Interview SummaryA 1929 graduate of Lexington Dunbar High School, Dr. Strider received his college degree from Fisk University before studying art in New York City with Aaron Douglas, the future head of the Fisk Art Department. His paternal grandfather, the Reverend Ben Strider, founded the Gunn Tabernacle (now Wesley) Church and was a former slave. Dr. Strider's mother, Bessie Strider Cooper, was a strong, educated woman who loved music and grew and sold her own flowers. His father worked for clock maker Isaac Adler as a jeweler, and Dr. Strider recalls the influence his parents, especially his father, had upon his life.
Dr. Strider discusses growing up in a close knit neighborhood where all the citizens were of the same socio-economic level and possessed of a strong religious faith. He also tells how the interaction between home, school and church created a strong sense of racial pride. He remembers Robert H. Hogan, the builder of the Meyer Building, and reminisces about Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Fouse. Dr. Strider remarks about the establishment of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in the late 1920s by female members of a church congregation who recognized a need in the community, and the formation of a church administered day nursery.
He comments upon the inter-racial project with University of Kentucky students and YMCA director Bart Peak, formulated to improve communication between the races through social activities, athletic competitions and extension classes taught by university instructors. Seminars were begun at the start of each school year to assist students, panels were set up to inform the white community of African American achievements, and cultural activities based upon African American art, music and theater were initiated. Dr. Strider remarks upon the need for textbook revisions to reflect African American contributions.
Following his sojourn to New York City, Dr. Strider returned to Lexington in 1934 where he accepted a teaching position at Dunbar High School as an art teacher. He recalls the teaching conditions under which he worked, the achievement of success by students despite discrimination, and the establishment of African American history classes at Dunbar without State Board of Education approval. He recalls the closing of Berea College to African American students, and remembers Lucy Howard Smith, principal of Booker T. Washington school, and John Hope Franklin. After state legislation was passed requiring the state to pay the out of state tuition for African American students not allowed to attend the University of Kentucky, the university relented and integrated classes on campus commenced in the early 1950s. Dr. Strider received his Master's of Education in art at UK, and he remarks about the difficulties faced by African American students. Further graduate school work led to his appointment as the first African American on full professorship at Morehead State University in 1966, where he remained until his retirement in 1979. Dr. Strider discusses the differences between the quality of education received before and after segregation, the lack of leadership and interest by white teachers and staff, the merger of the Lexington Teacher's Association and Lexington Education Association, and the changing attitudes of society and how they have impacted education.
Dr. Strider recalls the reputation of radicalism slapped on the NAACP in Lexington by African American minsters, the religious community wide distaste for "corrupt" politics, the changing roles of the African American churches and their leadership, and the impact of the civil rights movement upon Lexington. He discusses the progressiveness in racial equality in the deep South and North as compared to Lexington, and details a list of improved conditions for African Americans since 1940. He reminisces about taking pictures for the Lousiville Defender and Pittsburgh Courier during the civil rights movement, and his support for the movement. Commenting upon the lack of African American businesses in Lexington, Dr. Strider talks about the lack of support by the community, apathy and poor business operation.