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Jacqueline Burnside
Day Law
Page 1-3

On January 12, 1904, Representative Carl Day, a Democrat from Breathitt County, introduced House Bill No. 25, entitled "an Act to Prohibit white and colored persons from attending the same school." The penalty for any person or corporation convicted of violation was $1000 ( Kentucky Journal of House of Representatives 201, 1904, p. 523). House Committee on Education No. 1 received the Bill on referral and set its hearing. Berea College President William G. Frost, accompanied by Mrs. Eleanor Frost and others of the faculty, traveled to Frankfort to remonstrate against the bill. However, the college delegation was not permitted to appear until the Committee had met in closed session with a small group of Berea citizens who favored the bill (Louisville Courier Journal, February 2, 1904). Speaking for the group was the president of Berea’s Democrat Club, J.M. Early, a white merchant. In addition to those Bereans, other advocates were State Superintendent of Education Harry McChesney and Representative Carl Day, along with his fellow Breathitt county democrats, judges D.B. Redwine and James Hargis (Tapp and Klotter, 1977, pp 396-400, 418-425). Early told the committee that he represented the town’s business interests who thought a separation of the races of Berea College would "be to the best interests of the community as well as of the State" (Louisville Courier Journal, February 2, 1904, p.1). McChesney emphasized how the bill would force this private college into compliance with Kentucky’s Constitution and statues which already prohibited racial coeducation in public schools. Moreover, he noted that the question of equality had become acute due to President Roosevelt’s invitation to Booker T. Washington, a Negro, to have lunch at the White House. Thus, "if the Berea ideas were carried out to logical conclusion, there would be social equality of the races in Kentucky" (lbid). Day told the committee that he had introduced a bill for the purpose of "preventing the contamination of the white children of Kentucky" (lbid). Redwine and Hargis also lent their support to the measure claiming that the races could be educated separately. After the bill’s advocates spoke, the committee opened their session to receive Berea College’s delegation who presented an historical overview of the College, striving to show how racial coeducation had been maintained for four decades without harm to white or black students. Later upon hearing about the allegations made against the College by the advocate group, Frost and other Day Law opponents lobbied legislators, appealing to moderates, Republican and Democrat, to use their private influences to defeat the bill’s passage. Day Law supporters, adept at rousing anti-social equality, anti-Negro sentiments, organized a mass public meeting at the Richmond Courthouse. They argued that citizens should support the bill because Berea was teaching African-Americans to be the social equals of the white man and woman (J.A. Sullivan’s speech, WGF Papers). Speaking in defense of Berea College, James A. White, a black alumnus, lawyer and teacher in Richmond, emphasized that the advantage of Berea College was not in social equality but rather in being educated together because whites and blacks then become accustomed to each other as fellow human beings ( James A. White’s speech, WFG Papers). Prior to the House’s vote, endorsements from the Richmond meeting were read into the record. Day’s bill passed the House and later, the Senate (Kentucky Journal of the Senate, March 11, 1904, pp 1050- 1053). The legislature thus enacted a law to prohibit racial coeducation in a private school even through racial coeducation had never caused the social evils that the Day Law was purported to rectify. Although Berea College appealed their case to the United States Supreme Court, the Court upheld the law as constitutional and it remained in effect until amended by the legislature in 1950.


Jacqueline J. Burnside, "Philanthropists and Politicians: a Sociological Profile of Berea College, 1855-1908," Ph.D. dissertation Yale University, 1988.

               William G. Frost papers (WGF), Berea College Archives, Berea, Kentucky.

Hambleton Tapp and James Klotter, Kentucky Decades of Discord, 1865-1900 ( Frankfort, Kentucky, 1977).

Dr. Jackie Burnside
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