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Amber Duke: This is Amber Duke. I'm interviewing Mr. John Johnson, Thursday September 6, 2012. At the offices of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. Mr. Johnson thank you for your time today.

John Johnson: Thank you for coming.

AD: Can you for the recording acknowledge that you signed and understood the consent form.

JJ: I did.

AD: I'm just going to apologize to any future researcher who will listen to this interview because I will be coughing and sniffing, we have some allergy and cold issues going on with both of us today. Mr. Johnson can you spell your name for the record.

JJ: It's John Johnson J-O-H-N J-O-H-N-S-O-N The middle initial is J.

AD: Great and you have given me some background materials on yourself but for the recording can you briefly describe your educational and professional background. Give us the larger highlight, you've had quite a career.


JJ: [laughs]. I've been blessed to have many experiences. I've been involved in human rights works I guess most of my -- well all of my adult life. When I was a senior in high school in Franklin, Kentucky. I was born actually here in Louisville, Kentucky, but I grew up in Franklin, Kentucky. A little town just on the Kentucky/Tennessee line just south of Bowling Green. My senior year in high school they integrated the schools. The '54 decision talked about integrating schools with all deliberate speed, at least in our little community didn't take place until '64. The year I graduated from high school in '63, in that year they were talking about merging the schools. And so the gentleman who was president of the NAACP in that community, Rev. Grant Coleman who is now a minister in 2:00Lexington was leaving to move to Lexington and asked me if I would consider being president of the NAACP. I had no interest necessarily. I had interest in the work, but had not thought about being president of the branch. From that time on I've been involved in some segment of civil rights work in this state and throughout the nation. I attended school at Western Kentucky University for one semester and then ended up leaving there and took a couple of courses at U of L. I finally got my degree at Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore, Maryland. During that whole period of time just about every month you were in some sort of leadership training program. Executive management courses. I had the opportunity for several years we went up to Harvard every year for executive 3:00management course for about five years. So I've had several experiences and I'm thankful for it.

AD: Okay. Talk a little bit professionally about how you ended up here. I know there was some time in Kentucky, outside of Kentucky, back to Kentucky. A little bit about your journey as director of the commission.

JJ: Well, I should probably tell you I worked when I got out of high school at a factory in Franklin. At that time you could make almost as much money working as a janitor in a factory as you could teaching school in that little community. I became so frustrated in that work, it was one day and I won't try to tell you all these stories -- actually it was the day after Bobby Kennedy was killed. I went to work, I was president of the local NAACP; I was the only black person 4:00that worked in the stock room in that factory at that time. People would just kind of pick after you and try to make jokes of things and I had been through a lot of problems at least in my own mind -- the killing of Martin King and other things and they would leave on your little desk, signs, articles, with KKK written on it and that sort of thing. So you felt some sense of tension in the place where I was employed.

And one day, the day after Kennedy was killed - Bobby Kennedy - one of my co-workers, I was in a caged in area where there is a big mesh fence because there were valuables behind that fence. And some materials and he came by and said, "I told you that we gonna get rid of all them nigga lovers." I said, "I 5:00told you to leave me alone, don't bother me no more." He said, "Look at you behind that cage just like a monkey." And I never will forget that. I took my fist and hit at him, right through that fence. And I knew then it was - because also my fence was not going to penetrate that wire, but I was so mad that my fist went up against the wire trying to hit him. I knew then it was time for me to leave that environment. As matter of fact, I went home for lunch that day and called a friend, I'd been involved in a little bit of volunteering on the war on poverty. I called a friend who was running the Southern Kentucky Economic Opportunity Council out of Bowling Green at that time. And told him what happened. I said I need to find a little job, do you have any ideas. He said, "John don't even go back, come up here tomorrow and we'll find something for 6:00you." A lot of my friends said you should never believe the factory what appeared to be a good job. These other programs are funded every year, but the Lord's blessed me. I've never been out of work. And that was forty years ago. The truth of the matter is the factory I worked in finally closed. They had no union protection the employees there had real problems. That was kind of the start of moving from there.

And then I went to work for something called the, let me get it straight, the Kentucky Institute for Community Development. It was based in Lexington and it was near the early start on the war on poverty. So a part of our job was to go around the state and train people on how to apply for grants, how to hold meetings, how to recruit people, how to organize communities. I spent a lot of 7:00time in Eastern Kentucky working with lower income communities, Western Kentucky, all over the state. We were based in Lexington is where our headquarters were. I did that for several months. And then after that Joe Warnby (?) who had been the coach, the football coach at High Street in Bowling Green, which is one of the larger well one of the better football teams in the state at that time in the segregated schools. He had become the director of the Community Action Agency here in Bowling Green They covered seven counties. He asked me to come there and be the assistant director to help with community organizing. So I did and I worked there for a couple of years and we applied for grants and opening up community centers and day care programs and that sort of thing in the seven counties.

Then friends of mine who worked for the national NAACP came to Kentucky and for 8:00some issues we were dealing with. You may know of the story of with Lawrence Rainey. Lawrence Rainey was the sheriff in Neshoba County in Philadelphia, Mississippi where the three civil rights workers were killed. If you saw the movie Mississippi Burning, all of those people in law enforcement were charged with some involvement in the murder of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner in Mississippi. You recalled that was when Bobby Kennedy was Attorney General and President Kennedy was president. They took the Navy people down there to find the bodies that had been put in a big van and covered over with a bulldozer. At any rate, Lawrence Rainey who was the sheriff ended up moving to my little hometown in Franklin of all places. He married a woman there and the mayor wanted to make him chief of police and I was president of the NAACP and we opposed it. We got some people from the national office who came down to help us 9:00in our campaign. He did not get the job by the way.

At any rate, I developed a close relationship with some people at the national office of the NAACP. They offered me a job to come to New York to work for a marketing research firm they were opening. During that period, people were looking at black buying power. There was this new interest in black folk are now getting equal opportunity in terms of employment so they have dollars to spend. Airlines wanted to know how to get blacks flying on airlines. Companies wanted to know how to get dollars spent. One of the interesting - so I moved to NY for about 1 ½ years and lived in midtown Manhattan and had a lot of positive experiences going to make presentations or going with my co-workers to make presentations to Fortune 500 companies. To make application, to submit proposals 10:00for work. One of the very interesting pieces there I will tell you, may have seen years ago there was this billboard talking about walk a mile for a Camel. Camel cigarettes was a very strong cigarette and one of their promotions was people would walk a mile to get a Camel cigarette. They had these guys with holes in their shoes like they had walked a mile and walked this hole in their shoe. They were concerned if you put up in Harlem a big billboard with a black person having walked a mile with a hole in his shoe, at this time we were involved with black pride and being all together you know with the big Afro, would black people find that offensive? Here's a black guy on a billboard in Harlem with a hole in his shoe. So we did a survey around, oh I think it was five cities we went to and did these surveys. It was quite interesting. The 11:00final answer was the people who were so hooked on Camels couldn't get off of them anyway. [Laughs] Those who were not didn't wanna get-- That was very interesting. We did several projects similar to that in terms of looking at black buying power and purchasing habits and that sort of thing.

One of those projects we dealt with I think the Colgate-Palmolive company. And we opened a piece of our companies that was called Segmented Sampling. At that time sampling companies were very reluctant to go into black companies, the white owned companies. And so we got some contracts to give samples of products in black communities and get that sort of reaction to them. That was very interesting.

The truth was NY was just not my cup of tea. It's a place I like to go once or 12:00twice a year, but just living there I often say I was spending more to park my car in midtown Manhattan than I was making house payments in Kentucky at the time. I was going to work for the national NAACP; they offered me a job to go to Columbus, OH to be the regional youth director for the NAACP. I came back home to spend a little time to spend with my family for a couple of weeks. During that time I got a call from the director of the Louisville Community Action Agency.

Furman Knox who was then the state president of the NAACP. And Furman asked me if I would come to Louisville and direct their training program. And I did because it put me closer to the children and gave me a chance to get back home.

So I came to work here for the Community Action Agency - oh for two or three years. I came as the director of training and then they put me charge of all the outreach centers. Eight different targeted areas in Jefferson County and I was 13:00in charge of all of those center. Each center had a director and they all reported to me. I felt some frustration in that I was pushing papers and processing paperwork and want to do more in terms of working closer to the community. Am I talking to long?

AD: No.

JJ: Okay, so I asked to be assigned to the Park DuValle community. Park DuValle at that time had the highest concentration of low-income people in the state. I did some very positive work in that community. It's not time to go into all the detail of all the work. One of my closest friends was a gentleman by the name of Reverend Leo Lesser. Leo was the vice- a member of the national board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He and A.D. King, Martin King's 14:00brother were the closest of friends as well. Leo, as you will see from some of the pictures I'm going to show you in a couple of minutes was quite an active leader in open-housing demonstrations in the city of Louisville. He ended up being the associate director of the Louisville and Jefferson County Human Relations Commission. Leo served, he ran for mayor of Louisville. I think probably the second African-American to run for mayor -- a very serious campaign. He had announced before Harvey Sloan announced. I kind of tried to coordinate Leo. That was my first -- well my second effort of trying to be involved in coordinating a political campaign. We didn't win of course. Leo ended up dying from an overdose of drugs. Found him in his home. I knew Leo for 15:00years and I never knew him to use drugs. I still often wonder about that. Leo's work at the local Human Rights Commission involved community relations and crisis intervention. And he dealt a lot with police brutality. He was one of the strongest advocates in the state pushing for civilian review boards at the time. When we opened up the trunk of Leo's car there were all kinds of pictures of people who had been brutally abused by the police. They would make these pictures of how people had been -- he would always try to investigate those issues

Never the less, after Leo's death they offered me the job that Leo had, as the associate director of the Louisville Jefferson County Human Relations Commission. And I worked there for a period of time. One of the reports we would 16:00always put out was on the status of African Americans in city and county government. And I never will forget one of the arguments, disagreements I guess I should say with the director. There were four members of the mayor's cabinet at the time and two were African American. They were good positions, people made good money. Our Commission put out a report saying 50 percent of cabinet level positions were held by African Americans. Well it sounds good on the surface, but my argument was that there were several positions beneath that where there were no African Americans working at all. They were good paying jobs - to give the administrations, they were generally good people, but to give them credit for 50 percent that's surface. You had to look under the surface, you had to look between the lines. So I went to the local NAACP and they then released a 17:00report that says, and I can't tell you right now the exact title, but it's something to the effect that five categories or four categories of good paying positions have no African Americans. And it brought some pressures to do more.

During that time was the midst of the bussing, integration and bussing as a tool for integration in Jefferson County. One of the most dramatic things I found at that time. I went out into the Fairdale community and black children were being bussed out there and this is the honest truth. Someone had called the office about how the people were demonstrating. And I went out there and they were 18:00actually throwing rocks at the bus. White kids, older white kids throwing rocks at the busses. Little black children on the bus and they were breaking the windows. And nobody was doing anything. The county police were there, that's before the merger of Louisville and Jefferson County. The police were there and watching it and did nothing. So I drove back to the mayor's office, I never will forget, it was 5:30 or 6 o'clock and went over to the mayor's office and didn't even know if he was there. I told the receptionist I'd like to see him, they say he's not available. He happened to come out and he said, "John come on in." That was Harvey Sloan; I have to give him credit for that. I told him what had happened and he said, "I deal with it." That sort of thing stopped. Story after story after story I could tell you. I'm sorry I'm going to far afield.

I left the local commission, Galen Martin who used to be the director of this agency, the Kentucky Human Rights commission; we had worked closely together 19:00over the years. During that time I was the state president of the NAACP and there were many issues when there were -- this agency took a position, the NAACP would pretty much endorse it or support it. We would bring issues to this agency and ask the agency to investigate certain things. We felt a responsibility to support lobbying and funding for this agency for that sort of thing. So, at any rate Galen had talked to me about coming to work for the state Human Rights Commission. So I did, I took the job as director of Outreach Services and Community Organization. So I spent a lot of time going around the state of Kentucky with a staff of people having to organize the NAACP chapters, local human rights commissions, women's groups, many activists groups around the state of Kentucky.


We spent some time trying to encourage black people to consider elective office. There weren't many black elected officials at that time. You go into communities and people would say, "Well John I can't run for the school board, I'm not qualified to do that." "Well look have you been to a school board meeting?" "Well, yeah." "Don't you think there are some people on there that you just?" "I'm just as smart as Joe Smith or Mary Joan." "Well you could do that job." At any rate over a period of time I saw an increase in the number of black elected officials.

I could tell you about stories where there were no state police, African American state police and the NAACP threatened to ask the federal government to withhold law enforcement assistance administration funds. We had argued with the state police for over two years, finally only when we threatened to hold funds from the state that they find African American police. There is story after story after story, much of which is in this book that I've given you. I'll be glad to elaborate more at some point on those things.


Then someone called me after I had worked here for about nine years at the state human rights commission and I got a call and asked me if I would be interested in directing the Community Action Agency in Louisville Jefferson County. I had spent a good part of my life being involved in the war on poverty at that time and was very supportive of it and wanted to be a part of it. The truth is there was not -- the money and resources that had been put in initially had dwindled considerably. And so the programs we had funding for in previous years had been reduced. At any rate, I took the job and walked into a hornets nest. I think 22:00there were eight different communities where we focused attention. There were thirteen or fourteen different federal programs we operated, all of which had separate funding, separate regulations, separate reporting processes. Just a multitude of issues.

We tried to run that as effectively as we could. To tell you the truth I had assigned some equal to work on some programs that had some problems, they did not do the job as they should have. And there is -- I don't want to go into great detail, but to say to you I ended up having to let some of them go. They then started writing the paper saying John is spending time dealing with the NAACP work on his job at the Community Action Agency. The paper started trying 23:00to look into charges and accusations. Whenever the media starts digging, it's something. It's hard to try to explain it. I know one of the things I looked at the paper and one day my daughter called me from Franklin and said, "Daddy, your picture is in the paper." I hadn't even seen the morning paper. It had something about "Poverty Director goes to NAACP Convention in Rented Cadillac." More like a poverty pimp type thing. It was so disheartening, I said -- I talked to a lawyer he said, "John, you can't comment, you don't know what they are looking for, you can't be respondent." The simple truth of the matter in that instance. There was a little girl in Franklin, Kentucky who participated who wanted to go to our national convention to participate in something called AACTSO, Afro 24:00Academic Corporal Technical Scientific Olympics. It was designed too - it exposed black children who were doing well. Just like we make heroes out of football players and basketball players these kids who are doing academically well. The intent was to expose these children around the country. My godmother one of my teachers, the president of the branch had called and asked if we could help sponsor this child. I said, "Well, we really don't have the money to do that." Talking about the NAACP. But let me think. It occurred to me the city had always agreed to cover my expenses as they did for other people to go to various conventions and that sort of thing and I could rent a car for what it would cost me to fly in that instance to Dallas, Texas and rent a car there. I could just rent a car here and drive there and take the little girl and take the other people that needed to go, chaperons and so forth. Obviously the simpler thing 25:00was for me to get on a plane and fly. My wife and I went to rent a car and the only thing they had of any size at the time, we asked for a Lincoln not that that was much different - was a Cadillac. I didn't even like the Cadillac, it didn't have much room, but never- the= less it was the biggest thing they had.

We drive to Franklin we pick up Ms. Katie who was the branch president, Ms. Brooks who was the youth advisor, the little girl, my wife, and myself. We drive for what looked like forever to Dallas, Texas and we come back. Six months later is when the paper starts digging into all of this. I tried to say to my lawyers, it was to make sure the little girl got out there. I had no need to drive to Texas myself. My wife and I had been going to the NAACP convention for years, we had agreement not that they would pay my wives expense, but they would cover my expense to go. But you can't explain why you didn't take children from 26:00Louisville. Be honest with you, the Coca-Cola company gave the local NAACP money for the children of Louisville. But the little children of the state didn't have that sort of -- never-the-less that sort of stuff got in the paper, then they started looking at me and the other programs, trying to find out. For example, I think there were some infractions against the Head Start program. We ran the Head Start program. As I recall one of them was there was the graffiti in the mens' -- the boys' restroom. It wasn't my job to paint the walls; we contracted with the school board. So when the feds came in and did their assessment they would give it to us and I would say to the school board, "These things need to be fixed." But he papers were saying "X number of fractions and listing what they were." Sometimes the media can be good and other times can be devastating.


So at any rate, in the midst of all of this I had served on the NAACP national board of directors for eight years. I had served for fourteen years as the state president in Kentucky. Ben Hooks who was then the executive director had said to me for several years about coming to work for the national NAACP. And I was reluctant to do so; I didn't necessarily want to leave home. My children, my grand -- well my grandchildren weren't here then. But my children were here. I was reluctant to go. I had six national vice-presidents at the time of the NAACP and I was one of the national vice-presidents of the board of the national NAACP. Hook's concern was I knew all of these people, I had a good report, I could try to maintain relationship between the staff and the board. So in the 28:00midst of being in the middle of all of this mess, and another opportunity being provided we decided to just go on. Actually the office was moving from New York where it had been for years to Baltimore. They had just bought a place in Baltimore. Baltimore is just 30 minutes from the nation's capital and two hours, 2 ½ hours from New York.

My wife had two sisters who lived in the D.C. area, so we moved there with the intention of trying to stay there maybe six months until the next governors election was over with and considering coming back. We ended up staying there twenty-two years. It just kind of, this is stuff is nothing I necessarily planned it's just the Lord's hand in making things available. Hooks asked me about the assistant, I said "Look I don't plan on being here that long." So I 29:00coordinated the voter empowerment program for that period of time. And then they asked me to do the Labor Department and then the Armed Services Division and before you knew it I was the director of all the programs at the national NAACP. And became the chief of the executive operations. In other words, the executive director spends a lot of time on the road making speeches and that sort of stuff. Someone has to run the operation and to a large degree that fell primarily to me.

So I've been blessed to move all over the country and throughout the world for that matter on behalf of the NAACP. And one I should share with you that a few years back we received a sizable grant from a donor to help with our voter empowerment programs. So we set up a national folder for it and set it in a whole separate office. And then I ran a comparable program at the NAACP directly where we employed people in seventeen different states to do voter registration 30:00and hype the interest. This is before Obama election, I'm not trying to take credit for Obama's election, they obviously ran a great campaign, but we did set the ground work for a lot of things. Several of our staff members that were there then, now work at the White House or some division of the Obama administration. So it's been an interesting journey.

I left the NAACP and went over to the AFL-CIO for a year and to help their voter programs. During that time someone called and said, "John have you thought about coming back home for there is an opening for director's position at the Kentucky Human Rights Commission."


AD: And what year what this?

JJ: Two-O-seven. So, I felt like the Lord maybe my prayers had been answered because I had been wanting to come back home for some time. A place I worked before, I'm getting tired of running all over the county every week going to different cities two or three times a week sometimes. This is a chance to be back with my children, my grandchildren and look toward to retirement. And here I am.

AD: Can you give me the bullet points on the work of the Commission?

JJ: Basically this is a state wide agency. The commission - actually there are eleven commissioners; the governor appoints those eleven commissioners. They employ an executive director which is me and I'm responsible for managing the rest of the staff. There are now twenty-four people on the staff of the 32:00commission. We have lost considerably in the last several years about ten staff positions. We lost $140,000 just last year because of the state budget cuts. Not just this agency, but all of the agencies, but across the board. All the state agencies are cutting back and so forth. Again we find ourselves trying to more with less.

But the agency, this was the first; Kentucky was the first state in the south to adopt a civil rights law and to establish a state human rights commission. In 2010, we celebrated our 50th year and many other agencies in the south particularly have a patterned their work after the Kentucky State Human Rights Commission. Some of them have more resources now than we do because of the cutbacks and so forth. It's one of the more respected human rights commissions 33:00in the nation. So I am pleased to be here as its executive director.

We deal with complaints. I often say the people who come in here many things are wrong, they are not always illegal. There are certain statutes we are governed by. We can deal with discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, family status, and in Kentucky the only state I know of, smoking is against the law to not consider somebody because they smoke in Kentucky. That does not mean -- that was added on in recent years, but that doesn't mean you can smoke. It means the employee when he or she goes to interview you they can't ask you if you are a smoker and say, "We won't hire if you because you are a smoker." They are required to provide a place they can go not necessarily in the building but someplace they can go to smoke. That's the 34:00areas that we cover.

We get more complaints every year based on race discrimination still. It's one of the hardest things to prove because by in large most people know how to get around direct discrimination. We still have this good ol' boy system. We put out these reports periodically that still show there is woefully inadequate employment of African Americans in state agencies and that sort of thing. We know that discrimination occurs having being able to prove it is difficult.

I should tell you that over the years, I say in speeches often, that every step 35:00and every march in the historical civil rights movement, I believe the movement continues, some people think about the movement as being over in the '60s I think the movement continuing today. Every step widens the path, not just for African Americans but for other minorities for people with disabilities, for women. If anybody ought to be a strong support of affirmative action in this agency it ought to be women. But we still don't have strong support that we need.

We deal with complaints just last month we found and settled a complaint in eastern Kentucky for $50,000 was awarded to a lady. We were able to mediate, to a lady who was not providing accommodation as a teacher in a school system in eastern Kentucky. She filed a complaint with us and it took some period of time and she ended up receiving $50,000. We continuously have on average 240 or 250 36:00complaints back logged just about all the time. And you just work the cases as you can, with not adequate staff, but the staff is very dedicated and hard working. People love you when you can win; they think you haven't done enough if you don't win. I been around long enough to know that every time people say I was discriminated against, you weren't necessarily discriminated against. If we can prove it we will. But if you didn't go to work for three days in a row and you got fired and come in and say I was fired because of my race that's not going to go very far. On the other hand if other people didn't go to work for three days and that was acceptable, those are things we have to look at too.

AD: Okay, I want to kind of focus now on the work on the commission is doing now and has done historically to enforce Kentucky's fair housing law. And I kind of 37:00want to start in the past and work forward. So can you tell me a little bit about the commission's innovations in housing research? As an example you've spoken a little bit about Mr. Galen Martin and his work here. Under his leadership, I understand that Kentucky had one of the first Section 8 mobility programs.

JJ: Yes, I should touch on that. In the Louisville area, there was a sustained series of demonstrations by human rights groups to promote open housing in this city. Martin King was here from time and participated and his brother A.D. King was a pastor and quite active. One of the posters I'm going to give you is a poster with Leo Lesser leading an open-housing demonstrations. Leo then, was the head of something called the West --


AD: West End Community Council?

JJ: West End Community Council, yes.

AD: WECC, yes.

JJ: He was a strong advocate. The other person you'll see in that picture as one of the leaders is James A Crumlin. Mr. Crumlin was a reverend was an AME minister and was also an attorney in this city. James Crumlin at that time was the state president of the NAACP. They are coming out of the Emmanuel Baptist Church on Broadway and demonstrating for open housing in that particular picture. There was this massive effort to try to integrate housing here in this city. The Louisville Defender carried story after story. The truth of the matter 39:00is that when you want coverage of issues in the black community, even today, the historic black press has been the one we've often gone too because the larger media doesn't think that civil rights issues are that sexy or that interesting and that sort of thing. Even though during that time the Courier was a reasonably, considered a reasonably liberal paper in the state.

There were efforts all around Kentucky, but the commission was involved in trying to promote housing integration. And at one point we would employ testers. People who would go out -- we sent a black couple out to apply for an apartment to make an application for a house. If you were looking for an apartment and you went out and you were black and they would say the apartment is no longer available. Then we would send a white couple out saying generally saying education whole nine yards. They would then say that there is an apartment available. In that case we then had grounds for a case to show discrimination. 40:00So a lot of that took place.

In addition to that I recall - I should mention Carl Hines, who ended up in the state legislature who's now retired was very active in running Housing Opportunity Center and Laken Cosby whose son everybody knows as Kevin Cosby at St. Stephens Baptist Church. Laken headed for years our housing department here and did an enormous amount of research, studies, a range of testing programs. At one point we would send staff out with people to actually make applications or 41:00help them. We weren't really realtors, but we would take people who were interested in going into communities. The commission integrated communities.

The commission published a lot of items, one of them one this little piece I always thought was cute. I'm going to give you a copy of it. "Did you hear what happened to Joe Jitters?" It's a little cartoon book, Jitters was a white gentlemen who sold his house because he was fearful property values would go down because blacks moved in. This is one of several pamphlets the commission used to print and circulate. Showing how he lost his valuable property just because he was scared for no reason. The property values did not go down just because people of color moved into the communities. There are several pieces 42:00like that, that relate to housing issues that the commission circulated. I'll be glad to share those with you. The -

AD: Do you know how these were distributed or where these were distributed?

JJ: Well, they were distributed all over the state; it was not just a Louisville thing. At the time the commission had offices in Hopkinsville and Frankfort and here in Louisville. And staff people at each of those offices. There are now twenty-four local human rights commissions -- twenty-two I'm sorry, local human rights commissions around the state. At the time there might have been fifteen or so. The local human rights commissions don't work for us, they are appointed by the mayor and by the county. They give them whatever authorities they want to by their local ordinances. We try to assist them and support their efforts, by 43:00training them and trying to help them with resources. They by and large sent complaints to use as they receive them.

This was the first year, a report on the first year after Kentucky's Fair Housing Act and it shows some of the issues that people were confronted with. Here's a "Commission Makes 1000 apartments available to blacks." "Martin speaks to the Kentucky Association of Realtors." "130 Black Families in White Neighborhoods." They would kind of sort of monitor that sort of thing. "Bowling Green enacts a Fair Housing Ordinance." "Commission seeks to relive bias in Lake Shore Sale." "IBM in Lexington Leads Fair Housing Efforts in the Lexington Area." I'll give you this report; it talks a lot about what happened during that period of time.

AD: Great. Okay, so that gets us sort of through the '60s. Can you speak about - 44:00obviously you weren't here, but can you speak about the '70s and '80s? Are there any specific -- obviously the commission is always working on fair housing issues and complaints that come in, but were there any specific campaigns that go on during that time?

JJ: There are continuous campaigns. I should have pulled other reports because the commission still, even today, you can go into any Kentucky neighborhood and the truth is I'm not saying Kentucky's that much different from the rest of the nation and find the black community and the white community. There is some integration throughout the whole state. There is more integration in Louisville 45:00and Lexington perhaps. But there are still efforts to racially steer black people who were looking for apartments or looking for homes, often the realtor will suggest in the black community you can get this. There is very little -- we don't have enough resources to do all of the monitoring that we need to do even today. Throughout the '70s things have changed. I wouldn't be wrong to suggest things have not changed. People are more open, people are more receptive, but racially discrimination exists even today. So throughout that period that you are referencing the commission continued to process complaints relating to housing discrimination. You can see from our annual reports throughout the year, I'll be glad to share a copy of each one of those if you like. Different complains that the commission processed and when they were able to settle complaints.


As a result, not just from this commission, not just of this commissions work, but of the continuing civil rights struggle in this nation. We see more and more integration. There are some who believe and I join them in that belief that if we can deal with housing integration it will resolve a lot of their issues the whole question about integrated schools, about accessibility to employment. All of that can be impacted if we had true integration. Now integration is not just saying the blacks move into white neighborhoods, historically white neighborhoods. Why can you have the inner-city home-a-ramas just like you do in the counties? Why can we develop the inner city more attractive? Not pricing out the people who live there. This commission spent a lot of time over the years 47:00promoting scattered site moderate and low income housing so people of color and low income people could afford to live in neighborhoods. You don't have to downgrade the quality of the property by putting in moderate and low income housing as a mixed into the community. That's been a major push of this agency for many years.

AD: I want to talk specifically this newer campaign this commission has launched, the "All Doors are Open in Kentucky" campaign. Can you tell me a little bit about the goals of that campaign what the commission - the work you are doing towards those goals?

JJ: What we really know is that as I said earlier, you can go into any community and still find the black side of town and the white side of town primarily. While there may be some integration, little is being done to encourage people to consider living in other communities. I am now, some people say older than dirt, 48:00sixty-seven, and I know there was a mental mindset when I was a youngster and even as a young adult. Say that you live on this side of town you don't even think about trying to buy across the tracks if you will. One you couldn't afford it, you wouldn't be accepted. That stigma has not gone too far away today.

Louisville is one area. People talk about Georgia like Atlanta is one thing and the rest of Georgia is something else. Louisville is one thing and the rest of Kentucky is something else, even though Louisville has its problems too, don't misunderstand me. There's this mindset to a large degree -- and it's beginning 49:00to change -- can I buy over there in that neighborhood. How will the people treat me, will I be accepted, will I be a part of the community, will I be looked at like something strange when I come home in the evening? How do you break down those types of psychological barriers? We were fortunate to receive a small grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help us promote housing integration, so we put up some billboards around the state. And we were building the campaign around "All doors are open in Kentucky." We have a couple of public service announcements, or commercials were purchased actually. We purchased commercials in all 120 counties that have the governor recording on video and audio for radio and TV. Where he tells people if you feel are all 50:00doors are open in Kentucky and you feel you have been a victim of discrimination to call the Kentucky Commission of Human Rights. We were pleased to have that out. We put up some billboards particularly around the state capital. We are looking and putting up some others in other parts of the state. Billboards are particularly expensive, so we are looking for kind of a way to get that sort of thing out.

In addition to that we've been involved in several workshops around the state where we've provide training to local human rights commissions and other civil rights groups about housing rights, what the law is. The need to be supportive of neighborhood integration. How people can file complaints if they feel they are the victims of discrimination. So we've done a lot of that. We've had displays everywhere we can think of. We had a display just in the last couple of weeks at the Kentucky State Fair. We've had displays at things Louisville Defender - family activities in the park, L.O.U's festival there a few weeks ago 51:00in the park. We've been all over the state. Down in Russellville, up in Covington, in Paducah. We've had exhibits all over the state and we'll continue in the next several months and we'll continue to do that sort of thing.

AD: So we've talked a little bit about you've mentioned earlier some of the differences between some -- there are some cities that have ordinances that have protections that people don't have on the state or federal level. For example in Louisville, Louisville civil rights law provides protections for LGBT citizens. It appears despite not having a state law that protects LGBT people directly for 52:00housing, sexual orientation and gender identity specifically -- I think I saw a note in the newsletter that the commission is collection stories from Kentuckians from these groups that may have experiences housing discrimination.

JJ: The commission, Kentucky -- let me start by saying that our authority is contingent on state legislation and so we have the authority to subpoena the records, to issue cease and desist orders just as a court of law. Our decisions can be appealed to the court, but most people don't go there are far as once we make a decision, they realized it's based on the law. But the state legislature has not placed revised ordinances in legislation to include sexual orientation. 53:00We have submitted resolutions to the state legislature and we have expressed our interest in our belief that one, discrimination is wrong period. People should not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. Whatever you think about it morally, people should have a right to have a job, to rent a house, to do whatever anybody else does. Their sexual orientation is their personal business at least that's what we believe. We've suggested that Kentucky encourage the state legislature to amend our laws to allow us to cover that.

It does not cost us considerably more money to include people based on sexual orientation more than anything else. When women were added to the law, that's 54:00over half the state population [laughs] they didn't give us and more money. So to add sexual orientation is not going to cost us considerably more money to investigate. So that's not an argument not worth having. In Kentucky, the city of Covington, Lexington and Louisville have city ordinances that allow their local commission to address issues of sexual orientation. No other city has that. We do have model ordinances that we recommend cities consider, endorse. And in those model ordinances sexual orientation is included and recommended. It's up to the city to determine how to deal with that.

There have been some campaigns particularly most recently in Berea, Kentucky. There are some other cities looking into it. I think we had a hearing not long ago in Berea over 500 people came to show support for inclusion of sexual 55:00orientation. Berea as you know is built around Berea College basically which is a progressive institution of higher learning. A place where blacks and whites went to school where no other place in the country. People often look to Berea as a place of leadership in terms of justice issues and equality issues. They agreed to create a commission, but they did not include sexual orientation, and there is still an effort to include that. But those three cities, Louisville, Lexington and Covington do have that coverage.

At this stage if we get inquires if anybody calls, we try to refer them to the appropriate agencies of the federal government. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and EEOC are now taking the position that sex discrimination 56:00is in fact sex discrimination and sexual orientation is discrimination against people. It's considering under that heading. There is -- some of that is on appeal and I think the courts will rule on it at some point. We've asked the Attorney General of Kentucky to give us some guidance and their thought is we are not required to do it, they said we couldn't do it, they said we're not required to do it. We've taken the position we'll refer those complaints, if it's in Louisville, Lexington or Covington we refer them to those agencies. Otherwise we refer people to the federal government to those agencies that can do those investigations.

We are trying to do a survey on, just to get some idea on about people, the number of people who have been victims of discrimination. So on our website we 57:00have placed a link where a person can type in who they are and where they have been discriminated against and we'll try to refer them to the proper agency. It lets us get some idea as to the degree on this sort of thing occurs.

AD: And what sort of reaction have you gotten on the state level as you've try to lobby for the law to expand to include sexual orientation?

JJ: It's been mixed. Many of the places you go in, if you discuss it people will agree that it is wrong to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation based on anything else. Many politicians are reluctant to address it because feedback they fear they will get from their constituents. The faith 58:00based leadership in many communities are so strongly against it many times they don't look beyond what they feel is immoral part of it or the fact that it's in their mind at least, what they think the bible says about it.

I was in Lexington a couple of weeks ago and I heard a minister speak on this issue and I thought he spoke quite eloquently. What he interpreted the bible about it, but that didn't mean people should be done wrong in essence discriminated against, because that's between them and their religious thinking. There are groups around the state, activists groups, who are promoting this, but they don't have near - they could use a lot more support. People of good will 59:00really ought to speak up on it when it comes into their communities. We'd like to see more local commissions address it. We were in Bowling Green a few weeks back. Our chair raised it with the mayor and who was there at our commission meeting and he was quite respectful. Then in the article after he left the meeting he said he wasn't presenting it to the city council for consideration. But I think the time will come just as the black civil rights struggle and civil rights issues, people were reluctant to address them. Society will change. I think the president took the right position on the same sex marriage issue, he caught a lot of flak, but I think the nation is getting closer. You have to look 60:00beyond the surface, talk about the - opposed to it for religious reasons. You can be opposed to it yourself, but it doesn't mean the next guy doesn't have the same right as you have.

AD: These are a couple of opinion questions for you. Do you believe there are any governmental laws, acts, rules, or regulations that you see as impediments to fair housing choice in Kentucky? I know Kentucky is a very large state, lots of different municipalities and ordinances, but does anything stick out in your mind as impediments to fair housing choice?

JJ: I don't know if there are any laws. I personally would like to see more involvement by the Home Builders Association, the Realtors Association. People 61:00who are professionals in this field of housing, to promote housing integration. Some things you can legislate by saying it's illegal to discriminate and that sort of thing, but there - that doesn't mean you change the mindset. You change the mindset of people of good will promoting this sort of thing. Faith based leaders.

In the white community particularly, ought to be more encouraging. Somehow we've got this mindset that people who speak up on human rights issues ought to be black. I think they have a role, don't misunderstand me. But the burden is not all on them, if people in white clergymen, white leaders have responsibilities as well. You are with the Anne Braden Center, Anne used to often say she didn't think it was her place to tell black folk what to do, but she didn't mind telling white folk that they needed to do their part too. We don't have as much 62:00of that. I'd like to see more local commissions established in the state of Kentucky. Local human rights commissions that address these issues. I'd like to see more of those that are in existence speaking up on these issues. They are people who are appointed by the mayor of and sometimes are reluctant to challenge the system, the point -- that's the price you pay for leadership.

AD: So you sort of answered my next question, was to ask if there were private organizations, businesses or citizens that were impediments to fair housing choice or can do something to contribute. So you point to realtors --

JJ: I think even beyond that, I hear people over the years all over the country who criticize those few leaders in the NAACP and other human rights groups, 63:00they're not doing enough, they should be doing something different. I don't doubt that, but they are doing the best they can in most instances with what they have. We need to particularly try to encourage younger people, I know it's saying a lot, to get actively involved in the continuing movement. People think the civil rights movement is over. If you look at the economic conditions communities are confronted with. If you look at the dropout rate, if you look at the incarceration rate. You can look at any of these social indicators that say the movement needs to continue. We need to still challenge the system to bring about change. There are things that need to be done within the black community 64:00as well. We ought to not let government off the hook. See we've almost gotten to the point - it's good that my children don't have to go to the back of the bus. They don't have to go the back door of restaurant and all that; they don't have to go to segregated water fountains, now I've been there I mean in my lifetime. I know I've been in the segregated schools and the hand me down books and on and on and on. My children, my grandchildren don't have to deal with that. I thank God they don't, I don't ever want them too. But because they didn't have that experience, they don't have the passion that some people my age and older have about the importance of continuing to make this nation, this state if you will to address the issues that need to be addressed.

You look at disproportionate sentence based on drugs, the number of black men that dealing that are incarcerated because of three strikes you're out type thing. If you look at the issues that impacted our communities by BET and MTV 65:00and how they try to talk to young people about how they instill in young people's mind negative thinking about the use of guns, about the lack of respect for women. All that sort of things we need to continuously challenge our system and try to change. The movement goes on. We need soldiers if you will, young people engaged in the movement, to analyze these issues to study them and not to assume that all is well. Not to believe just because the report says 50 percent of blacks in cabinet positions all is well up under that. To read between the lines to see what the real issues are. Sorry I'm talking so much. [Laughs].

AD: No, we were talking for a little bit over an hour, but if you have time, I still have a couple of more questions. You spoke of this a little bit, but I 66:00just want to ask you directly do you sense that housing discrimination in Kentucky is getting better or worse, or the same?

JJ: [pause] I think it is getting better, but it doesn't mean it's where it ought to be. If you go to Eastern Kentucky for example there are certain parts of this state where there are no black people living. I spend a lot of time; I spent some time at least meeting with groups on various issues. Whether the colleges and universities in this state are attracting and recruiting black professionals in their rural areas or not. People are talking about well, blacks don't want to move here, we can't keep them here. What has happened in the community that it makes undesirable to be there? And when I talk to black professionals many times, no one has opened the community. The Chamber of Commerce, the groups that do community planning are not thinking about integration when they do this sort of thing. They don't necessarily try to set 67:00an atmosphere that's comfortable for black professional to engage in the community. All of those things that need to be discussed and analyzed and dealt with at the local levels. So why yes, things are changing and blacks are moving into integrated neighborhoods there is still, all around this country stories of gentrification where whites are moving into inner cities and prices are such that no black person, no moderately income person can almost hardly move into those communities. Little discussion takes place about that.

In Kentucky, particularly in rural Kentucky some beautiful areas of our state where some counties there are hardly no blacks. Some no blacks at all, some 68:00percentages are 1 or 2 percent. So more needs to be done about total integration. If you look at studies that show black people move out of the state and few are moving back into the state. The question has to be why? Why don't people find Kentucky a desirable place to be? The question has somewhat do to with how open are we as a state, how engaging are we? How much are we actually reaching out to encourage minorities? In a few years, white Americans will not be a majority in this county; we've got to figure out a way for the good of the country, for the good of the state to be more inviting, more engaging. To encourage more integration.


For years there was almost a civil war between U of L and UK, things have changed to some degree. Matter of fact the football coach up, Joker, is from my hometown of Franklin, his mother and I went to high school together, in the same class. His father was my [inaudible] before his passing. I find myself wanting to yell for Joker every time the team plays whether they lose or not. But on the other hand, in my heart I almost want U of L because still in my mind the stigma of how conservative UK was and all the stuff that Rupp did. People say "you've ought to get over it." I guess it will die out eventually. But the things that have taken place and continue to take place and not just UK, but in institutions around the state that are not inviting or not encouraging to African Americans.

AD: You've mentioned this moment we're in where things are changing where 70:00largely in Louisville, but I mean state white it's largely been a black-white story. More immigrants and refugees from all over the world are moving into all different areas of the state so it's changing the conversation.

JJ: Certainly. We need to be sensitive to that. One of my concerns as it relates to housing is one of by in large, moderate income people, low-income people who are migrating into this state are being targeted just as African Americans were to live in certain neighborhoods to live certain apartment complexes. Are you creating another area where you have large poverty, large amount of - lack of integration. That sort of thing. We were looking at a few years or so back where 71:00many immigrants are being recommended or sent for housing. Part of that is which realtors are willing to accept the programs that support immigrants and that sort of thing. But we have to be careful that we don't just set up a situation where we create additional low income areas with all the problems are associated with that. People ought to be able live anywhere they want and they ought to be able to live in an integrated setting in this state.

I look at the Shelbyville area where I think there is a large Hispanic/Latino population. I was talking to some of our staff earlier about how to we promote 72:00the encouragement of these people to run for elected office. Just like the years back we had to reach out to blacks and say, "Man, you can be on the school board. You can be on the city council." How do we get more people who are here in this state as legal citizens to consider running for elective office and to get them fully integrated into society in this state.

When I think -- I think it was two years ago now, I picked up a paper from somewhere in eastern Kentucky, I won't call the city, but the police officer had pulled over a red pickup truck with three Hispanic workers in it. And the 73:00headline of the paper read, "Round 'em up, move 'em out." That's the headline in the paper with the picture. So we wrote the sheriff and we said it seems to us that you are targeting people based on their appearance. We sent some staff to meet him, he was very apologetic. He swore that was not what they intended to do. I don't know if that's true or not. But the point is the media made more out perhaps than it even was. It may have been they were speeding and whatever they checked their licenses and went on. But there paper used the heading, "Round 'em up and move 'em out" just like they were cattle or something. That sort of thing ought to be discouraged. We try to discourage it when we can. There are people in our state legislature that talk about trying to get rid of immigrants and stopping people and asking for papers and that sort of thing. We've got to get 74:00beyond that in a society.

AD: This is another side for my final question, I'm not sure if it was the commission that was the main host, a recent conference about black/brown alliances in this state.

JJ: Yeah, we've done that, we'll the second time, we ended up at Kentucky State University and we had several people from the Hispanic/Latino communities, from the African American community. We were talking about common concerns, common issues. We have been, I think, fortunate in this state we have not had the conflict that some other states have had between the Hispanic and African American communities. We don't have any reason to fight with each other. We have 75:00common issues and common concerns. We ought to join forces to try to get people elected. We ought to join forces to build a stronger, more diverse society and that's what that meeting was all about.

AD: Great, can you share any ides on housing initiatives that are or could be positive in Kentucky?

JJ: Well, there is a program down in Bowling Green that the housing authority there is operating. A gentleman by the name of Abraham Williams in the director of it. They are promoting integrating housing, they are promoting home ownership, they are promoting consumer protection. It's a very positive program; it seems to me to be the type of thing we would encourage more cities look and try to do. I think there are efforts, the Kentucky Realtors


Association allowed us to put an article in an editorial during Fair Housing Month in their publication about the importance of housing integration. More of that sort of thing needs to happen. It ought to be a part of the training and indoctrination for realtors when they go through training and get their license and that sort of thing. We would like to see more of that sort of thing occur. There are some instances particularly in April during Fair Housing Month where people put special efforts on -- it's got to be more than the governor just signing a proclamation. It ought to be a continuous move to encourage integration into housing. Martin King used to talk and others about the most segregated island in our societies is 11 o'clock on Sunday when our churches are so segregated. Somehow or another, we need to look at not diluting black voting 77:00strength, but trying to make sure that people have an opportunity to enjoy the fullness of life and that includes the ability to buy property where ever one wants too. To go to church wherever one feels comfortable and that sort of thing.

AD: Is there anything that you want to talk about that you haven't had a chance to yet?

JJ: Oh, I've talked too much. [Laughs] There are so many people. I just looked at this thing on Mae Street Kidd, that I'll give you. Mae Street Kidd who was member of the Kentucky state legislative who created the Kentucky Fair Housing Corporation. And the Kentucky Housing Corporation is doing some outstanding work too in terms of promoting moderate and low income housing throughout the state. 78:00So many have given time and effort to promote equality in housing. We need not to just be satisfied but they will expect us to continue the struggle. I just hope we can encourage more and more people to get engaged in the continuing struggle.

AD: Okay, thank you so much.

JJ: Thank you.

End of recording.