Encyclopedia to chart KY history from black perspective

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Helen Fairfax Holmes was a fire cat.

That's how Eastern Kentucky University visiting scholar and Frankfort resident Karen McDaniel describes her late friend.

Once, when the two were getting out of a car at Holmes' house, McDaniel tried to help the feeble woman to the door.

"She smacked my arm and said, "I don't need no help,'" McDaniel said. "I never tried to help her again like that. She was independent."

Holmes, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Frankfort chapter, helped organize the 1964 March on Frankfort in support of civil rights legislation before the Kentucky General Assembly. The march drew 10,000 protesters and appearances by Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson and musical group Peter, Paul and Mary.

She also organized a boycott of taxi stations, organized sit-ins at Kentucky State University where she was an English professor, and got students involved in equal rights demonstrations during the civil rights era.

"She was at there in the forefront," McDaniel said. "She was just amazing in all the things she was involved with and all the things she did."

That's why McDaniel is including her friend as one of the hundreds of entries in the Kentucky African-American Encyclopedia she is working on.

McDaniel, one of three editors on the project, is a Kentucky native who has spent the last 30 years living in Frankfort.

The book, scheduled to be complete in 2011, is a way of filling gaps in Kentucky's written history where blacks have been missing, she said. It will serve as an authoritative reference on blacks in the state and document the state's diversity.

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