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Exploring Primary Sources: Lyman T. Johnson Exercise

This guide contains the materials and activities used for a class exercise on Lyman T. Johnson, the first African American to attend the University of Kentucky.

Activity Information

This module focuses on the courageous acts of Lyman T. Johnson, the first African American student to attend the University of Kentucky. His struggle to integrate UK in 1948-1949 included a lawsuit that compelled the University to allow him to attend and to pave the way for full integration. This is one of the most important moments in the history of the University of Kentucky, and this module is designed to provide you with the means to better understand this significant historical event and what it means to the history of the university.

Lyman T. Johnson's legacy is appropriately celebrated on campus with scholarships, fellowships, and even a dormitory named after him. He was also awarded an honorary degree in 1979 by the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees. In this exercise, however, you will see that this was not always the case, and that there were many obstacles to Johnson's brave activism. 

Your instructor has detailed instructions on the last tab of the guide, but the main focus of this online exercise is for you to investigate and answer questions about primary source materials related to this moment in time. For this exercise, focus on bias. There is bias everywhere: some positive, some negative. As you read through your document and answer these questions, try to put yourself in the shoes of whoever was creating or consuming the primary source document that you see now. 

You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at

Link to Document