Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South
Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Over the years that I have been researching and writing this book, I have received financial, moral, and intellectual support from a number of institutions and individuals. The research could not have been completed without funding from the Louisville Institute, the Kentucky Oral History Commission, and the University of Louisville graduate school...
Introduction: Gateway to the South
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In the era of the civil rights movement and in retrospective accounts, white and black Louisvillians have often described their hometown as a “middle ground” between the North and South. In this border city, locals maintained, race relations were a “mélange of northern and southern attitudes,” southern in the “approach to the Negro” but with...
1. Postwar Campaigns for Citizens' Rights
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One night in September 1950, three African Americans, Leroy Foley and Jessie Wallace of Louisville and John H. Smith of Lexington, went to Breckinridge County Hospital in Hardinsburg, Kentucky, after being in a car accident. There, they lay on the floor of the emergency room for three hours with no treatment except shots of morphine to...
2. Confronting School and Residential Segregation during the Cold War
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On Thursday, May 20, 1954, the Louisville Defender front page carried dramatic headlines about two seemingly unrelated events that triggered the decade’s biggest stories about Louisville race relations: “We Intend to Live Here or Die Here” and “Public School Bias Ruled Out.” On Monday, May 17, the U.S. Supreme Court had issued the...
3. Open Accommodations in the All American City
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On May 14, 1963, the Louisville Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance making it illegal to discriminate based on race in any place of business open to the general public, the first such law, according to Mayor William O. Cowger, “in any major city in the South.” Passage of the ordinance, like the peaceful school integration of 1956, won...
4. The Battle for Open Housing
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In May 1963, in the heady atmosphere of optimism that accompanied the passage of Louisville’s open accommodations ordinance, both Mayor William Cowger and civil rights leaders predicted the next step would be the quick adoption of a similar law on open housing. United by the assumptions that housing was the linchpin for undoing segregation...
5. Building Bridges, Fighting Poverty, and Empowering Citizens
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In the mid-1960s, while the members of WECC were marching in support of an ordinance banning discrimination in housing, they also were organizing residents of public housing projects to demand garbage pickup and a traffic signal; hosting weekend-long arts festivals where blacks and whites could have fellowship while enjoying music...
6. Militancy, Repression, and Resistance in the Black Power Era
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By the end of the summer of 1967, many residents in the west end felt increasingly frustrated and powerless. The open housing movement was stalled. Despite residents’ complaints, the urban renewal authority scheduled the building of more public housing units in an already overcrowded area. School officials refused to replace firetrap facilities...
7. Making Civil Rights Gains Real
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In 1969 the Louisville Courier-Journal and Louisville Times enlisted Roper Research Associates to conduct an in-depth study of the living conditions and attitudes about race relations of white and black residents of Louisville. The resulting report documented the stark differences in whites’ and blacks’ living conditions, the “dismal” state of the...
8. The Busing Crisis
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For two decades, the question of equal educational opportunity in the public schools had become a back-burner issue in Louisville. The city prided itself on having resolved that problem when it integrated the schools to great national acclaim in 1956. Yet in the mid-1970s, conflict over school desegregation sparked...
Conclusion: Where Does the Story End?
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In pondering where to begin a story, Amos Oz raises a fundamental problem in any historical narrative, including histories of popular struggles such as the civil rights movement. Just as we can always push back the birthing moment by looking at deeper roots or links to earlier precedents, we can extend the story until it meets the present. Indeed...
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Page Count: 438
Publication Year: 2009