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Kentucky teacher, poet and early Berea alumnus Henry Allen Laine honored at Berea College Founder’s Day Oct. 8

9-30-2009
African-American educator and writer Henry Allen Laine (1870-1955), an early alumnus of Berea College, will be honored by Berea College at the college’s annual Founder’s Day Celebration on Thursday, Oct. 8.  The ceremony is scheduled in Phelps-Stokes Auditorium at 3 p.m.

Laine, who attended Berea from 1889-1899, will be honored with the John G. Fee Award. The award is given posthumously, and honors Berea alumni of 1866-1904 who gave distinguished service to their community, especially in the field of education, and whose lives reflect the ideals of Berea College founder Rev. John G. Fee as expressed in the College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth.”

Berea President Larry D. Shinn will present the award on behalf of the College to members of the Laine family.  Attending the event from Ohio and Indiana will be a number of Laine’s  descendents, including 15 grandchildren, most of whom are in their 80’s.  The family is a close-knit one, members say, who get together often socially.  For this occasion, a group of them will sing together, calling themselves the “Laine Family Singers.”

Henry Allen Laine was born, grew up, and was later an educator in Madison County, Ky. for 21 years.  He was the founder of the Madison Colored Teachers Association in 1910 and was chairman of the association for 20 years.  He was the first African-American county extension agent and organized a farmer’s club in 1915 for the African-American farmers in Madison County.  He also was responsible for forming the Colored Chautauqua, a combination fair and outdoor educational event to bring cultural, religious and social opportunities to the community.  He also fought against the closure of Berea College to blacks after 1904, when the passage of Kentucky’s Day Law forbid interracial education in the state’s schools.

Laine was widely known as a poet.  His most famous volume, titled “Footprints,” was so popular that it was printed four times – 1914, 1924, 1947 and 1988.”

In 2003, Laine was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.  Eight other Bereans have also been named to the Hall of Fame: founder Rev. John G. Fee; early Berea alumni Carter G. Woodson, James Bond, Mary S. Merritt, and Dr. Mary E. Britton; more recent alumni Galen Martin and David O. Welch, also a long-time Berea College trustee, and Dr. Bill Turner, a professor at Berea.

Berea College, established in 1855, is distinctive among institutions of higher learning as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Berea charges no tuition, providing a high quality education to all students of great promise but with limited financial resources. All students must work 10 hours weekly, earning money for books, room and board.  Berea College’s primary service region is southern Appalachia, but students come from all over the United States and in a typical year, from over 60 other countries representing a rich diversity of colors, cultures, and faiths. For more information, visit Berea’s website at www.berea.edu

The John G. Fee Award has been given to outstanding early alumni of Berea since 2001. Founder’s Day is sponsored by the Berea College President’s Office.  The event is free and open to the public.

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Julie Sowell
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