West Kentucky Industrial College
“West Kentucky College,” appearing in the Denver Star (1914), is a very positive account of the work done at West Kentucky Industrial College. Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (1919) contains the yearly report from W.K.I.C. written by President Anderson. Public Education in Kentucky (1921) contains a generally negative profile of the school. The most complete profile, however, is found in the 1983 application for Artelia Anderson Hall to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The image of Dr. Anderson is from the Jackson Purchase Museum website. The historical marker is from Waymarking.
What would become West Kentucky Industrial College was started by Dennis Henry Anderson and his wife Artelia for 17 students in 1909. The school was strongly supported by Black clergy due to a need for teacher training in the western part of Kentucky. The early history of W.K.I.C. is difficult to assess. For example, in 1915 Negro Education reported that the school had only 16 elementary students taught by one teacher. Report to the Superintendent reported 160 students in 1919, taught by a faculty of eight. At that time the college consisted of a model school (grades 1-8), a preparatory school, a normal department, and an industrial department.
In 1919 West Kentucky Industrial College became a state supported school offering a curriculum of four years of high school and the first two years of college. In return for state support, it offered free tuition for any 16-year-olds who had completed the state’s common school and those preparing to teach in a common school. But in 1921 Public Education reported that enrollment was only 48 in high school/normal school. College students numbered 103 in 1932, and W.K.I.C. went on to become the third largest junior college for Blacks in the nation. Kentucky Encyclopedia reported 500 junior college graduates in the school’s history.
In 1932 the state inspector termed W.K.I.C a “badly managed institution.” Students went on strike in 1936 demanding “the privilege of social contact in male students walking with co-eds from class rooms to dining hall and escorting them to church.” In 1937 the legislature removed Anderson as president and in 1938 removed the teacher training program. West Kentucky Industrial College was closed and reopened as West Kentucky Vocational School for Negroes. Today that school is part of West Kentucky Technical and Community College.
Bricks and Mortar
The Denver Star reported that Anderson built the main building with his own hands, “with saw and hatchet and a pocketful of carpenter’s tools and nails.” He and his wife Artelia “worked in evenings by candlelight.” However, Public Education in Kentucky noted that the building was poorly constructed of the cheapest materials and called it a fire trap. Completed in 1913, the 110 x 50 foot brick building was three stories over a basement. The basement contained a kitchen and dining room; the first floor was the principal’s office and recitation rooms; the second floor contained the principal’s residence and recitation rooms; the top floor contained 26 dormitory rooms for girls. The Denver Star reported that the building had an assembly room with seats for 326 students.
The building was renamed Artelia Anderson Hall after her death in 1936. In1938 it became part of the new West Kentucky Vocational School for Negroes. The 1983 National Register application notes that it had sat vacant for the past four years. It has since been razed; where it stood is now a park.
Artelia Anderson Hall as it appeared in the 1921 Public Education in Kentucky.
African-American Schools in Paducah and McCracken Counties says, “There were extra-curricular activities such as football, tennis, croquet, basketball, and volleyball.”
W.K.I.C. played football between 1928 and 1937, its final season. College Football Data Warehouse shows that the teams won six of seven games in 1930 and four of six with a tie in 1932. Listed Opponents include HBCU’s in the region. Wilberforce, Lane, Kentucky State Industrial College (now Kentucky State), Tennessee A&M (now Tennessee State), Lemoyne Owen, Louisville Municipal, and Rust were most common.
The 1930 team ran up big scores on Roger Williams, Lemoyne Owen and Morristown. The 1933 team lost to Wilberforce 94-0.