From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Givens, Mrs. Fanny Rosalind Hicks and James Edward Givens

Mrs. Fanny R. Hicks Givens was an artist, songwriter, educator, and police matron. Born in 1872 in Chicago, IL, her parents were Kentucky natives who had migrated North.

In the early 1890s, Hicks was living in Louisville, KY, serving as head of the art department at State University [later known as Simmons University]. The art department had 23 students whose works were exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She painted a portrait of John R. Walter, Minister of Madagascar and presented it to President Harrison; the portrait was hung in the White House.

In 1895, Fanny Hicks married James Edward Givens, who was born in 1861 in Greenwood, VA, the son of Jefferson and Mary Ann Dickerson Givens. He was a graduate of Harvard College. He arrived in Louisville in 1892 to become a Latin and Greek instructor at State University, later serving as Latin and English professor at Louisville Colored High School [later known as Louisville Central High School]. He founded New South, a weekly newspaper published in Louisville beginning in 1894.

From 1898-1900, Givens was the second president of the State Normal School for Colored Persons (later known as Kentucky State University) [see the KSU listing of past presidents. He was a storekeeper when he died of typhoid fever in 1910 at his home, 507 Jacob Street, in Louisville, according to Kentucky Death Records; and buried in Eastern Cemetery in Louisville. Prior to his death, he was attended by Dr. Ellis D. Whedbee, husband to Bertha Whedbee, the first African American woman to be employed by the Louisville Police Department.

In 1920, the Givens family was living on Finzer Street in Louisville: Mrs. Givens, her daughter Fanny, niece Evaline Williams, and nephew James E. Givens. Mrs. Fanny R. Givens was a portrait artist, and in 1915 she attempted to raise $100,000 to build an Art Institute for the development of Negro artists. 

Givens was also a songwriter: on March 23, 1908, she  received a copyright for the words and music of the song "Hallelujah! Christ is Risen," [C 177237].

Givens was also chair of the Ways and Means Committee in Louisville. She sailed to Liberia, Africa, leaving from the Baltimore port aboard the ship Byron, December 10, 1921, according to her passport application. In 1923, Mrs. Givens and her daughter Fanny were missionaries for the National Baptist Convention; they sailed to Sweden, the British Isles, France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany, according to their U.S. Passport. They left the Port of New York on June 30, 1923, sailing to their destinations aboard the Olympic, and returned to the U.S. within one year, as per passport restrictions.

In 1930, Mrs. Givens would become one of the first African American women to be hired by the Louisville Police Department. She died of breast cancer in Louisville in 1947, according to her death certificate, she was buried in Eastern Cemetery.

For more see Mrs. Fanny R. Givens on p. 202 in The Crisis, vol. 18, no. 4, August 1919 [available at Google Books]; p. 366 in Catalog of Copyright Entries, new series volume 3, nos. 1-5, January 1908, by Library of Congress Copyright Office [available at Google BooksBlack Higher Education in Kentucky, 1879-1930, by L. H. Williams; "Mrs. Fannie R. Givens" on pp. 252-253 of the Golden Jubilee of the General Association of Colored Baptists in Kentucky; and the Louisville Division of Police, by M. O. Childress, Sr.

See the James Edward Givens entry in Harvard College, Class of 1892-1896, Secretary's Report, No. 11 by Harvard College [available at Google Books]; the "James Edward Givens" entry in Harvard College Class of 1892, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Report, 1892-1917, by Harvard College; and "Prominent Colored Educator" in The Mt. Sterling Advocate, 3/23/1910, p. 1.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Givens, Mrs. Fanny Rosalind Hicks and James Edward Givens,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 13, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-09-18 18:34:01