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Kentucky African American Encyclopedia Editors Receive Living Legacy Award

By Ashley Cox

(Feb. 19, 2016) — Editors Gerald Smith, Karen Cotton McDaniel and John A. Hardin of The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia, published by University Press of Kentucky (UPK), were named recipients of the 2016 Living Legacy Award during the 13th annual Black History Month Celebration, held Feb. 10, at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort.

"The work by Dr. Smith, Dr. McDaniel and Dr. Hardin is a major step in preserving the accomplishments of African-American leaders," said Sen. Gerald A. Neal, of Louisville. "We were honored to have acknowledged them by bestowing our highest recognition, the Living Legacy Award."

The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia is the first encyclopedia of its kind in the nation. The publication includes biographical sketches of politicians and community leaders as well as pioneers in art, science and industry from across the Commonwealth. For researchers, students and history buffs, the encyclopedia is an indispensable reference that highlights the diversity of the Kentucky’s culture and history.

This year's celebration, hosted by the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus, focused on the theme "The Unfinished Business of Kentucky: 'Symbolism and Reality.'" Gerald Smith, the Theodore A. Hallam Professor and the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar in Residence at the University of Kentucky Department of History, delivered the event's keynote address, "What is Kentucky Saying About Us (African-Americans)?" to a standing room only crowd in the Capitol.

The event was presented by the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus. Along with Sen. Neal, the caucus is composed of Sen. Reginald Thomas and Rep. George Brown Jr., of Lexington; Rep. Jim Glenn, of Owensboro; Rep. Derrick Graham, of Frankfort; Rep. Reginald Meeks and Rep. Darryl Owens, of Louisville; and Rep. Arnold Simpson, of Covington. Several other members of the caucus joined Neal in speaking on the significance of the Black History Month celebration. Graham led the Legislative Roll Call. Several other legislators and Gov. Matt Bevin were also in attendance.

"This is not just a celebration of African-American history," Neal explained, "This is a celebration of American history. Black History Month presents us an opportunity to remember the important legacy of African-Americans in Kentucky and the nation — much of which would have been lost over the years if not for this special time of remembrance. It is important that we know and honor many of the notable citizens who have contributed to our history as well as pay respect to the many, many others whom history has forgotten. I encourage all Kentuckians to join me as we observe Black History Month."

Alumnus and noted UK historian, Smith is the author, editor or co-editor of three books and other publications on history. He is pastor of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

Alumna Karen Cotton McDaniel is professor emeritus at Kentucky State University, where she was a tenured full professor and director of libraries. She has more than 20 publications on black Kentuckians, including book chapters, articles and encyclopedic essays. She has also taught at Eastern Kentucky University and Berea College.

John A. Hardin, professor of history at Western Kentucky University, is the author of two books, several major articles and numerous book reviews on Kentucky African-American history. He has taught at Kentucky State University and Eastern Washington University and has also served as adjunct faculty at the University of Louisville and UK.

UPK is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, representing a consortium that now includes all of the state universities, five private colleges and two historical societies. The editorial program of the press focuses on the humanities and the social sciences. Offices for the administrative, editorial, production and marketing departments of the press are found at UK, which provides financial support toward the operating expenses of the publishing operation.