Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980


Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980

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Situated on the banks of the Ohio River, Louisville, Kentucky, represents a cultural and geographical intersection of North and South. Throughout its history, Louisville has simultaneously displayed northern and southern characteristics in its race relations. In their struggles against racial injustice in the mid-twentieth century, activists in Louisville crossed racial, economic, and political dividing lines to form a wide array of alliances not seen in other cities of its size. This book provides the first comprehensive look at the distinctive elements of Louisville's civil rights movement. The book frames the analysis by defining a border as a space where historical patterns and social concerns overlap. From this vantage point, it argues that broad coalitions of Louisvillians waged long-term, interconnected battles during the city's civil rights movement. It shows that Louisville's border city dynamics influenced both its racial tensions and its citizens' approaches to change. Unlike African Americans in southern cities, Louisville's black citizens did not face entrenched restrictions against voting and other forms of civic engagement. Louisville schools were integrated relatively peacefully in 1956, long before their counterparts in the Deep South. However, the city bore the marks of Jim Crow segregation in public accommodations until the 1960s. Louisville joined other southern cities that were feeling the heat of racial tensions, primarily during open housing and busing conflicts (more commonly seen in the North) in the late 1960s and 1970s. In response to Louisville's unique blend of racial problems, activists employed northern models of voter mobilization and lobbying, as well as methods of civil disobedience usually seen in the South.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY


978-0-8131-2539-8 (cloth)


978-0-8131-7335-1 (pdf version)


978-0-8131-3920-3 (epub version)



Louisville, Race relations, Racial injustice, Civil rights movement, Racial tensions, Deep South, Activists, Segregation, Civil disobedience


African American Studies | United States History

Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980
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