As a matter of “principle,” Wendell Berry removed his personal papers from the University of Kentucky archives in 2009. In doing so, Berry acted in solidarity with activists seeking to eliminate the University’s ties to the coal industry. Today, Wendell Berry, environmentalist, and good steward that he is, had this to say about the now shrouded fresco in Memorial Hall:
“Though I willingly would do so if it were possible, I cannot understand the University of Kentucky’s decision to hide Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s fresco in Memorial Hall,” Berry wrote in an opinion piece in the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The reason given is only that it shows people doing what they actually did. Black people did work in tobacco fields. Black musicians did play for white dancers. Indians did seriously threaten the settlers at Bryan’s Station.”
-Taken from The Washington Post
Berry might have ended with a few bars from “My Old Kentucky Home,” the original, un-cut, 1853 rendition of the state song: “The time has come when the darkies have to part//Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.”He might also marinate on those “Black people” homegirl painted cause they didn’t make no money for that! Paying them defeats the whole point of subjection! You don’t get paid for laboring and fiddling when you’re chattel.
In 1934, when Berry’s cousin completed her fresco in Memorial Hall, a structure built to commemorate white casualties of the Great War, Wilbur Little, a veteran of that same war, became a casualty in Georgia. You might think of Mr. Little as a victim of the anti-lynching bill that couldn’t make its way through the Senate. Had he lived, he might’ve even had the opportunity to be denied the same Federal Housing Authority loan never assured black Americans from 1934-1968.
Since 1934, Ann Rice O’Hanlon has used her first amendment rights to tell her tale about happy darkies and villainous Indian marauders. In fact, she still tellin it, we just ain’t trynna hear dat shit. Her bullshit ain’t went nowhere! What ya’ll gettin now is the “clean version.” Her uncut shit just got that “clean version” sticker on it. Shit, she got off good! Had O’Hanlon put her shit on a wall in the Boogie Down, 5-0 woulda called her “fresco” graffiti and taken that ass to jail. Mr. Berry might wanna go find some of them hoodlums who once terrorized New York with they spray cans. They might school him on how to live wit shit you don’t like. If they already dead, listen to some Promoe.
From your very own Big Blue Nation alum and proud granddaughter to 1942 graduates of Louisville’s Catholic Colored Highschool