Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
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The Day Law

After visiting the integrated Berea College, Carl Day, a legislator from Breathitt County, decided that educating blacks and whites together was wrong and began pushing the General Assembly to outlaw the practice. The resulting Day Law was enacted in 1904, and was immediately put to the test when the Madison County grand jury indicted the Berea trustees for violating it. The subsequent court case ultimately wound its way, in 1908, to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court upheld the Day Law, though Justice John Marshal Harlan, a Kentuckian, dissented from the majority opinion.

Having lost the legal action, Berea was forced to close its doors to black students. But the college raised money to establish the Lincoln Institute, a residential school for black students in Shelby County. Lincoln opened in 1912, and its last class graduated in 1966.

The Day Law remained in effect until 1954, although it was amended in 1948 to allow black nursing and medical students to be educated in medicine at all-white Louisville hospitals. It was finally struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional and mandated that education be integrated “with all deliberate speed.”

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