Seventy-nine year old Ursula Parrish Daniels, who had returned to Louisville for the dedication of a historical marker at the Seelbach-Parrish Home at 926 South Sixth Street in the Limerick neighborhood, speaks of spending her entire life there until she left for college. With her parents, Charles Henry Parrish Jr. and Frances Murrell Parrish working out of the home, Louisville Municipal College student boarders from her father’s place of employment helped with child care and household chores. Dr. Daniels recalls frequent civic, educational and social leaders in the African American community (both local and out-of-town) visiting her home for meals and social events. In addition, her maternal grandmother, Mary Virginia Cook Parrish, came for Sunday dinner and the house was the center for many visits and overnight sleep-overs by Ursula’s friends. The white family next door consistently expressed animosity to the Parrishes, the only Black family on the block. As an aside, she mentions her father’s “adopted” brother Frank Parrish.
She remembers walking to Duvalle Junior High at Eighth and Chestnut Streets and happy days at Central High—including Saturday night sports—through her Junior year. Then, to manifest her parent’s pro-integration views, she spent an unhappy year with one other Black senior at Male High School. Similarly, she describes attending Ohio Wesleyan University where, again as one of the very few Black students, she lived in a group house of “revolutionary” outsiders. (She believes her race denied her the opportunity to be the yearbook queen.) After a time in Chicago, she moved to New York City where ultimately--aided by a generous fellowship--she earned a doctorate in educational psychology at City University of New York, which launched her career as a professor of early childhood education and administrator at Bergen (New Jersey) Community College from 1979 to 2018.
Dr. Daniels discusses her summer visits to her maternal grandparents’ (the Murrells) comfortable home in Glasgow, Ky., recalling how her grandmother’s male siblings (the Martins), who had good jobs as railroad porters in Chicago, returned annually sporting fine cars and pocket watches. Ursula notes that despite the weight of racism, her Glasgow family achieved success as contractors, farmers, entrepreneurs, and professionals. She further notes that this family wing included Native American ancestors, which explains why her Mother, Frances, was so light-skinned. (Ironically, her father’s doctoral research focused on color as a mark of privilege in the Black community.)
Ursula explains how her mother came to Louisville to complete high school, boarding with the Clark family, and ultimately attending Louisville Municipal College to study sociology and statistics, where she married her professor Charles Henry Parrish Jr. She discusses her mother’s role as a public parks administrator and, after securing advanced degrees, as a long-time professor of sociology and research methods at Spalding University. She calls both parents as “board room” racial activists for equality and inclusion, indicating that her mother temperamentally was more outspoken and her father more stubbornly reflective. Dr. Daniels notes her father’s affection for the University of Louisville—especially President Philip Davidson—and the difficulty within the African-American community when her father was selected as the only LMC professor to be invited to join the racially-integrated faculty at UofL’s Belknap Campus.
Ms. Daniels, on reflection, points to several values that shaped her life and profession. First, as a child of educational, economic and cultural advantage, she believes much was demanded of her, including a career commitment to create opportunity for marginalized people. In addition, despite her family’s struggle for integration, she talks of the need for Historically Black Colleges and Universities for certain African-Americans. Noting the Louisville-area achievements of both her parents and paternal grandparents, she insists that it was important for her to make her mark out-of-town, free of that family connection. Finally, when asked about the role of religion in her life, she credits being brought up in the Black Protestant Church for fundamental values but observes that her current spiritually is both broader and more ecumenical. At the closing of the interview, Ursula Parrish Daniels thanks the interviewer for his part in the successful 1978 effort to secure the donation of the Parrish Family Papers to UofL’s Archives and Special Collection