Reign of Terror and Racism at University of Kentucky Medical School

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By Lachin Hatemi M.D

Lexington Kentucky is an interesting city; my adopted hometown; an ever
growing college town, full of potential. Surrounded by beautiful and
legendary horse farms, it is also home to the 2012 NCAA Basketball
champions: the Wildcats of the University of Kentucky. A team of mostly
black college athletes carried the championship cup back to Lexington, an
achievement recognized by the entire country and President Obama. Given
that the University’s sports teams were not integrated until the late 60’s,
it is worthy of note that of the University’s 8 NCAA basketball
championship teams, the 2012 team was the first to have an all African
American starting lineup. In the sports arena, UK has seemingly come a long
way when in comes to including African Americans and minorities, and
remains a popular destination for black high school athletes.
Unfortunately, the same degree of inclusion does not exist on the academic
side of the University. The numbers of undergraduate and graduate students,
professional students, and tenured professors do not come close to matching
the diversity of the overall US or state population.

Despite being home to many notable Black Americans and being the location
of a great deal of Black American history, Lexington, Kentucky has never
been seen as having a reputation of being a hospitable place for
minorities. Much of this reputation is rooted in the city’s ties to
slavery. The area known as Cheapside in downtown Lexington was once home to
the most well known slave auction facility in the south. It was here that
African slaves were beaten, sold, and lead off in chains, forever to be
separated from parents, siblings, children, brothers and sisters for the
sake of the greed and profit of the white aristocracy. It is a horrible
legacy, and in many ways its spirit still exists in the area, though in far
less apparent ways.

Henry Clay is looked upon with pride in the region as being a great
statesman. A high school is named after him, and his home in Lexington is a
tourist attraction. Clay’s role in the US congress as being a supposedly
great “peacemaker“ in advocating compromise between the north and south’s
debate over slavery is widely trumpeted as being a great achievement. He is
considered a hero for helping to stave off the civil war for 15 years –
but a hero from whose perspective? For the black slave, Clay’s supposed
noble efforts to delay the inevitable war that had to be fought for theri
freedom meant 15 more years of bondage, hard labor, brutality, rape of
women and children, and murder.

The spirit of racism was definitely publicly and historically evident on
Lexington’s UK campus for many years. State law forbade African Americans
from attending UK until 1947, when Lyman T. Johnson won a lawsuit against
UK and was admitted to the school. It would be 20 years later before UK
recruited a black athlete. More on that later.

Further evidence of racism at UK his hidden in the names of its buildings.
The Chandler Medical Center, the anchor of the medical campus, is named
after Governor Happy Chandler. As commissioner of baseball, Chandler
approved the inclusion of Jackie Robinson as the first black to play in the
major leagues. But Chandler’s pioneering effort of racial inclusion as
commissioner was largely offset at UK by his behavior in later years as a
board of trustee member, when he consistently used the word “n****r” openly
during board meetings and was never admonished or punished for his
behavior. On the contrary, he is seen by many as an admired part of
Kentucky history, and his use of the “N” word was considered by board
members and others as harmless and quaint, and even acceptable, as it was
deemed to be the acceptable way of speaking during Chandler’s day.

The legacy of racism relating to UK athletics goes back many years as well.
A residential apartment complex on campus is named after UK football player
Greg Page. Coming from the small mining town of Middleborough, KY, Greg was
a true star; he broke the racial barriers by being the first black football
recruit in UK’s history. Unfortunately, Greg Page never got the chance to
play in a game. Kentucky was not ready to permit the integration of its
sports program, not even by a native born son, simply because of the color
of his skin. Instead of celebrating the arrival of a talented player, Page
was in fact targeted for racial discrimination and violence by his
teammates. Such was the level of their racial hatred that Page would pay
with his life for daring to be a trailblazer. In a football practice
session, before playing a single game for UK, his white teammates targeted
him mercilessly. They hit him, tackled him, and piled on him with no
remorse. In a story that was routinely told and retold by adult and youth
alike in Lexington in the years following the incident, Page was
deliberatly and vicously subjected to one hit after another, his teammates
unleashing all of their hatred on him until his body suffered lethal
injuries and simply gave out. Greg Page’s neck injuries during that
practice session left him paralyzed and comatose.

This all took place in 1967. Page and Nat Northington were the only two
blacks on the University of Kentucky football team, the only blacks in all
of the Southeastern Conference. Whereas Northington broke the color barrier
wearing the Wildcats uniform, Greg Page died 38 days after that practice
session beating. Nat Northington, not wishing to suffer the same fate as
his teammate, packed his belongings and left UK forever. Though the entire
incident amounted to a veritable lynching, no charges were ever filed and
the incident was never investigated. It was instead “white washed” as have
been so incidents of racism and hate over the years at UK.

.
That day, Greg Page was not alone in that football field. Everybody who
witnessed the event knew what his teammates were doing to Greg. Coaches,
spectators, other players, they all chose to do nothing to stop it.
Everybody who was in that football field that day was guilty, they are all
killers of Greg. They were all driven by a spirit of arrogance and racism,
and they trusted on and were rewarded by a system that covered it up and
refused to investigate.

Today, much has changed at the University Kentucky’s campus, but many
things remain the same. It has been 45 years since Greg Page’s death, and
despite a mission statement that claims that as Kentucky’s “flagship
institution” the University “plays a critical leadership role by promoting
diversity and inclusion,” racism and segregation is still alive and
widespread on campus. Racism, however, has changed its form, becoming more
subtle, more hideous, and more systematic. But then again, for a look at
some far more visible signs of prejudice and racism, a quick visit to the
campus will suffice in making racism and the lack of ethnic diversity
clearly visible to the naked eye.

At the student center, African Americans are employed widespread in food
services. There, and in other campus buildings such as the Patterson Office
Tower and the Whitehall Classroom Building, the custodial staff is also
predominantly black. But check out any of the offices on the 18 floors of
Patterson and you will be hard pressed to see a single black person at an
information desk, at a secretary’s desk. or in any of the faculties’
offices. At the appropriately named Whitehall Classroom Building, a look
into the classrooms reveals that black instructors are virtually
non-existent. Are we to believe that blacks only make good food servers and
custodians, and athletes, but not good secretaries or receptionists or
teachers? Why are there so few blacks in the more prestigious, better
paying UK jobs?

When it comes to the leadership of our predominantly black, money making
championship basketball team, UK is definitely committed to paying that
team’s leader millions of dollars. But for the average black student at UK,
one of their mentor’s and leaders was deemed worth far less than our
beloved Coach Cal. In the month following the basketball team’s NCAA win,
UK’s black students and alumni witnessed the termination of Chester Grundy,
a man who had dedicated 30 years to working on behalf of UK’s minority
students as an advocate and mentor. As the founder of UK’s Martin Luther
King Jr. Cultural Center, and having brought the popular Spotlight Jazz
Series and Roots and Heritage Festival to UK and Lexington, Grundy was a
strong figure to the African American community on campus and in the
region. UK chose to cite budget cuts in justifying the end of Grundy’s
position. Grundy’s termination shows African American students and local
residents that UK really doesn’t care about them — unless they are
bringing in millions in revenue by excelling on the basketball court or the
football field.

Actions like these by UK which clearly ignore and work against diversity
and inclusion are visible to anyone who looks closely, but they still go
largely unquestioned and ignored. The status quo, the white aristocracy,
stays in control. Think then how much more racist and discriminatory action
is taking place where it is even less visible.

This brings us to another major area of concern that remains hidden from
the public — it is the poor enrollment and retention of black students at
University of Kentucky Medical School. A significant number of black
medical students have either been dismissed or held back a year or two in
their education over that last decade. The exodus of black students is so
great, it cannot be explained simply by individual student’s failures.

The reign of terror and racism at University of Kentucky Medical School
corresponds to the tenure of Dr. Darrell Chester Jennings, who was the dean
of Medical Education at University of Kentucky for most of the last decade.
During the same period, Dr. Jay Perman was the dean of medical
school. Under their leadership, countless black medical students had to
end their dreams to become physicians. Dr. Jennings was never reluctant to
use his power and authority to misrepresent student records and punish a
student by denying access to his grades. Currently, Dr. Jennings is the
chairman of Pathology department and Dr. Jay Perman is the president of the
University of Maryland. Their actions were never investigated, at least not
until now.

It would not surprise me if UK names a building after Dr. Jennings or Dr.
Jay Perman — and unless their actions are thoroughly investigated and
exposed, they probably will. But their efforts to keep minorities from
succeeding at the College of Medicine, and the underlying racism that
persists in the med school and throughout UK must be exposed.

The NAACP is now requesting the demographics and retention rates of black
medical students between 2004-2010, as well as overall records to compare
to those with students who are allowed to stay in the program. Until the
enrollment data becomes fully available to the general public, we will
continue to fail to recognize the depth of systematic discrimination at UK.

UK‘s refusal to release the records to the NAACP following the
organization’s initial request shows that UK has much to hide. But the time
has come for the “white washing“ by the aristocracy at UK and in this
region to end. The demographics of this past presidential election shows
that America is changing, becoming increasingly a nation of increased
ethnic and cultural diversity. The oppressive regimes of discrimination,
and the spirits of racism and arrogance behind them, must be exposed and
brought down.

UK must decide where its future lies. Does the university want to remain a
part of the old “white” America, the old south, where sometimes overt
racism and discrimination still go largely unquestioned, where blacks and
minorities are tolerated or promoted as long as they conform to the desires
and cultural rules of the white aristocracy? Or do they want to join the
new millennium, where inclusion of race, ethnicity and culture is embraced?
In other words, do they want to truly live up to their own mission
statement, and as Kentucky’s “flagship institution” play “a critical
leadership role by promoting diversity and inclusion”?

Time will tell…

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22 Responses to Reign of Terror and Racism at University of Kentucky Medical School

  1. Icdatruth January 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

    But yet we still send our children there to make millions for the school in order to chase the dream of reaching the pros, which is slavery on another level. We as a people need to boycott the university as a whole, send our kids to black colleges or at least to kentucky’s less racist rivals to send them the message that “we don’t need you”. Let’s see how far their athletic programs go without a single black on them.

    This is what they wanted before so let’s give it to them now!

    Reply
  2. C. Marshall January 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Why don’t they go to HBCUs — Grambling?

    Reply
  3. marcus davis January 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Why in the hell would black folks want to attend a place like uk to begin with.Whats wrong with black colleges like Moorhouse etc?
    What is it black folks want to be accepted by white people this badly? Black folks never seem to learn.

    Reply
    • Sharif Muhammad January 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      So you think that blacks should only go to all black colleges? Do you really think that is the answer to race issues in the US? Further segregating the two races will do no good, but cause even more racial disruption and distrust. What if your white neighbor were to say that white kids should only go to all white colleges. That would be overtly racist, but what you are saying isn’t?

      Reply
  4. Latrice January 10, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    A few of you took the words right out of my mouth. Why are people sending their kids to these schools? The story about Greg Page was horriffic,but did he really need to play with these racists? Why oh why wass he trying to be accepted so badly that in the end it cost him his life. Black athletes go to HBCUs. The money will follow you!!! Sometimes it seems we feel we have not arrived or made it unless we are accepted by white people. There is nothing wrong with wanting peace unless it comes at your demise

    Reply
  5. Anita January 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    My Aunt had a Phd. She was on the staff at U of K in the late 70′s. She stated then about the racism. They would not give her tenure. Promoted white people with less education over her.

    Reply
  6. Henry Stringfellow January 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    t least you can get anterview. A Small tape recorder may be useful if the bias is obvious and would support a law suit. If more qualifier blacks apply and are not hired with their little tape recorders, more blacks will be employed. In the doctor in this case, Some of the best surgeons are black. Blacks are not stupid and only need training to start their own business. Families need to pool their money as the aisian do to start a business. Learn a trade. There is a demand for people to shoe horses. They are calles farriers. Apprentise to one.

    Prepare sugar glazed donuts, packaged 2 or 4 to the package and take them to gas stations early in the morning. To get started, give some away so they will sell. Any small pastery that people can buy on the way to work well. Watch out for county food inspectors. Do not put your name and address on the package. Because the store manager is the one who would buy the donuts for sale, he will be the one to sell and make the profit, because the sale is actually off the books and that is a selling point. Think smart and work smart. Sears Roebuck was started by a black man and a white man. I think Sears was black. Think smart and work smart. You can do it.

    Reply
  7. Marcus & Yvonne Lackey January 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    As graduates of UK we find it hard to believe that more hasn’t changed. We were at UK when the first black student was admitted. We understood the difficulties at that time. We would like a response from the present UK adminstration before I pass judgement on the validity of this report.

    Reply
    • Christopher January 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      I believe that the absence of a response is a valid response to the situation as it clearly states in the article. The fact that records are not being released to counter or substantiate the claims should at least imply that someone has something to hide. The surmounting testimony from numerous attendees would also lead me to suspect quite a bit from this university. The fact that you did not experience or witness much leads me to believe that you were likely part of the advantaged class and therefore implies that little evidence exists that would convince you.

      Reply
      • Phil Thompson March 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm

        Christopher,
        I have responded a dozen times to refute the lies in this article. Concerning the treament and death of Greg Page, not one word of it is true! Read my comments and watch the documentary if you want the TRUTH.

        Phil Thompson
        UK football letterman 1966-69

        Reply
    • Phil Thompson March 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks for being objective and critical thinkers! The author of this article has perpetrated a complete lie regarding how Greg & Nate were treated by teammates and put forth not one word of truth about the practice session we were going thru when Greg was injured. Not one word is true!

      I was Greg Page’s friend, teammate, roomy AND pallbearer. I was 30 ft from the drill where Greg was hurt…and nothing the author says about is true.

      If you contact me at my email, I’ll send you some other things that will give you what you want…TRUTH.

      Phil Thompson
      UK football letterman 1966-69

      Reply
  8. Dmead99 January 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    After learning from my father how he was treated when he applied to UK back in the 60′s, I have never been a fan nor will I ever be. I lived in Lexington for one year after graduating from nursing school and couldn’t wait to leave. The pure hatred I experienced in that brief amount of time was enough to last a lifetime. I raised my sons in ATL where, despite a few ignorant people, they grew up embracing diversity and feel comfortable around all people. Shame on UK for allowing this continued behavior and exploiting young AA men. Also shame on the families of these young men and women for allowing them to be used is such a manner.

    Reply
  9. Pastor W. E. White January 14, 2013 at 12:40 am

    This is a great informative article. However, there must be a way to reach the potential athlete and educate them concerning the racial history of this and other like schools.
    These young men and women, having very little life experiences, can be taking advantage of quite easily. They should seek a boarder understanding of not just the athletic program, but the school’s entire programs. To assist these young people their parents must be involve.
    I have grandsons who are gifted athletes; we are involved in their development. There is no way my sons would allow their sons to participate in such a school. These young people should avoid these “NEW PLANTATION.”

    Reply
    • Phil Thompson March 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      Pastor White…Please DO NOT BELIEVE the lies in this article. Not one word about the situation of Greg Page’s death is true. I was Greg’s friend, roomy, teammate AND one of his pallbearer. This article is totally false and does nothing but spread racial hatred.

      Contact me at my eamil and I’ll send you things that will provide you want you should want…the TRUTH.

      Phil Thompson
      UK football letterman 1966-69

      Reply
  10. kharyVu January 14, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    The civil war was not fought to free the slaves. And Abraham Lincoln did not free them either. “The Emancipation Proclamation” simply transfered ownership of slaves from citizens to the “State”.Hence the rise of convict leasing after Reconstruction.

    Reply
  11. Angie January 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

    How disgusting is UK. I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and I have a sister that currently works there which she constantly talks about her racist boss. After reading this article I will NEVER again be a UK fan. I have a nephew right now in Lexington, Ky who plays on the JV and Varsity team who hopes to play for UK one day but I will see what he thinks after reading this article. Shame on you UK…UGH

    Reply
    • Phil Thompson March 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Angie…there is ZERO truth in this article. You can hate UK for whatever reasons, but if you hate them for the treatment and death of Greg Page as its described by tis author…then you’re a victim of a lie. There is not one word of truth in what this article says about Greg Page and Nate Northington. I know, because I was their friend, teammate & roomy. If you want the truth, contact me at my email and I’ll send you facts and a documentary done by a black journalist about the tradegy. Don’t form your opinion on a lie.

      Phil Thompson
      UK football letterman 1966-69

      Reply
  12. Sabrathia Draine Ishakwue January 26, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Come on, is anybody really surprised? This is a nationwide problem. Maybe not as obvious as UK, but certainly noticible if you pay attention. You’ll rarely find a school with enough tenured minority professors that resemble the schools student body.

    Reply
  13. RVHodge February 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    The 21st century………….Young people have to look beyond the
    dollar sign. Our forefathers came to these shores against their will. They did not sign up for a vacation cruise from Africa to the U.S. Those who survived beyond the civil war taught their children to get an education FIRST!! and this mantra came down the genera-
    tions until it met the INSTANT GRATIFICATION DEMON…….AND EVERY AA MALE WANTED TO BE ANOTHER (star athlete) Michael
    Jordan……… . Michael Jordan reached and surmounted his “sports” goals by hard WORK and self mastery , at something he genuiinely loved; and he entertained the World who was dazzled by his athletiicism; and who also had a college education.

    Reply
  14. Shannon Ragland March 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    The description of events regarding Greg Page is completely false. And as the author of The Thin Thirty, I’m no apologist for the football regime in this era.
    Page was not targeted or abused because of his race. Suffered a spinal cord injury in a freak accident at practice. I’ve interviewed numerous players about this incident.
    This author cites no evidence regarding Page. He can’t. His version is fabricated.

    Reply
  15. Shannon Ragland March 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    This article is blatantly false as it describes Mr. Page. As the author of The Thin Thirty, I’m no apologist for the UK football regime in this era.

    This author cites no evidence. He is making up facts. The best evidence is that Page suffered a spinal cord injury in a tragic accident. To suggest he was targeted is shameful.

    I don’t have any opinions on the author’s larger points. But an author that starts with a lie is suspect. There are hard truths in UK’s racial history. This isn’t one.

    Reply
  16. Ann G. January 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    First of all, had Dr. King not stepped forward and went places and demanded respect, where would we as a people be now, true we still have a ways to go, but he got us started and the only way to stop racism in its tracks is to be right there in the mist, that is what brings about change! I live in Lexington, KY and came up doing the 60′s and racism was ripe here at UK but it has also come a long ways, racism is everywhere and always will be as long as you have the KKK, skin heads, etc., rearing their children to believe the BS but to them I say, I am here to stay and I just suggest you get over it! The biggest racist organization in the world is not the universities but the place we are supposed to go to save our souls, the Church!

    Reply

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