Louisville history of racial oppression and activism revealed in new online resourcePosted: March 7, 2022 Filed under: Archives & Special Collections, Art Library, Books, Collections, Databases, Digital Collections, Digital Scholarship, Ekstrom Library, Images, Kentucky, Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, Louisville, Louisville History, Photographs, Primary Sources, University of Louisville Libraries | Tags: archives, information literacy, Photographic Archives, racial justice, research 2 Comments
By Rebecca Pattillo
University of Louisville’s Archives and Special Collections (ASC) has published a new resource, Uncovering Racial Logics: Louisville’s History of Racial Oppression and Activism, a website that provides access to documents, oral histories, photographs and other materials that tell the story of Louisville’s history of racial oppression and activism.
The site is focused on education, policing and housing, “areas in which we see institutional racism at work, producing unequal access to resources, freedoms, and opportunities as part of ongoing U.S. racial stratification,” according to the site’s introduction. Funded by the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research (CCTSJR) and the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, the collaborative project was created by faculty members across multiple departments for an interdisciplinary look at the “racial logics” of Louisville via primary source materials housed in ASC.
Dr. Carrie Mott, UofL Assistant Professor of Geographic and Environmental Sciences and one of the site’s creators, said the goal of the project was to provide access to useful information to anyone interested in learning about Louisville’s history around racial justice.
“We also wanted to provide a tool that would help people see the amazing archival resources housed at ASC,” said Mott. “From prior research and teaching with archives at UofL, I knew of the wealth of resources we have here at UofL. But we recognized many people on campus as well as in the larger Louisville community do not understand how to use archival resources, why they might be useful, or know how to access them. The website was an opportunity to provide some resources in terms of actual scanned documents, but also to help people learn that UofL has a lot more where that came from for research on Louisville’s racial history.”
Rebecca Pattillo, ASC Metadata Librarian and site co-creator, said “Working on this project allowed ASC to make some of our materials available digitally. The site also directs visitors to our robust online digital collections, where they can explore some of the materials referenced in greater depth.”
“One misconception about the archives is that they are only available to UofL affiliated people, when actually we are open to anyone in the community,” said Pattillo.
The site features scanned archival documents including pamphlets, newspaper clippings, oral histories, correspondence, and photographs, with contextual and historical information about each document and the larger collection to which it belongs. In addition to scanned documents, the site also highlights oral histories, story maps, and other resources addressing Louisville’s racial history.
Site users may explore the topic of both secondary and higher education in Louisville to learn about the push for equal pay among Black and white teachers in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the city’s move to desegregate schools via court-ordered busing in the mid-1970s, integration of the University of Louisville in the 1950s, and the founding of the Black Student Union and the Department of Black Affairs in the late 1960s. In addition, learn about Simmons University, one of Kentucky’s two HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and Louisville Municipal College, the only Black liberal arts college in the state which operated from 1931 through 1951, when it merged with a newly integrated UofL.
Another topic explored is the history of policing and police violence throughout the city. An example is the story of Fred J. Harris, a Black man who lost an eye after being beaten by police in 1979, and the work of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression to seek justice for Harris by demanding accountability from the police force.
Housing and Urban Renewal is another focus of the Uncovering Racial Logics project. Select archival materials highlight the narrative of Louisville’s history of racist housing policies and practices, including the construction of racially segregated federal public housing projects in the aftermath of the destruction of neighborhoods and displacement of communities via Urban Renewal. These materials also reveal resistance to and organizing among the Black community and white allies to fight against racist housing policies and discriminatory practices. One such well known housing project is Beecher Terrace, which is explored via the papers of its long-time manager, Earl Pruitt.
Rounding out the project is an extensive, albeit not exhaustive, list of resources for further research. You can explore interactive maps that detail the history of racism within city planning and zoning, as well as redlining within Louisville. In addition is a list of community resources that highlight local organizations that work to empower and improve life for Louisville’s diverse citizens. Also included is a list of UofL Resourcesthathighlights on-campus organizations and committees that work towards racial and social justice, as well as minority affinity groups.
This project was created by Carrie Mott, Rebecca Pattillo, Melanie Gast, Anna Browne Rebiero, Joy Hart, Kelly Kinahan, and Catherine Fosl, with additional assistance from undergraduate and graduate research assistants Cat Alexander, Elizabeth Frazier, and Ben Harlan. Additional technical assistance was provided by Cassidy Meurer and Terri Holtze. Special thanks goes to UofL’s Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research (CCTSJR) and Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research (ABI) for funding and supporting this work, as well as our community partners.
Archives and Special Collections collects, organizes, preserves, and makes available for research rare and unique primary and secondary source material, particularly relating to the history and cultural heritage of Louisville, Kentucky and the surrounding region, as well as serving as the official memory of the University of Louisville.
James Everett Recalls Beecher Terrace and ‘Old Walnut’ in the ‘40sPosted: December 15, 2021 Filed under: Archives & Special Collections, Collections, Digital Collections, Images, Kentucky, Louisville, Louisville History, People, Photographic Archives, Photographs, Primary Sources | Tags: Archives & Special Collections, Louisville History, Oral History Center, Photographic Archives, Primary Sources 2 Comments
By Tom Owen, Archivist for Regional History, Archives & Special Collections
Howard Breckinridge of Plano, Texas, a longtime friend of our Archives and Special Collections and a fountain of information about West Louisville history, told me that his eighty-eight-year-old cousin James Everett also had keen memories of Louisville’s African American community in the 1940s. Everett and his parents were among the first residents of the brand-new Beecher Terrace public housing project on Muhammad Ali, and he spent his entire youth enjoying the bustle of the ‘Old Walnut Street’ business district. I jumped at the chance to capture those memories on tape since Beecher Terrace is being totally redone as a mixed-income community. At the same time, the wisdom of the destruction by Urban Renewal of that segregated commercial district immediately west of downtown in the late 1950s is being reopened for debate.
The problem was James Everett, an Indianapolis resident, was in poor health and under Covid protocols it was unwise for me to travel. Heather Fox, director of ASC’s Oral History Center, stepped into the breech, downloading an app to my cell phone that allowed me to record an almost one-hour interview with James Everett which as a digital file has been added to our massive collection of 2000 oral histories, gathered since the early 1970s and including many from the African American community.
In our interview last July, Everett recalled the family move to Beecher Terrace when he was eight as a God-send—a new comfortable home with central heat, indoor plumbing, and hot and cold running water which trumped in every respect their former rental in Louisville’s Black Hill neighborhood at Eleventh and Magnolia. He also remembered ‘Beecher’ as a safe, pleasant community where children were admonished by other parents if they got out-out-of-line and there were plenty of things for kids to do. For him, the lengthy ‘Old Walnut’ business district, which bordered his home on the south and stretched from Sixth to Thirteenth and beyond, offered a potpourri of possibilities: a favored donut shop, movie theaters, cleaners and tailor shops, pawn shops, dry goods and drug stores, cafes, and taverns and much more. (Some of the venues were Black owned.) At one point, James tells how as a teenager he snuck into the locally famous Top Hat Nightclub without being ejected by Frankie Maxwell, the watchful manager. On Derby Day, he said, ‘Old Walnut’s’ sidewalks were filled with fashionably dressed visitors—some not even headed to the track—and a large parade filled the street on Thanksgiving Day prior to an annual Central High School rivalry football game.
One especially warm memory involved Mr. Davidson, James’ teacher at Central, who met eight or ten male students in the neighborhood and led them on a lengthy Saturday hike through Downtown Louisville, across the Second Street bridge, and down the Indiana shore to the Falls of the Ohio. Praising this youth mentorship, Everett told of wading into the shallow pools at the Falls to catch carp with his hands and stopping for lunch on the way back to Beecher Terrace. The last third of our interview is a chronicle of James Everett’s years in the Air Force, his brief return to Louisville, and a permanent move to Indianapolis where, after a decade of job changes, he was employed by Ford Motor Company twenty-eight years until his retirement.
Sadly, a couple of weeks ago, Howard Breckinridge texted that James Everett died on November 13. How happy I am that Heather Fox made possible a phone interview that will be preserved in our ASC Oral History Collection. Now we hold forever the memories of a childhood and youth of an elderly Indianapolis resident spent in the 1940s in Louisville’s Beecher Terrace housing complex along that once-vibrant ‘Old Walnut’ business district.
1937 Louisville flood badges reappear as posters during COVID-19 eraPosted: March 30, 2020 Filed under: Archives & Special Collections, Collections, Digital Collections, Exhibits, Images, Kentucky, Louisville, Louisville History, People, Photographs, University of Louisville, University of Louisville Libraries | Tags: 1937 Flood, coronavirus, covid-19, covid19, louisville flood, Louisville History, Louisville mayor Neville Miller, morale, novel coronavirus, Ohio River, Photographic Archives, photography, rare books Leave a comment
While walking last week in Germantown with Teddy, her medium-sized Terrier mix, Libraries Assessment Librarian Anita Hall saw a poster that looked familiar. It was a larger version of historic lapel “badges” issued to citizens during another difficult era: Louisville’s great flood of 1937.
The badges contained an upbeat pledge that ended with the catchphrase “I Dare You To Catch Me Not Smiling,” and were widely distributed after the historic 1937 flood to boost morale. Now posters are reappearing locally during the COVID-19 era in a variety of colors that differ from the badges’ original orange. An enterprising individual must have recognized a similar mood arising in our current reality and thought we could use the boost.
“It made me quite emotional to think about other times that people in the city have come together to weather a crisis,” Hall said. “Seeing these makes me feel very connected to the whole city.”
The Ohio River’s over-spill engulfed 70% of Louisville and 90% of Jeffersonville, Indiana, and devastated other communities along the river from Pennsylvania to Illinois. Getting back to normal life after the waters receded was a shared public challenge. During this time, Louisville Mayor Neville Miller created the Committee on Morale to prevent panic and encourage cooperation, service, and determination. Notices, broadsides, and posters were posted throughout the city to offer ways to cope and recover from the extensive damage.
In 2017, Archives and Special Collections held an exhibit showcasing these artifacts and archival photography from its collections chronicling the flood’s impact. A part of the exhibit was Mayor Miller’s scrapbook kept during the era and now housed in ASC’s Rare Books collection – it includes the original orange flyers. Also part of the exhibit was a quarantine pass allowing individuals to leave their homes for a period of time; it is collected in ASC’s C.H. Burkholder Papers.
“Even though I burst into tears when I first saw the poster, I’m smiling now!” Hall said.
Let’s all keep smiling!
(Thanks to Anita Hall and Rebecca Pattillo.)
All-Libraries MLK Exhibit Leads Visitors Through Civil Rights TimelinePosted: January 16, 2020 Filed under: Archives & Special Collections, Art Library, Books, Collections, Digital Scholarship, Ekstrom Library, Events, Exhibits, Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, Law Library, Music Library, Photographic Archives, Photographs, University Archives & Records Center, University of Louisville Libraries, Web Site | Tags: african american, African American History, art, civil rights, exhibits, Martin Luther King, music, Photographic Archives, photography, Photos Leave a comment
To honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday, all University of Louisville’s libraries will participate in an exhibit of posters and materials celebrating Dr. King’s life, “A Walk Through the Civil Rights Movement with the University Libraries.”
The exhibit highlights pivotal events in the civil rights movement in the United States, beginning with the Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954, and ending with Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. Visitors can follow the panels’ timeline starting in Kornhauser Library, then moving to Music, Law, Archives and Special Collections, Ekstrom, and ending at the Art Library.
The featured panels commemorating the civil rights movement once hung in Ekstrom Library for a decade. Each library will display some of the panels and supplement the exhibit with their own materials.
An accompanying MLK digital timeline and Library Guide (LibGuide) will reference all materials displayed in the exhibit, showcasing the numerous civil rights-related works within each library’s collection. It will be linked to the University Libraries’ website.
University Libraries’ new exhibition looks back at Lonesome Pine Special concert seriesPosted: January 14, 2020 Filed under: Archives & Special Collections, Collections, Events, Exhibits, Images, Photographic Archives, Photographs, Primary Sources, University of Louisville Libraries | Tags: Concerts, Lonesome Pine, Multi-media, Photographic Archives, photography, Photos, Richard Bram, Richard Van Kleeck, video Leave a comment
By Niki King
Archives and Special Collections presents a new exhibition “Kings, Queens and War Games: The musical journey of the Lonesome Pine Special concert series through the photographs of Richard Bram, with multi-media by Richard Van Kleeck.” The show runs Jan. 26 – May 22 in the Photographic Archives gallery in Ekstrom Library.
The Lonesome Pine Special concert series ran in 1984 through 2000 at the Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center for the Arts. With a mission to be a musical “all things considered” platform for rising stars, underappreciated veterans and unique voices, it attracted numerous national acts such as Lyle Lovett, k.d. lang and They Might Be Giants.
The success of the concert series led to broadcasts on National Public Radio and PBS, airing in over one hundred and eighty markets and five countries.
The series was created and programmed by Van Kleeck, who then served as the director of programming for the Kentucky Center. The exhibition will feature more than 70 images by Bram, mostly in black and white.
“Archives and Special Collections is honored to preserve the legacy of this significant cultural chapter of local history. Bram and Van Kleeck’s work is right at home in the Photographic Archives and we encourage everyone to view the rich tapestry of performers that made up the Lonesome Pine Special series,” said Elizabeth Reilly, Photographic Archives curator.
There will be an opening reception 3-6 p.m. Jan. 26 in Ekstrom Library’s Chao Auditorium. Bram will speak, as well as Van Kleeck, who will also air a retrospective film he edited. Other speakers include Bob Hill, former columnist for The Courier-Journal; Leslie Stewart, former WFPL host and John Timmons, WFPK host and founder of ear X-tacy Records. Composer and violinist Scott Moore will perform a new work inspired by the diversity of musical styles presented on the concert series.
For more information, contact Reilly at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502-852-8730.