Kentucky Heritage Council
Forum on Kentucky African American political participation planned March 5 in conjunction with 50th anniversary commemoration of civil rights march on Frankfort

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, February 19, 2014  
Revision Date:  Wednesday, February 19, 2014 
Contact Information:  Diane Comer
(502) 564-7005 Ext. 120

Frankfort, Ky. – A panel discussion addressing participation by Kentucky African Americans in the political process will take place in conjunction with the upcoming 50th anniversary commemoration of the civil rights march on Frankfort. The event is being hosted by the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission (KAAHC) in partnership with the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office, the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.

Justice William E. McAnulty Jr.“The William McAnulty Forum on African Americans and the Future of Kentucky Politics” will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, in the Brown-Forman Room at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in downtown Frankfort. The event honors the late Justice William E. McAnulty Jr., the first African American to serve on the Kentucky Supreme Court. The forum is free.

Panelists will be Bardstown Mayor Bill Sheckles, Perryville Mayor Anne Sleet, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilman Chris Ford, and Owensboro City Commissioner Pamela Smith-Wright, in addition to several guest panelists. The moderator will be Renee Shaw, producer and host of KET’s minority affairs program “Connections with Renee Shaw” and first vice president of the KHS governing board. 

The forum will explore past and present political participation by African Americans as candidates, party leaders and voters, and also examine opportunities awaiting African Americans in future state and local elections, according to Dr. Gerald Smith, KAAHC chair, associate professor of history/Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Kentucky and member of the KHS governing board.

“Kentucky African Americans have a long and distinguished history in state and local politics, and the McAnulty Forum will address that as well as the current political landscape within the Bluegrass State,” said Smith. “Through this discussion, we want to explore how racially diverse Kentucky politics really are 50 years after the march on Frankfort, as well as what we have learned, and where we need to go in terms of engaging more African Americans to vote and run for political office.”

Panelists will be asked to share their political experiences and address the following questions, among others:

  • What challenges have African Americans faced in seeking an elected office?
  • Do African Americans still feel they are on the margins of Kentucky politics?
  • What strategies can be employed to encourage and expand political participation?
  • How do we inspire the next generation to pursue political opportunities?

Calling for passage of a statewide public accommodations measure, some 10,000 demonstrators – including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson – marched to the Kentucky Capitol on March 5, 1964, and helped advance the cause of civil rights in the state. The 2014 commemorative march is organized by Allied Organizations for Civil Rights, which includes the KAAHC.

McAnulty earned his law degree from the University of Louisville and served as a juvenile court judge, district judge and circuit court judge in Jefferson County prior to going into private practice. He was re-elected to the circuit court as chief judge in 1993, then appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1998. He was appointed to the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2006 by then-Governor Ernie Fletcher, and later that year was elected to a full eight-year term. He died in August 2007 of complications from lung cancer. A bust of McAnulty by noted sculptor Ed Hamilton was unveiled at the State Capitol in 2010.

For more information about the forum, contact Tressa Brown, Kentucky Heritage Council African American heritage coordinator, at 502-564-7005, ext. 125 or

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An agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Kentucky Heritage Council / State Historic Preservation Office is responsible for the identification, protection and preservation of prehistoric resources and historic buildings, sites and cultural resources throughout the Commonwealth, in partnership with other state and federal agencies, local communities and interested citizens. This mission is integral to making communities more livable and has a far-ranging impact on issues as diverse as economic development, heritage tourism, jobs creation, affordable housing, community revitalization, environmental conservation and quality of life.