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Whether it's art, literature, bluegrass or blues, Black Kentuckians have had a hand in shaping it. The African American Folklorist explores that history by providing a more personal look at culture. Building upon the existing newspaper and podcast series, The African American Folklorist presents a chance to share lesser known stories of influential figures.

The African American Folklorist: Preserving Caney-Fork

Carey-Fork School.JPG
Lamont Jack Pearley
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Caney Fork school building

The Caney-Fork Rosenwald School in Allen County was established by the investment of Julius Rosenwald, a philanthropist, the president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, and $1,500 in tax donations. Though the history of the grounds begins well before the Rosenwald school fund and its inception, however, both its humble beginnings and the creation of the school play significant roles in the value of the eight-acre location and black history of Allen County, Kentucky.

The Rosenwald Schools were developed throughout the Jim Crow South and were the result of a friendship between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington. Upon meeting, Rosenwald and Washington built a strong friendship based on the shared ideology of education and the lack thereof in the south for African American communities. This led to Rosenwald sitting on the board for Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee university.

After Washington’s death, it would be the blueprint and catalyst of Rosenwald’s philanthropic work to educate black residents of the south. Julius would give over 4 million dollars to construct over 5000 schools, shops, and teachers' homes in many states. The funds would come with a stipulation inspired by Washington and his Tuskegee success. With Rosenwald’s agreement to pay 1/3 of the cost for construction and building, the local communities would have to furnish the land, contribute labor, materials, and remaining funds. Again, due to the success of Booker T. Washington, and his Tuskegee students, the Black communities of the south galvanized to raise 4.7 million dollars.

The WKU Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology is working with the Caney-Fork Rosenwald School on this project.

Below you will find an excerpt from the Weekend Edition Segment:

Dianne Glover: This plot of land that is still my ancestors. I am a fourth-generation part of this land.

Lamont Jack Pearley: That was Dianne Glover, Chair of African American Preservation Committee. I sat down with Glover on location in front of the Caney-Fork Rosenwald school and church. The importance of this location cannot be overstated.

Dianne Glover: The significance of where we are sitting is that the school is a part of the Rosenwald schools. It was built in 1920 21. The school was built by using 1500 and tax donations, and $500 from the Rosenwald grant money.

Lamont Jack Pearley: The Rosenwald schools were developed throughout the Jim Crow South, and were the result of a friendship between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington. Their shared ideology of education and the lack of it in the South for African American communities led to Rosenwald sitting on the board for Booker T's Tuskegee University. After Washington's death, it would be the blueprint and catalyst of Rosenwald's philanthropic work to educate black residents of the South. Rosenwald would give over $4 million to construct over 5000 schools, shops, and teachers' homes in many states.

Dianne Glover: The school consisted of a classroom, kitchen, and coatroom. Some of the founders were Nate Holder, Charlie Holder, and Henry Holder. Some of the teachers were Garnett Holder, Jesse Hudson, Clara Whitney, Sarah Hughes, Nintha Shipley Ponds,

Lamont Jack Pearley: Here in Kentucky, 158 schools were built through the Julius Rosenwald fund, but there's more! Carey-Fork Church that sits on the land predates the school.

Dianne Glover: Now the church was probably built by my ancestors. It was built in 1800. And there are minutes documented that associated meetings were held at the church at 1880. The church continued to have services from 1880 to the late 1980s and 90s. And we had to close due to my uncle passing away. Clarence, who was the minister.

Lamont Jack Pearley: As we walk the location, pay homage to those who are buried. We see people that was born in 1890s in the early 1900s, as well as in the 1940s.

Dianne Glover: The cemetery was probably around the 1800s Also, I'm pretty certain there are Civil War veterans buried there. Also, one of the examples of the Civil War Vet is Sebastian Hayter.

Lamont Jack Pearley: Glover and the committee are working with the Folk Studies Department at WKU to document the story and history of the location. She says the committee's plan is to document all the black community history around Allen County.

Lamont Jack Pearley is an applied folklorist, ethnographer and African American traditional music historian and practitioner enrolled at WKU in the African American and Folk Studies programs. He is an African American Studies Ambassador with the African American Studies Department, hosts a weekly segment on WKU Public Radio called the African American Folklorist, and is the editor of the African American Folklorist Newspaper. He was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer (2017) and Great Blues Artist (2018).
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