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Saving Stories: Kentucky family’s tradition of activism started with Juneteenth

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The Nunn Center has recorded oral history interviews with Jim Embry in every decade since the 1970's
Nunn Center for Oral History
The Nunn Center has recorded oral history interviews with Jim Embry in every decade since the 1970's

We are heading into Juneteenth weekend – a holiday where we observe the official emancipation of African American slaves at the end of the Civil War, and in this segment of WUKY’s Award Winning History series, Saving Stories, Doug Boyd from the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in the UK Libraries highlights an interview with long-time racial and social justice activist Jim Embry. Embry explains how the roots of his activism stretch all the way back to Juneteenth.

In this part of the October 2021 interview, Jim Embry describes the culture of activism that his family established over several generations. He discusses the role of his great-great-grandfathers in the Civil War, including several battles they participated in to prepare the way for Ulysses Grant and the Union Army. Embry details the education of his great-grandfather at Berea College alongside the grandfather of civil rights activist Julian Bond. Embry considers how his great-grandfather's life experiences inspired his family to take on important roles in their community, such as midwives and blacksmiths. Embry then describes moving to Covington, Kentucky when he was eight, and why his mother joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He recalls attending CORE meetings as a family, as well as the protest signs that his brother designed. Embry attended nonviolence training workshops with his family and relays what he learned in these workshops. Embry recounts the influence of his mother and CORE in breaking down discriminatory hiring and employment practices.


Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.