The Assault on Elisha Green
Race and Religion in a Kentucky Community
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
On June 8, 1883, Rev. Elisha Green was traveling by train from Maysville to Paris, Kentucky. At Millersburg, about forty students from the Millersburg Female College crowded onto the train, accompanied by their music teacher, Frank L. Bristow, and the college president, George T. Gould. Gould grabbed the reverend by the shoulder and ordered him to give up his seat. When Green refused, Bristow and Gould assaulted him until the conductor intervened and ordered the assailants to stop or he would throw them off of the train. Friends advised Green to take legal action, and he did, winning his case against his assailants in March 1884, though with only token compensation. The significance of this case lies not only in the prevailing justice of the 1800s, but also in the fact that a black man won a lawsuit against two white men.
In The Assault on Elisha Green: Race and Religion in a Kentucky Community, historian Randolph Paul Runyon recounts one man's pursuit of justice over violence and racism in the nineteenth century. He tells the story of Green's life and follows the network of relationships that led to the event of the assault. Tracing these three men's lives brings the reader from the slavery era to the eve of the First World War, from Kentucky to New Mexico, from Covington to the Kentucky River Palisades, with particular focus on Mason and Bourbon Counties. In this engagingly written tale, Runyon masterfully interweaves background information with the immediacy of the harrowing attack and its aftermath, revealing the true character of the primary actors and the racial tensions unique to a border state.
A fine piece of narrative history. Runyon has done a masterful job in connecting events in Elisha Green's life as a slave and his time as a free person of color to the broader historical context of slavery in Kentucky. The Assault on Elisha Green has much to offer in expanding our knowledge of racial history at a time when such knowledge is sorely needed.~Charles L. Davis, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Kentucky and author of several articles on postbellum Kentucky history
Runyon has effectively situated Green, Gould, and Bristow within the broader world of nineteenth century Kentucky. Runyon's description of Green's rise from slavery, his purchase of his enslaved family, and his failure to save one son is most memorable. It is a harrowing story that needs to be shared.~Stuart W. Sanders, author of Murder on the Ohio Belle