Bardstown Ind. wraps up Black History Month observations in a big way with assemblies, performances, lessons from WKU professor/co-author of African-American life

Kentucky Standard, Bardstown, Feb. 19, 2017

‘Learn together, march forever’

BCS hosts annual Black History Month programs

Weeks of classroom activities focused on Black History Month at Bardstown City Schools culminated Wednesday and Thursday with special school-wide assemblies offering readings, history highlights and student performances. The focus was learning together, and Dr. John Hardin, a professor of African American Studies at Western Kentucky University, spoke with middle and high school students on Thursday about what Black History Month means.

“I’ve been asked by some people why black history is not a part of American history and you have a specific month to talk about it,” Hardin began. “Black History Month is not about taking blacks out of American history, but making sure African Americans are included in all of American history in all months.”

With racial discrimination and hatred still a part of the world today, Hardin said, providing a “clearer view of the past” involving African Americans is important.

In 2003, Hardin joined two other Kentucky historians, Karen Cotton McDaniel and Dr. Gerald L. Smith, in creating an encyclopedia of African American life and culture in Kentucky.

“It took five years of just planning and organization, plus fundraising nearly $400,000 to start the writing and research on this project,” Hardin said.

The book, published in 2015, includes more than 1,000 stories involving African Americans in Kentucky. Among them, Hardin said, were several with Bardstown and Nelson County ties.

Daniel Rudd, born to slaves in Bardstown in 1854, later established the American Catholic Tribune newspaper dedicated to issues affecting black Catholics. Rudd also founded the National Black Catholic Congress, which is still active today. Alexander Walters, born in what is now the Talbott Tavern, was eventually selected as a bishop in the A.M.E. Zion church, preached around the world, and helped establishthe National AfroAmerican Council as well as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Joseph Seamon Cotter, born of a free blackwoman in Bardstown, has ties to the Rowan family and later became a schoolteacher and principal in Louisville. Cotter also became a writer and strongly supported libraries. Joseph B. Hammond, born in 1916 in Bardstown, became a business owner in Louisville, advised former Gov. Martha Layne Collins and was recognized by the state forhis efforts to the community.

The last notable name that Hardin mentioned had a personal connection — his older brother, who died in 2012. James Dwight Randolf Hardin, later known as Boniface Hardin, grew up in Bardstown and was ordained as a Catholic priest. He became involved in the civil rights movement andbecame a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He later founded and became president of Martin University in Indianapolis.

“He wanted to participate in Black History,” Hardin said, and becoming a college president allowed him to do that.

Summing up his presentation, Hardin said the students should take pride in their past and their community, using the men of his presentation as an example.

“Bardstown and Nelson County has produced outstanding people, regardless of race, who became successfulin business, education as well as many other fields,” he said. And those who trace their roots back to Bardstown, he said, discover learning together allowed them to move forward with other people.

“Success is not measured by how much you achieve but how well you work to achieve it.”

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