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Grandchildren of University of Kentucky’s First Black Grad Honoring Grandmother’s Legacy

Grandchildren of University of Kentucky’s First Black Grad Honoring Grandmother’s Legacy

They’re making sure their late grandmother’s legacy lives on!

The grandchildren of the University of Kentucky’s (UK) first Black graduate are honoring their grandmother’s legacy, WKYT reports. 

Mary Ann Henderson made history as the first Black graduate at the University of Kentucky, earning a master’s degree from the University’s College of Education, the NKAA Database reports. The college was segregated until 1949, Henderson being one of 30 African American graduate students to enroll in classes once the school integrated. The school didn’t open their undergraduate courses to Black students until 1954. 

After graduation, she pursued a career in education, teaching in schools in Lexington and Cynthiana, Kentucky for 35 years, retiring from education in 1989. This past Christmas Eve, Henderson passed away at the age of 94. Now, her grandchildren have vowed to honor their grandmother’s legacy, continuing her mission through the work of their nonprofit. 

Henderson’s grandchildren, twins Taylor Ann Morton and Tyler JR Morton, are also graduates of the University of Kentucky, the descendants paying homage to their grandmother by engaging in charitable work that also emphasizes the necessity for education in underserved areas. The Morton twins say it’s the greatest way they can show their gratitude to Henderson. 

“She was the closest thing to perfect to me. She educated us a lot,” granddaughter Taylor Ann said. 

“That’s the main thing she emphasized, was education. That there’s glory in receiving education,” grandson Tyler JR added. 

A part of the Class of 2021, the siblings decided to launch their nonprofit in 2020, just as they were winding down their academic tenure at UK. So far, they’ve hosted community Christmas parties for low-income families and helped to feed the unhoused. The nonprofit, entitled The Resilience Charity, is named for one of their grandmother’s most endearing qualities. 

“We kinda created the resilience theme based on [her]...She had the odds, she had to beat the barriers, she had to break through and break down,” Tyler JR explained. 

Their goal is to continue aggregating resources, jobs, and educational opportunities for communities in need. Although the twins are just 23 years old, they feel like they’re built for this type of work, motivated primarily by all their late grandmother did to pave the way for them. 

“I think that our willingness and, actually us getting into the community, will push out that we can do this, our age has nothing to do with anything… [My grandmother] motivates me and she’s going to help me get to a different level in our nonprofit,” said Taylor Ann. 

Currently, they’re working on expanding their efforts, petitioning the University of Kentucky to rename a building or classroom in honor of their grandmother. 

Keep the legacy alive Taylor and Tyler! Your grandmother would be proud!

Photo Courtesy of WKYT