which students can challenge themselves and participate.  For instance, there are contests called “Pioneer games” which include activities such as log chopping, log tossing and crosscut saw competition, all of which uniquely represent the Appalachian culture.  Students can also test their skills in archery and participate in charity walkathons or scavenger hunt contests organized by some of the college organizations.  Mountain Day participants who hike up to the East Pinnacle and to the Eagles Nest challenge themselves by passing through the narrow passage between two rocks on the trail leading to the top called the “Fat Man’s Misery,” or the Devil’s Slide.

On the eve of the Mountain Day, there is a street dance on Main Street in front of the Boone Tavern Hotel. The street dance is organized and conducted by the Berea College Country Dancers and the Bluegrass Music Ensemble. The celebration has previously been sponsored by the Mountain Day Planning Committee, Sodexho Food Service, Campus Activities Board, Intramurals, the Agricultural Union, the Saddle Club, the Forestry Department, the Music Department and Campus life.

FUN FACTS:

During the 1977 Mountain Day celebration, the sixth President of Berea College – Willis Weatherford Jr. – and the College Dean – William Ramsay – were “kidnapped” by a group of Berea College students. Some students were dressed as Native American Indians, and they asked for a ransom of sixty-three dollars. Then, students donated the ransom money to the United Community Fund of Madison County.

Previously, Mountain Day has been referred to as the “back to the land” movement, or as the “Rocktober Fest.” In 1912, Mountain Day was celebrated separately between two schools: the Foundation School and the College. In the mid-1940s, the College had even celebrated Mountain Day during the spring semester, as a Spring Mountain Day. Though it is hard to believe now, in the 1950s, one of the activity contests was tobacco spitting!

SOURCES:

Berea College Alumnus. 57:3 Nov-Dec 1986, p.14

Held for ransom. Eyewitness. Oct. 20, 1977.

“Climbing out of the classroom.” in Lexington Herald, Oct. 21, 2004.

Smith, Louis. Holiday Announcement. Berea College: Berea, Kentucky. October 6, 1964.

“Mountain Day festivities planned for Wednesday.” Berea Citizen, Oct 1, 1981.

“Coming Up The Mountain When They Come.” Lexington Herald, Oct 8, 1981.

“‘Trail of Years’: Berea College celebrates 130th MD” by Bill Robinson, Oct. 25, 2005.

The Wallpaper: weekly publication of the Berea College Student Association, Berea, KY, Sat. Oct 10, 1953.

Chapman, Dan. “Mountain Day 1982: Good, clean, (wet) fun.” The Pinnacle. Berea, Kentucky: Berea College. October 29, 1982.

“Sun Shines on Berea for Mountain Day Fun.” Lexington Herald. October 9, 1980.

“Spring Mountain Day Comes Saturday.” Berea Citizen. April 21, 1949.

“Mountain Day.” Berea Citizen. October 8, 1914.

“Mountain Day: Climbing Indian Fort Mountains has become a tradition—and you can kiss your girl, too.” The Courier Journal. October 9, 1955.

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Mary E. Britton

In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about Mary E. Britton (1855-1925) who was a student at Berea College from c1870-1874. A public school teacher and activist, Britton later earned a medical degree and became the first African-American female doctor in the state of Kentucky, practicing in Lexington.Mary Eleanor Britton

Mary Eleanor Britton was born 1855 on Mills Street, in current Lexington’s Gratz Park Historical District, in Kentucky. Her parents, Laura Marshall and Henry Harrison Britton, were both free African Americans living in a slave state of Kentucky. Her father was a carpenter. Her mother, Laura Marshall, was a freed slave of a biracial ancestry, whose father was a well-known Kentucky public official Thomas F. Marshall. Britton’s mother Laura was a well-educated, intelligent woman, and a talented singer and a musician. Laura encouraged and instilled love for education, music and public service in both of her daughters from an early age. In short, her family was well respected, honored and trustworthy within the circle of prominent and affluent Kentucky families

She grew up in Lexington and, along with his sister Julia Britton, studied at Mr. Gibson’s school for colored youths in Louisville, Kentucky. Although, she grew up as a free individual, her siblings and her still experienced and witnessed the racial discrimination and inequality towards the black Americans. Yet, she and her siblings received the best education one could only ask for in Kentucky. She attended Berea College, at that time called Berea Academy, from 1871-1874. Since at that time the only available and possible career studies for females of any race was teaching and nursing, Mary Britton and Julia Britton Hooks chose to study teaching. She and Julia graduated in 1874 as the first two African American woman graduates of Berea College. Their parents unexpectedly passed away one after the other before the sisters’ graduation. Thus, after her graduation, Mary Britton sought employment as a teacher in order to support herself financially. In 1876, first she taught in Chilesburg, Kentucky and later continued teaching within the Lexington public school system.

Yet, although employed Mary did not stop pursuing her higher education, and attended and graduated with a medical degree from the American Missionary College situated in Chicago, Illinois. Since she had a great interest in medicine, she also studied at Howard Medical School in Washington D.C., and at Meharry Medical College of Nashville, Tennessee. Britton then started practicing medicine from her Lexington home. She specialized in hydrotherapy and electrotherapy, and by 1902, she became Lexington’s first African American woman physician licensed to practice medicine. Due to Jim Crow laws, the healthcare and medical treatment became even less easily available for African Americans at white hospitals.  Thus, Britton made it possible for African Americans and treated her patients by using water and electricity.

Mary Britton work

Mary E. Britton treated patients from her home. Photo by Tom Eblen

Mary Britton was extremely active in public life of her community. For instance, she actively participated in Suffrage Movement, and later served as the president of Woman’s Improvement Club, which aimed at improving women’s social status, living conditions and economic improvements. In 1877, as a member of the Kentucky Negro Education Association she worked hard to help improve African Americans’ living conditions through legislative action. Moreover, from 1892 she served as the founding director of the Colored Orphan Industrial Home, which was an organization that, in collaboration with the Ladies Orphan Society, helped impoverished orphans and homeless elderly women with food, clothing, housing accommodation, receiving education and guidance on how they could eventually establish they lives. The building of that same Industrial Home is still present to this day as the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center and the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum. It is a building, which has served as a nursing home and hospital through an entire century.

Moreover, in her writings for the American Citizen, the Daily Transcript, Our Women and Children, and the Lexington Leader, Britton wrote against the Jim Crow segregation laws, against usage of alcohol and tobacco, and expressed the necessity for societal reformation. In 1892 edition of Kentucky Leader, Britton argued in against the passage of the Separate Coach Law that had been implemented the previous year. The Separate Coach Law required that Americans of different races ride in separate – precisely, segregated – train cars, which supposedly kept every race equal, but not together in unity. Thus, Britton campaigned against the idea that all the races could be equal as long as they remained separated.

Mary Britton’s courage and compassion served as an inspiration to many within and beyond her community. One of them was author and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who dedicated a lengthy, yet thoughtful poem to Ms. Britton titled simply “To Miss Mary Britton.” The poem’s third verse recited the following:

Give us to lead our cause

More noble souls like hers,

The memory of whose deed

Each feeling bosom stirs;

Whose fearless voice and strong

Rose to defend her race,

Roused Justice from her sleep,

Drove Prejudice from place.

Mary Britton was an educator, physician, a journalist and a civil rights activist, who fully dedicated herself for the good of her people. She is another individual, who has reached the peak with her dedication to social work and civil activism. Mary Britton was not the only one who became a distinguished humanitarian and civil rights activist of her time. Her sister Julia Britton Hooks, also a Berea College graduate and a music prodigy, was part of the Memphis branch of NAACP and a civil rights activist against the segregation in public schools. The two sisters worked together in their public service and activism, thus achieving much for the best of their respective communities. Britton’s brother, Tom Britton, was a jockey of a great fame and talent. In his career as a jockey, he won the Kentucky Oaks on his horse Miss Hawkins in 1891, and came second in Kentucky Derby on Huron in 1892.

Mary Britton died at the age of seventy in 1925. She was buried in Cove Haven Cemetery. She was yet another African American woman many years ahead of her time. Gerald Smith, a history professor at the University of Kentucky, described Mary Britton as the one who “came out of that Berea tradition of a teacher who becomes a social activist.” Mary Britton truly believed in and followed the mission of Berea College. She was the change, educated in Berea College, which the American society needed.

Mary Britton

Dr. Mary E. Britton is surrounded by men at this 1910 meeting of Kentucky physicians, dentists and pharmacists. Photo courtesy of Thomas Tolliver.

Sources:

“Mary Britton was a woman ahead of her time.” The Bluegrass and Beyond. February 14, 2012. URL: http://tomeblen.bloginky.com/2012/02/14/mary-britton-was-a-woman-ahead-of-her-time/

Applegate, Emily. “The Noble Soul of Mary E. Britton.” Berea College Magazine. URL: http://www.bereamag.com/archives/2012/summer/features/strategic-planning-at-berea-college/

Women in Kentucky – Health/Medicine. URL:http://www.womeninkentucky.com/site/healthmed/M_Britton.html

Dunbar, Paul Laurence. “To Miss Mary Britton.” In Oak and Ivy. Dayton, OH: Press of United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. URL: http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetry.php?type=poem&id=348

Notable Black American Women, Book 2. Ed. Jessie Carney Smith. 1996. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=ssMBzqrUpjwC&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=Berea+College,+Mary+E.+Britton&source=bl&ots=gVARmkl9Zp&sig=Jf85q37NpCAC10LcJfrWtcuPK3A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ag1fUd3oEajZyQHUqYDICw&ved=0CF0Q6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=Berea%20College%2C%20Mary%20E.%20Britton&f=false

Kleber, John E. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky, 1992. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=8eFSK4o–M0C&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=Dr.+Mary+E.+Britton&source=bl&ots=2OhIIWvWTT&sig=rRARaVmhMg6ymCqciB85bS1LYDE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dPJiUYG9HcKcqgGChoCICg&ved=0CGQQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Dr.%20Mary%20E.%20Britton&f=false

Reverend James Bond

In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about Reverend James Bond.

James Bond was born as a slave during the American Civil War on September 5th 1863 near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. He grew up in Barbourville town in Knox Country. His mother – Jane – was a slave, who in her teens was given as a “gift” slave to a bride of a white slave-owner for their wedding. Jane did not just serve as a slave, she also served as the mistress of her master during his wife’s pregnancy. That is how James Bond, along with his brother Henry, was born as child of a slave woman and white slave master – Preston Bond.James M. Bond, from Berea Digital

James Bond admired his mother not just as a mother, but also as a strong woman. His mother educated and inspired both of her sons to become the best possible in their future life and career. She was their encouragement, as Bond stated, “to be somebody and make a man of myself” and to behave oneself in an honest and respectful manners. His mother was a “heroic figure,” who served as a symbol of “…the mute, yet glorious, yet tragic destiny of the Negro slave woman, bowed indeed, beneath the weight of centuries, yet possessed of a spark of courage and hope that transfigured her life and shed a radiance upon the life of those with whom she came in contact.”

Thus, Bond became very aware of the injustice that slavery carried within itself and its effects on many lives. Despite the evils of slavery and its consequences, Bond was an obvious optimist, who declared his fortune to have been born as an African American in an American society. He took great interested in racial issues in the American society of his time. Bond’s life in Kentucky and post-Civil War atmosphere of the South was not without challenges. But those challenges in life served Bond as an encouragement to go explore the world beyond the Appalachian Mountains.

In 1879, at the age of sixteen James Bond traveled a long way through the state of Kentucky and reached Berea College. He first discovered Berea during his visit to the white Jarvis family, for whom his mother worked. Prior to his arrival at the Berea College, Bond could neither write nor read, but he took up the challenge and sixteen years later successfully graduated. He was among only two thousand other fortunate African Americans to hold a college degree when he graduated from Berea College with a B.S. degree in 1892. At the graduation, the college faculty even chose him to deliver the commencement speech, in which Bond demonstrated his hopeful and wise state of spirit and mind. Bond did not stop at pursuing his higher education after graduation from Berea College. He continued his studies in theology and ministry at the Oberlin College, and in 1895 he graduated with Bachelor of Divinity. Moreover, his honorary degrees from Berea College and Master of Science degree earned in 1897 and Doctor of Divinity degree earned in 1901 broadened his career opportunities in becoming a minister.

As a minister, Reverend or Dr. Bond dedicated himself at serving his nation and people in churches of Alabama and Tennessee. Yet, he kept close contact with Berea College. From 1896 to 1912 he served as the first African American Trustee and Board Secretary of Berea College. He actively and enthusiastically supported the College, despite the racist obstacles, such as the Kentucky Day Law of 1904. When the Day Law prohibited the participation of interracial education Dr. Bond took up the challenge and responsibility on the creation and supervision of the Lincoln Institute by fundraising. Lincoln Institute was situated near Simpsonville, Kentucky and it granted former African American students of Berea College to continue their education. From 1907 to 1914, Dr. Bond vigorously and loyally dedicated himself on keeping Fee’s vision alive of granting equal education for all individuals.

Dr. Bond’s loyalty and dedication to his nation was so great, that even volunteered to be in the U.S. Army when the U.S. entered the World War I. However, due to his age, he was unable to be part of the U.S. Army. Instead, he served as the YMCA Service Director at Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, which was yet another opportunity for him to teach night classes to soldiers. Dr. Bond was a skillful multi-tasker that even after the war for ten years he administered summer camps for African American youth as Secretary for the Kentucky YMCA, while also serving as the Director of the Kentucky Interracial Commission. He also served as a prominent public speaker and civil rights activist, who preached for more interracial equality and interracial dialogue. He was great activist in creating and granting opportunities to everyone, who wished to receive education and be academically involved in their communities. He passionately believed in the power and magic of education.

James Bond passionately disagreed with slavery and the act of utilizing human individuals as slaves. He thought that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had not brought full justice and equality to the African-Americans. He argued that many white Americans continued to assume that the hardships, especially economic, of the African-Americans have ended after immediate declaration of Emancipation. Whereas the hardships and dangers have increased for the African-Americans and one of them was the Ku Klux Klan, from the hands of which many suffered brutal and torturous deaths. He even wrote a weekly column called “Interracially Speaking” for the Lexington newspaper, where he encouraged his community to establish less segregated and more racially equal communities. He was a passionate opponent of segregation and an active advocate of interracial communication – the pioneer of the African American community.

Bond whole-heartedly admired and respected John G. Fee. When Fee died in 1901, now as a Reverend, Bond gave a memorial speech at Fee’s funeral ceremony. In his speech, Bond expressed his gratitude and fortune to have met a great man as John G. Fee. He described Fee as the man, who was a “…friend to each and all and sought the highest good of all alike. He loved men, not conditions; humanity, not races or nationalities. … John G. Fee was a benefactor of the world. His name and deeds are the heritage of humanity.” His sincerely quoted that: “Another of the long list of Americans who have made the nineteenth Century famous has gone.”

In 2010, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights listed James Bond among many other civil rights leaders in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame, who has greatly and tirelessly committed himself for the well-being of his people and the American nation.

Reverend Bond died at the age of 65 on January 15th, 1929 in Louisville, Kentucky. Yet, Bond’s death did not put an end to the Bond family legacy. Reverend Bond’s six children and his brother’s six children – eighteen in all – have equally earned education and became successful individuals. James Bond’s sons – Horace Mann Bond and J. Max Bond – have succeeded in public service. They were educators and actively promoted and spread of educational opportunities not only throughout the American nation, even internationally. Both served as presidents of the universities they either have studied in or have established. Bond’s grandson, Horace Mann Bond’s son, Horace Julian Bond became the first African American, who was nominated to the office of Vice-President of the United States in 1968 elections. For almost over a decade, he served as the head of the NAACP. He was the co-founder and leader of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many descendants of the Bond family is now spread throughout the American nation as well as throughout various professions – as architects, drama and speech teachers, economists, etc.

Sources:

Angus Augustus Burleigh

In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about  Angus Augustus Burleigh (c1848 – 1931), who was an influential African American graduate of Berea College. Serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he later became a minster in California.

EARLY LIFEdownload

Angus Burleigh was born in 1848, somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean. He was the son of an African American mother – Charlotta De Dasco – and a sea captain of English descent, Charles A. Burleigh. His mother’s descent is unclear, because Burleigh himself was known to have declared her of Moorish descent from Granada, Spain, whereas many other sources indicated her as African American slave born in Florida. As for Burleigh, he was born free, but due to his father’s death, Burleigh and his mother were forced into slavery. At first, they served as slaves in Virginia and later were moved to Kentucky.

EDUCATION

On August 22, 1864, at the age of sixteen, he enlisted in Co. G. 12thU.S. Colored Heavy Artillery at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. By November 2, 1865, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. On April 24, 1866, when Burleigh was discharged he met John G. Fee, who invited him to attend Berea College. Burleigh enthusiastically accepted the offer and arrived at Berea on foot, after a long trip from Camp Nelson. Burleigh was one of the first African American males to attend and graduate from Berea College. He graduated in 1875 with an A.B. and A.M. degree in Classics.

CAREER

Burleigh had various career paths and professions. He was a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal Church and served as chaplain in the U.S. Army from around 1874 to 1906. He also served as a schoolteacher, salesperson and farmer.

MARRIAGE

On November 25th, 1875 Burleigh married Louisa E. Shaffer in Greene County, Ohio. They had three children: two sons – Otto F. and Cornelius H., and one daughter – Benitta. Throughout his life he lived in various places of the United States, such as Illinois, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana and California. He settled permanently in Hermosa Beach, California.

LATER YEARS

Burleigh died on May 24th, 1938 at the age of 93 in the National Military Home in the Veteran’s Administration Facility in Los Angeles. He was buried in Los Angeles, California. In the early 1930s, Burleigh was considered the oldest living Berea College graduate.

LIST OF WORKS

A.A. Burleigh wrote a booklet called John G. Fee Founder of Berea College. In his booklet, he shared his knowledge of John G. Fee’s biography, as well as his own memories of meeting and working Fee. The booklet extensively narrates the early history and construction of Berea College.

Julia Britton Hooks

In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about one of many accomplished African-American alumna of Berea College – Julia Britton Hooks.Julia

Julia Britton Hooks was born on May 4th 1852 in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her full name is Julia Ann Amanda Moorhead Britton Hooks. Her parents, Laura Marshall and Henry Harrison Britton, were both free African Americans living in the slave state of Kentucky. Her father was a carpenter. Her mother, Laura Marshall, was a freed slave of a biracial ancestry, whose father was a well-known Kentucky public official, Thomas F. Marshall. Julia was exposed to and excelled in music from an early age. She discovered the world of music through her mother Laura, who was a well-educated, intelligent woman, as well as a talented singer and a musician. Laura encouraged and instilled love for education, music and public service in both of her daughters. She especially passed on her talent in music to Julia. In short, her family was well respected, honored and trustworthy within the circle of prominent and affluent Kentucky families.

Julia grew up in Lexington and, along with his sister Mary E. Britton, had the fortune of receiving a good education, first in Louisville at Mr. Gibson’s school for colored youths, and later studied music under the instruction of an English woman. Britton so skillfully and gracefully performed some of the most complex piano pieces by well-known composers that she, along with her mother, was invited to small concerts or gatherings organized for or by Kentucky’s aristocratic families and friends. Many, especially by the Kentucky press, recognized her as the “Wonder of the Age” due to her prodigal talent and knowledge in music.

In 1869, eighteen-year-old Julia Britton enrolled in Berea College in order to study music. She graduated as the second African American female graduate of Berea College in 1874. For two years following her graduation from Berea College, Julia Britton served as Berea’s first African American faculty member. She taught music due to her outstanding skill and knowledge in teaching music. In 1872, after her time in Berea, Julia Britton moved to Greenville, Mississippi. There she continued to teach in school and soon married Sam Wertles, who died the following year due to the yellow fever epidemic.

Julia Britton actively promoted and created opportunities in education for the black youth of the south. In 1883, along with Anna Church, she opened the Liszt-Mullard Club. With the creation of this club, she was able to raise money with which to provide musically gifted black students to study music on a scholarship. In 1892, in response to the poor public education that black youth received in Memphis, she founded the Hooks School of Music and the Hooks Cottage School, which mostly provided pre-school and elementary education. The Hooks School of Music produced distinguished student musicians such as Sidney Woodward, Nell Hunter, and W.C. Handy. However, youth were not the only group whom Julia Britton helped. In 1891, she was a charter member of the Orphan Home Club and the Colored Old Folks Home, both of which provided accommodation for orphans and elderly African American women. She taught and worked on improving public education in the states of Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee for almost twenty-eight years.

Britton’s life as a civil-rights activist began in Mississippi, where she participated in a successful campaign for Blanche K. Bruce’s election to serve as one of the first African American representatives at the U.S. Senate. Once Britton moved to Memphis Tennessee in 1876, she became more engaged in public service, education and civil rights movements. The same year she married her second husband, Charles Hooks. Together, they administered the detention home for young African American lawbreakers from 1902 until 1917 when one of the escaping young criminals killed her husband. Even after the tragic loss of her husband, she did not abandon the administration of the detention home; instead, she fully dedicated herself at advising and helping the troubled youth with their problems.

Britton Hooks disapproved of the Jim Crow segregation laws and actively protested against racism and inequality, which occasionally led to her being arrested and fined. In 1881, she was arrested at the Memphis Theater, because she refused to move to the segregated part of the audience seating section, from the “colored balcony” from the “white balcony” where she initially chose to sit. Since she was an educator, she also campaigned against the segregation of African American youth in classrooms of public schools.

In 1909, Britton became a member of the NAACP in Memphis, Tennessee. She took part in the suffrage movement and campaigned for women’s right to vote. Alongside her sister, she was the president of Women’s Improvement Club in Lexington. She had also met Ida B. Wells with whom she shared her passion, determination and dedication for justice, equality and big change. In 1895, the African American Encyclopedia published an article called “The Duty of the Hour” written by Julia Britton Hooks.

Julia Britton died on March 10th 1942 at the age of ninety. She has lived a long life with compassion, courage and strong belief in justice, equality and good education for everyone. Her legacy and example of commitment to public service and education lives on. Her legacy continues in the work of her grandson Benjamin Hooks, who served as an executive director of the NAACP for almost two decades from 1977 to 1992, as well as in the work of her two sons, Henry and Robert, both of whom became photographers and founded their own studio called the Hooks Brothers Photographers. Her sister Mary Britton was similarly politically involved. In addition to being an educator and medical physician, she was a vigorous civil activist, journalist and social worker. Julia’s brother, Tom Britton, was a jockey of a great fame and talent. In his career as a jockey, he won the Kentucky Oaks on his horse Miss Hawkins in 1891, and came second in Kentucky Derby on Huron in 1892.

Julia Britton Hooks dedicated herself and her life to social service work. Her compassionate attitude to help and serve her community is an exceptional example of Berea College’s mission. She was a devout Christian, a talented musician, a church choir director, an exemplary humanitarian, and a civil rights activist. She did not permit racial prejudice and inequality hold her down; instead, she worked hard to bring joy and peace through her music and public service. She holds an honored and respected position in Berea’s history, as well as in the history of Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee.

Berea College awarded Julia Britton Hooks with the John G. Fee honorary award that many notable Berea alumni receive for their service and dedication to the community.

SOURCES :

Quarandillo, Ann Mary. Founders’ Day Honors “Angel of Beale Street.” May 17, 2006. URL: http://web.archive.org/web/20060517231134/http://www.berea.edu/publications/bereacollegemagazine/archives/winter2002/winter2002(Founders%27Day).asp

“Hooks, Julia Britton,” in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn. 1993.

“Julia Ann Amanda Moorhead Britton Hooks.” In Afro-American Encyclopedia: Or, the Thoughts, Doings, and Sayings of the Race, Embracing Lectures, Biographical Sketches, Sermons, Poems, Names of Universities, Colleges, Seminaries, Newspapers, Books, and a History of the Denominations, Giving the Numerical Strength of Each. In Fact, it Teaches Every Subject of Interest to the Colored People, as Discussed by More Than One Hundred of Their Wisest and Best Men and Women, Electronic Edition. By James T. Haley. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2000. pp. 563-564. URL: http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/haley/haley.html#p563

Julia Hooks, an activist and educator with passion! African American Registry: a non-profit education organization. URL: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/julia-hooks-activist-and-educator-passion

Julia Britton Hooks. Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era. October 6, 2010. URL: http://www.kywcrh.org/archives/375

Lewis, Selma. Julia Britton Hooks. The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. December 25, 2009. URL: http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=648

Lewis, Selma and Marjean G. Kremer, The Angel of Beale Street: A Biography of Julia Ann Hooks. 1986.

Mary Britton was a woman ahead of her time. The Bluegrass and Beyond. February 14, 2012. URL: http://tomeblen.bloginky.com/2012/02/14/mary-britton-was-a-woman-ahead-of-her-time/