Local historian, photographer and food justice activist, Jim Embry, will provide the opening presentation for the Madison County Historical Society’s 2018 Program on Thursday, February 15 6:30 pm at the Central Bank’s Community Meeting Room, 350 W. Main St., Richmond. This inaugural presentation titled "ROOTS IN AGRICULTURE—The Legacy of Henry Laine" will celebrate Black History Month and feature the renowned Madison County native and multi-talented Black leader, Henry Allen Laine (1870-1955). Laine was an educator, agriculturalist, and poet who had major impacts on many aspects of the Madison County community for over 50 years. His book of poems, “Footprints,” was so popular that it went through four printings, 1914, 1924, 1947 and 1988. According to “Madison County: 200 Years in Retrospect,” no black leader had more impact on the county in the first half of the 20th century than Laine.
Laine a Berea College graduate (1889-1899), is a great opening for the MCHS 2018 program season.
Jim Embry who was born into a family of small farmers in Madison County is a noted environmental and food justice activist working on local, national and international projects. Like Henry Allen Laine, Jim Embry’s great grandfather, D.B. Ballew (1861-1948) was a graduate of Berea College (1879-1881), an educator, small farmer and civil rights activist in this community. These two men, Laine and Ballew were contemporaries and worked together in the Madison County agriculture and political arenas. Knowing these connections, Jim Embry feels very honored to speak about his great grandfather’s friend, Henry Allen Laine. Embry’s presentation will include photos of the Laine family, community history, county wide agricultural efforts, connections with Berea College and poems from Henry Allen Laine’s collection.
After a career as a teacher and Director of the segregated Black schools, Henry Allen Laine worked for 20 years as the UK Extension Agent serving African American farmers. His work in Kentucky with agriculture was complementary to the work at Tuskegee University by George Washington Carver and was the "Carver of Kentucky". Since these two men were both involved in agricultural extension efforts and friends, Carver was invited by Laine to serve as a speaker at the Chautauqua program in Richmond that Laine organized in 1922. Other noted leaders that Laine included in the Chautauqua program included WEB DuBois and Booker T. Washington.
Carter G. Woodson (Berea College years -1901 and 1903) and Laine also knew each other. So it is quite fitting that we celebrate Black History Month founded by Carter G. Woodson with a presentation about Carter G. Woodson’s friend, Henry Allen Laine.
Laine's papers are housed in the Special Collection and Archives section of the Eastern Kentucky University Library and Berea College. In 2003, Laine was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Berea College honored Laine at its 2009 Founder’s Day Celebration.
Jim Embry has contributed articles to the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia, Sustainable World Sourcebook and Lexington’s African American Heritage Guide. He has done extensive research on his own family with four publications about family history. He has worked in Lexington to preserve historic cemeteries, buildings and schools, churches, research individuals and collect oral history interviews. His work includes 40 years of urban agriculture, food cooperatives, locally and nationally organizing food justice and sustainable farming conferences, international networks with Slow Food/Terra Madre.