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Burnside Publishes ''Berea and Madison County''

This book is one of the newest titles in Arcadia Publishing’s Black America series and includes 200 vintage images accompanied by fact-filled, detailed captions. Berea College Associate Professor Jacqueline Grigsby Burnside is the author.

When asked “What lasting impact do you hope your book will leave?” Burnside answered, “I hope many residents of other communities will take heart that the interracial community efforts of these 19th century pioneers can be a model and inspiration of the high achievements residents of the 21st century can strive to accomplish.”

Chapters of Berea and Madison County include:
• Sellers, Antislavery Missionaries, and Civil War Soldiers
• Interracial Education
• Interracial Land Ownership
• Reconciliation

Burnside has resided in Berea, Ky., since the 1970s. Her interest in local history started while she was a college student.

A 1974 graduate of Berea College, Burnside enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Panama with the 193rd Infantry Brigade (Canal Zone) for nearly four years. After completing her Army service, she and her husband returned to Berea where he was employed by Berea College. She continued her higher education by obtaining a doctorate in sociology at Yale University in 1988. Her dissertation was an organizational study of Berea College with its abolitionist founders, post-slavery black and white students, and teachers in the late 19th century. She was amazed at the wealth of primary documents, including letters and other records about the black and white students, teachers and families who pioneered the interracial education school and community named after the biblical town of Berea.

Burnside is chair of sociology department at Berea College, and, since 1999, has worked with students and community residents to collect oral history from the pioneers’ descendants. The Historic Black Berea Project has created a touring map with an audio tape and CD for local schools, residents and tourists. Arcadia Publishing’s publication of this photographic history book completes Burnside’s earlier research.

Following is a short Q & A with Burnside.

Q - What was your inspiration for writing the book?

A - I have often been asked about the early black pioneers of the interracial college I work for, Berea College, since I focused my dissertation research on the origins of the college as an interracial organization in former slavery state. I became interested in this topic because I had been a student at Berea College during the early 1970s when the college was in a period of reintegrating its campus as part of the gradual Civil Rights movement for equal education.

Q - How did you research the information for the book?

A - I relied upon some information from oral history interviews conducted with descendants of early black and white pioneers that were part of the Historic Black Berea Project. These interviews were conducted by me with some of my students in various sociology classes. Several descendants graciously loaned photos and artifacts of their family members in order to help create the book.

Q - What will readers find interesting about the book?

A - While contributions of Berea’s early black settlers have been mentioned in a few sources, my research is the most substantial effort to organize existing materials, supplemented by audio-taped oral history interviews and photos to compile a documented view of Historic Black Berea. Publication of this book will emphasize the diligence and ambition of African Americans, along with the cooperation of some white Americans, whose pioneering contributions toward racial equality not only helped to shape the town and the college that exist today, but also exerted an influence in various areas of Kentucky and a few other states.

Q - What writing advice would you give to aspiring authors and historians?

A - Start as soon as you can and talk to other people who may also be interested and can help in various ways to encourage you and get the writing underway. One of my community consultants, who was very helpful from the beginning, always reminded me on a yearly basis to continue working on the book.

Q - What lasting impact do you hope your book will leave?

A - I hope many residents of other communities will take heart that the interracial community efforts of these 19th century pioneers can be a model and inspiration of the high achievements residents of the 21st century can strive to accomplish.

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