Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Ky Commission on Human Rights

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights’ governing board wants to see a change to a section of the state constitution that allows slavery as criminal punishment.

Section 25 of the Kentucky Constitution's Bill of Rights reads, “Slavery and involuntary servitude in this State are forbidden, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The text was ratified in August 1891.

The commission unanimously passed a resolution Thursday urging Kentuckians to get rid of the provision and issued a statement saying its removal would be another step toward expunging “all vestiges of the cruel and immoral institution of slavery" following this summer's racially-motivated church killings in Charleston, S.C.

Commission executive director John J. Johnson says he was recently surprised to learn of the provision’s presence in the state constitution.

“Someone called it to my attention a few months ago and I almost thought surely slavery is not still referenced in the Kentucky constitution and we looked it up and, sure enough, it was,” Johnson said.

“Why not remove it? There’s no need for it to be suggested that slavery is even legal as a punishment for a crime," Johnson said.

Two of the 23 individuals inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame Thursday have ties to WKU. The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights announced those who are part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 in Bowling Green.

Dr. Alan Anderson is a professor of social ethics and racial justice at WKU who once worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior in efforts to desegregate Albany, Georgia, in the 1960s. When he was arrested for his participation in those projects, Anderson fasted for six days in jail to protest discrimination in the town.

Also inducted Thursday was Abraham Williams, the executive director of the Bowling Green Housing Authority who has worked with WKU to take children in public housing to China over the past three years.

When he moved to Bowling Green 19 years ago, Williams says he was told that public housing children weren’t capable of learning.

Another inductee into the state’s Civil Rights Hall of Fame is Linda McCray, the former long-time executive director of the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission.

You can see the complete list of Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame inductees here.


The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is in Bowling Green this week to announce the latest inductees into the state’s Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

The Commission will unveil which of the 35 nominees will receive the honor at a ceremony Thursday afternoon at WKU’s Carroll Knicely Conference Center. The executive director of the state’s Human Rights Commission, John Johnson, says those nominated for the Hall of Fame have made contributions to a wide variety of causes throughout the commonwealth.

“They have a wide span of interests and involvement, whether it’s dealing with people with disabilities, or dealing with legislative issues, or working to improve the quality of life of people based on sexual orientation.”

Among the nominees are:

  • Dr. Alan Anderson, a retired WKU Philosophy and Religion professor who worked with Martin Luther King, Junior, in efforts to desegregate parts of Georgia
  • Samuel Byrd, who has been a long-time leader with the Owensboro N.A.A.C.P
  • Linda McCray, the former longtime executive-director of the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission

See the entire list of nominees for the 2014 Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame and their profiles here.

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights has called on the state to end the use of the death penalty, saying it is often applied unfairly against minorities and the poor. The commissioners, who enforce state and federal civil rights laws, urged Kentucky lawmakers in a resolution last week to repeal the law that allows the use of the death penalty in some murder cases.