Padmapani Muzquiz: I am speaking to Kenneth Clay, it is the 6th of Novmber 2014at approximately 11 am in Louisville, Kentucky. So, can you give me an idea of when and wear you were born?
Ken Clay: I was born right here in Louisville, Kentucky back in 1939. I was bornin a housing project called College Court. Number 13 College Court to be specific. So, that's where I, I live a block from where I was born, at this point so I'm Louisville all the way, through and through.
PM: And, what was your family situation like when you were growing up?
KC: Well, I had a brother and two wonderful parents and that was the immediatefamily and I had extended family through cousins, uncles, et cetera, who lived 1:00in Louisville. My mom's family was from a little place called Newport, Tennessee, and I really have fond memories of Newport, as my brother and I would go every summer to visit my aunts, and uncles, and grandparents down in that little place and it has indelible memories for me.
PM: When you lived there as a kid was there anything that struck you andsignificantly different about Newport as opposed to Louisville?
KC: Well, of course, it was a very, very, small community. But my uncle, andaunt, and grandma had, they lived like in the, I guess right outside of the center of the area of the town. And uh, I know my uncle owned a "joint". He went to sell the bootleg liquor and my brother and I would love to go up into his place and play records and dance and have fun like that. Uh, my aunt was a schoolteacher down there and uh, she eventually became the principle, and she was a very, very-- very, very, wonderful, well respected woman in that little 2:00community, as was my uncle. My grandmother, which everybody called "Aunt Note" was just a fantastic lady, you know, who I've written some stories about in a project I hope someday to publish. Uh, but she was just a fantastic woman, and they all were go-getters, and, you know, had the kind of drive that I admired, and hopefully some of it passed on to me.
PM: And, you mentioned her name was "Aunt Note"?
KC: Nora was her name, Nora Frazier, but everybody in the community referred toher as "Aunt Note". And, my aunt's name, uh, they referred to her as "Aunt Mae". So they had a little, kind of status, in that community if you would-- I 3:00interpreted it that way anyway.
PM: Uh, you mentioned your parents, uhm, were they a big influence on you as achild, in your life?
KC: Oh yeah, oh yeah. My mother was a schoolteacher. She had a degree in-- shegraduated from some college in Tennessee, uh, but when she came to Louisville-- I remember her most, she had to take a job working as a maid, or in-- it's what they used to call Day-Workers, working in somebody's home, you know, so I remember vividly, uhm, her doing that 'cause I used to go out with her sometimes to help do some of the heavier work in the household. My dad was an interesting individual, he was a-- he was a waiter, that was one of his jobs. He also worked at a printing company, and whatever he needed to do to help put food on the 4:00table and raise us, you know, he did it. He was a very dignified and-- when I say dignified, that may not be the right word, but he was kind of a "world-like" person, he just seemed to know a lot about life and the world. But he was funny as heck too. We, later, a friend of mine began to refer to him as "The Baron", giving him a kind of a status too, that everybody looked up to.
PM: You mentioned that your mother was a maid and your father had, uh, a seriesof jobs. Do you think that was typical for black people in Louisville at the time?
KC: Uh, yeah, I know in the area that I grew up with a lot of, you know,families worked two jobs. Men worked either as waiters or as, working on the 5:00railroad, the porters, you know, was going strong at that time. So, yeah there was that kind of thing, but there was always seemingly a very unified nucleus of the family there, you know. There were always, uh, seemingly to me, most of my friends had-- most of them, not all, but there was a two-parent household, you know, most of us.
PM: Do you think that's significantly different, maybe, than later decades ormaybe today, that family unit?
KC: Oh yeah, it's totally, totally, different. That was something that was-- itseemed like it was essential to have that kind of influence within the home, the structure. Today we don't seem to have that, the single-family households. Here, now, mostly women, single women, or divorced women, or-- seems to be the prevalent thing of the day. But back in those days it was a-- it was a more of a unified family with both mom and dads in there raising the family and providing 6:00for the families.
PM: Is there any reason, do you think, why that changed over the years?
KC: Well, I'm sure there are reasons. I don't think I want to try and addressit, because it's just too vast for me right at this point to understand. Uhm, there's-- there've been-- there was a lot of temptations and influences that tended to pull people apart. Seemingly that was one of-- one of the things that, uhm, that happened. And, like I said it's just too vast of a subject for me to address completely at this point.
PM: Uh, let's go to your educational background. Can you tell me where you wentto school and how long you were there? 7:00
KC: Well, you know, I grew up here in Louisville, which at that point was a verysegregated society, uh, place to live. But, I went to elementary school at a place called Mary B. Talbot school, which was a school right in my neighborhood. So uh, it was great. Then I went to a place called Jackson Junior High School, it still exists. From Jackson I went to Central High School. Central, of course, at that time, was the only high school, public high school, that black kids could go to, you know, during that period of segregation. From Central I went to, for one year, to a college at (unintelligible) Ohio called Central State college. It was a great experience there. My mom and dad help me at this-- both my brother and I went there, mom and dad helped for the first year. But my brother and I made a decision after my first, freshman year, after his sophomore year, to come back home to Louisville because we didn't want to put that burden 8:00on our parents any longer, to provide-- you know, pay for us to go to school. But, we came back and he came out here to U of L, and went to University of Louisville, and I went to Bellermine University. It was called Bellermine College at the time, and it was an all boys school at that point. And, uhm, it was a great place to get an education. It was referred to, at that time, as the "Notre Dame" of the South. To me it was a little-- I don't want to call it childish, but the behavior of the students there was not on the level of the behavior of the other college that I went to. I guess it was seeming to be a more mature population because the people that I went to the school with up there were from all across the country, they were international students who 9:00were there. So it just seemed like a very mature and progressive, more progressive, school. When I came back to Louisville it was, it just didn't compare. But, the education at Bellermine was undoubtedly one of the best that I could have gotten. From Bellermine-- I majored in Clinical Psychology and I came to University of Louisville to work on my Masters Degree here, in Clinical Psychology. And that's about it in terms of my education.
PM: You mentioned that your mother was a schoolteacher. Did that influence youand your brother's perception of an education, as far as maybe that's a good thing to have?
KC: Well, yeah It did. I think my dad spent a couple of years in college too. Ithink one of the major influences on our decision to go further, to further 10:00education, was the fact that we lived in College Court. Now, right across the street from College Court, at that point in time, was Municipal College. Louisville Municipal College. That was the black college. It was affiliated somehow with the university here at Louisville but it was a black college in Louisville. And, we became, the kids there, the boys in particular, we got involved with the basketball teams, and football teams, and we used to just go over at the campus and play ball and, you know, over there. The teachers kind of adopted us and even a couple of the coaches would take some of us on the football-- trips out of town even, you know, had to get permission from our parents. So it was a whole feeling in that community of unity, the students there, you know, we knew them by-- we knew a lot of them by name, and they kind of adopted us too. So I think that was a very major influence in our decision to go on, further education. And many of the other kids, who grew up with me, I'm 11:00sure, were influenced as I was by that factor.
PM: So would you say that education is something that was, I don't know, if notexpected by the community, something encouraged by the community?
KC: Oh yeah, particularly the community that I grew up in. It was a differenttime. It was a period where we knew that that was the way, you know, that was the way. Education was a way to move on out, and get-- everybody didn't take advantage of it and some, I'm sure, regretted it. But it was just a sense amongst us that one of the things we were supposed to do, we had to do, was to go on and get an education, you know. It just was there, it was kind of like a sense that we felt-- I don't know where the specific influences came, but we all 12:00were knowledgeable of the fact that-- how important it was to proceed in our lives and get an education.
PM: You mentioned that education was seen as a way to move out. Can you explainthat to me, what did you mean by that?
KC: Well if you, you know, grow up in a poor community-- Now, I lived in ahousing project, I never considered myself growing up in poverty. You know we were, we did everything we want... seemingly, you know. But we had the reinforcement of our parents, and of the community, you know, we had like, I know my mother belonged to the Mother's Club, or something like that. But it was there in College Court, and they would actually, every year, would take us on trips to Cincinnati or Springhill Park, out of state trips and so forth. So we 13:00had that kind of bedrock right there in our community, you know? And I remember that I had an auntie who worked for the YMCA, the Chestnut street YMCA, and she would make sure that every year we would have the opportunity to go to camp, you know, and get a broader-- gain a broader experience. 'Matter of fact when I grew up, for a couple of years, I was a counselor at the camp that we went to, you know? But it was just there in the community; the reinforcement was just kind of automatic there.
PM: As far as segregation goes, can you tell me a little bit about how youperceived that at that age?
KC: Well, you know, sometimes I say I grew up in a situation where the onlywhite people I saw, primarily, was the milkman and the postman, and people who-- 14:00and maybe some insurance people who walked, you know, trying to get business in the black community. So I grew up in a situation where I didn't feel the "sting", let's put it that way, of segregation 'cause we had everything that we wanted, you know? And (unintelligible) during that period of time, during the 40s, 50s, when I was growing up there was a place called Walnut street. I lived, you know, six blocks from Walnut street, so I used to be on Walnut street as much as possible. But it was the heart, the soul, the pulse of the black community, you know, I mean black businesses were there, there were doctors, lawyers, there were insurance companies. At one point there were two banks, you know? And there was a lot going on and I kind of linked up with some folks-- when I was in high school I used to sing, so-- and we did quartets, my brother, myself, my cousin, and a couple of guys who lived up in the Walnut street area. 15:00So we would get together and go up there to rehearse a lot so I began to know people in that area and so forth. So, that feeling, the feeling of seeing successful black men, at least perceived in my head, they would be, you know, they would come out of their offices and they're on the corner talking to youth and they would, it was a great role model thing, you know, that gave us more encouragement to be all we could be, you know? And they motivated us in a great deal-- great way.
PM: Can you tell me, when you would go down to a place like Walnut street, whatwould you typically do there?
KC: Well, as a kid, I used to go to Walnut street as a young person to-- on16:00Saturdays primarily because they have the movie houses down there, you know? Now, every Saturday, almost, my brother and I would make our way down to Walnut street and we'd go in to see the movies. We'd go in to see, you know, paid fifteen cents, stay in the movie all day. We'd see the cartoons, major features, maybe two major features, the news of the week, you know, they would have it all there. And, at this one particular show, theater, called the Leer Theater, they would have a live stage show. Now, this is during the daytime, kids, you know. And this stage show would have some of the top name black artists, black entertainers on there, you know? They'd have comedians, they'd have singers, they'd have-- Red Fox was there, a bunch of folks would be here. So that show became known as-- it became known as the Midnight Ramble. Now, the Midnight Ramble actually started at midnight but that's when the adults came out to those 17:00shows. But during the day I had an opportunity to see all these wonderful, wonderful, entertainers, you know, just for fifteen cents, you know? I guess that was kind of like a rehearsal for the night show, but nonetheless it was spectacular, something that I always remember. As a matter of fact later in life, when I worked at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, I was in charge of the programming there, I produced and started what's called the Midnight Ramble Series. You might have heard of that, I don't know, but the Kentucky Center still presents that series eight years later. I left the center about eight years ago, and that's one of the only series that, you know, was one of the initial series that continues to be presented there, you know? And yeah, read the book [Two Centuries of Black Louisville, which Kenneth Clay co-authored], there's a lot of stuff in there you can find about Walnut street. 18:00
PM: And, well moving on a little bit, can you tell me about after you graduatedfrom school, what did you do after that? What kind of work did you end up doing?
KC: I went into, I got a job, with the Metropolitan government. They were doingsome social work. So I would go around to-- a case load, and I'd go around, and of course provide services and talk to my clients and try to assist them in finding jobs or finding whatever-- need health services, whatever they really needed, you know? But the ultimate goal was to help them become as independent as they could and get off the welfare rolls, you know? So I did that. I later-- boy, I've been through so many changes. But I worked for the Community Action 19:00Agency, which is one of the most fantastic jobs I think I've had. Back when the poverty program began I was one of the first people, locally, to be hired for the Community Action Agency, and I worked in the program department, so I put together a lot of the programs there. And, the target areas, like Parkland, I was the person in the programming department who first drew the target areas, the Jacksons, the Parklands, the Russels. The Park DuValle is a later name and I created that because I put Parkland and DuValle together. It became Park DuValle, you know? Then in the county there was Sylvania, there was Newburg, and whatever, you know? But I was involved in doing that type of thing. Uh-- boy, I've uh, worked for the Urban League for about eleven years and I started my own 20:00private organization, one called Renaissance, years ago, that was a community arts-- community arts organization. And we put together-- we did art exhibits, we brought-- served as a presenting function, we brought in artists from out of town to present to the local community. We worked in the parks, you know, in the schools etcetera. We were just providing arts, and the emphasis was on African-American arts and artists.
PM: You mentioned that you did some singing, and obviously you were involved inthe arts over the years, was there anything in particular that you were drawn to in terms of the arts? Was it music, arts, anything like that? 21:00
KC: Oh, well I've always loved music and I always have loved jazz. When we wereyounger, it seems like there was a-- jazz was the music of the day when we were coming up. I remember we used to get together and meet one another with jazz albums that we had heard and we wanted our friends to hear, you know? So we would all meet and play jazz music so everybody could hear what we had heard, you know? I became very familiar with jazz artist, etcetera. But in the arts period visual arts were something-- I was never a visual artist but I hung with a lot of visual artists, you know? Ed Hamilton was one, he was younger than I, a little bit. But, Bob Thompson, Sam Gilliam, and Ken Young, G. C. Cox, these are 22:00names of black artists from this city who went on to accomplish [a] great deal of things, Sam Gilliam and Bob Thompson in particular. As a matter of fact Sam should have a work here at the University of Louisville and I think Bob has too. So, just being in that kind of atmosphere, you know, what very positive in terms of the direction that I later chose to move into, the whole field of the arts. More a presenter of the arts, and I still do things, you know, like festivals and events. The World Fest, I put together the entertainment for that and have been doing that for the last nine years. I've got a couple of things called Celebrating Louisville's Black Legacy that I started last year and will continue on this year. And I do art stuff for the Urban League. I just-- all around, like 23:00all that.
PM: You mentioned the black artist community that was going on when you wereyounger, was that a very large movement, do you think? In terms of, just in terms of its effect on the city, I suppose.
KC: Well not as much as the national black arts movement, you know? 'Cause theblacks arts movement is kind of a partner, in a sense, with the black movement, you know, in terms of the Civil Rights Struggle, etcetera. Louisville's black arts movement was never as strong as those outside of this city, but it was a very, very, positive and influential movement locally, I think, you know? And it helped to give some direction to some younger people coming up in terms of appreciation of the arts, and a way to express one's self, you know? And I think 24:00that was very key for Louisville's small black arts community.
PM: Does that community continue today?
KC: It does, it does, not in the way that it [had] been. It's grown much morebroader it its scope. There's a lot of dance groups coming up now. There's not as much theater happening but the visual artists are there, but there's no big movement coming up, but they're there, you know? You just have to know where to go to find it.
PM: So do you think the connection between the arts community and Civil Rightsis sort of-- the connection is maybe not as strong? 25:00
KC: Oh no, it's not as strong, it's not as strong. In the Civil Rights strugglethe arts was an intimate part of it. Even the music of the Civil Rights struggle came out of the black arts movement, you know? And they were kind of like intricately related, you know? When you're marching you're singing, you're creating that type of thing. There was something to latch onto, the art had something to latch onto. Today I don't see that as being the focus of the Civil Rights movement, you know?
PM: Just for my own interest on it, I guess, do you think that affects the-- Iguess you could say, the quality of the art? Was it more powerful back then, do you think, than it is today?
KC: I think yeah, I think definitely it was more powerful, more persuasive, ithad more of a reason to be, I guess, is the way I'll put it, because it was a 26:00struggle to overcome, you know? And when there's a struggle there's always that opposition, that creative force that is dealing with addressing the struggle. In a great sense I think the arts became a creative force addressing the struggle for freedom, you know? So you saw it, and you saw it particularly in music, but you also saw it in dance forms, you know? With people like Alvin Ailey and-- the Dance Theater of [America] was here just last week. You could see the expression of this desire, this need, to be free. So, in that sense of the word I think it-- yeah, it's strong.
PM: Moving to Parkland, can you give me a sense of where you believe theboundaries of Parkland are? Can you define that for me? 27:00
KC: Initially I think they [it] went from Broadway all the way to AlgonquinParkway, this was Parkland. From, let's see-- probably 18th street to the river. At one point that was the Parkland community, you know? After it was refined and kind of reduced, it began at Broadway to Virginia Avenue, in that area, Virginia Avenue. And probably from 15th-- no, from 18th over to 34th-- generally [laughs].
PM: You mentioned that Parkland was redefined. Can you tell me-- What did you28:00mean by that?
KC: Well, geographically it was redefined. When the Poverty Program came toLouisville I was hired by the Community Action Agency and I was in the Program Department and it was-- one of the things I did was to re-draw, or to draw the poverty target areas. Most of the areas were based on school district, kind of, boundaries of where middle school or-- Jackson-- junior high schools, you know, existed. Hence, you have Jackson target area, named after the junior high school. Then you had Russell, named after Russell Junior High School, which was once called Madison. So, they were defined like that. And when I did it, I 29:00thought I would, when I was doing it I was defining it according to more natural boundaries. Not that they were that drastically different, but they were more natural, you know? So, that's, in that system, where Parkland-- and I think those are the areas now that they still talk about in terms of the definition of the geographical boundaries of Parkland, of the Parkland and the target areas.
PM: Can you tell me-- you mentioned a couple of times this Poverty Project, canyou explain that to me, what that was?
KC: Well, it was, what was called here the Community Action Program, CommunityAction Agency. Lyndon Johnson, you know, in his War on Poverty, one of the things that they did was create this agency that existed in almost every city, to go in and set up programs and methods of dealing with this enemy known as poverty, you know? So, we would form, like, neighborhood organizations. We'd 30:00have community workers, neighborhood workers, who would actually go out, live in the community, work in those communities, pool people together in those communities to address issues like unemployment, health, you know, things of that nature. You had things like the Park DuValle health center resulting from that Poverty Program, you know? We would have meetings sometimes, and we'd have demonstrations in the meetings that we kind of created ourselves to bring attention to a specific problem, you know? And it brought in a lot of people who lived in those communities, gave them particularly a good start on the direction that their lives would take, you know? And hopefully we would make a difference, 31:00and we would hire people in the community who probably didn't get a job, a legitimate job, you know, elsewhere. But we felt they were key to being able to relate to some other folks in the community that we couldn't relate to, [that] others couldn't relate to. So, hence you may have ex-alcoholics, you may have a couple of people who have been-- who had done things in the under-- underground world, you know? But, you know, we got them together and worked a sense of magic, actually, in trying to turn some of these communities around, and to a great degree I think it was successful. There're some negative things that happened too that I think-- some things that were misunderstood at that point. But essentially that's what the Poverty Program was all about. To come in, to help folks get out of poverty or move away from poverty as much as they could. 32:00
PM: Can you tell me about what some of the things that might have beenmisunderstood, or at least perceived as negative-- I'm just trying to get a sense of what was going on with that at the time.
KC: Well, I really think that there was a-- when the Poverty Program first cameto Louisville it was relatively an independent organization. Although it was federally funded there was no local oversight, per se. I think the establishment began to look at it as a threat because it began to create situations [that] the establishment did not control. I think because of that some powers wanted to 33:00kind of put some clamps on it, they didn't want it to move so fast or so directly, you know, against what is called the status quo. It was a change agent, you know? And anytime you get change you get resistance to change. And that, in fact, was probably the biggest reason as I see it. So the Poverty Program then became a project of the city, you know? As opposed to reporting directly to the federal government, now it was reporting to the city. The funds began to come, not to the agency, but to the city. So they controlled the funds and I think that limited what the program itself could do. Put some handcuffs on the program, so to speak.
PM: Is there anything specific you can tell me about [how] the status quo-- felt34:00threatened by [what] you guys in the program were doing?
KC: I can't think of any specific thing, but it was just a general feeling thatthere were some things happening that the authority felt that they didn't control, you know? I can't be real specific on what they were but I think it just became a sense of power that was developing in the community and I don't think the authority figures knew where the power sources lie, you know, or who was behind, things of that sort. And, of course, being a governing-- they wanted to know all us this.
PM: So it was a sense that maybe there was unknowns there and the status quo wasuncomfortable just not knowing?
KC: Yeah, I think that was the general sense, yeah.35:00
PM: Moving closer to the events of May 29th, 1968, can you tell me, at aroundthat time what was your relationship to the Parkland neighborhood? Where were you living, did you have a business there, what was your connection?
KC: Yeah, at the time I was living over on Algonquin Parkway with a young ladythat I later married. But in 1967 I was working for the Poverty Program but I had a friend who lived in Chicago and I went up to visit him. He's from Louisville. And he had-- a very industrious guy-- he had opened up a shop that sold African clothing, music, and stuff like that. And I went up and I was 36:00really impressed with it. I said "Oh man, this is great. We need that in Louisville." He said "Ok, if you want to do it I'll help you get some stuff together." You know, in terms of mat[erials]. So, me and my girlfriend would talk about it and we decided, I decided, to open up a shop like that in Louisville. I found this place on the corner of 28th and Greenwood right next to a pool hall, and we renovated it and it was owned by a Mr. Ford who was a black gentleman that owned property around town, and we turned it into this place called The Corner of Jazz. When we were opening up, the renovation of it, we had these big glass windows and we put posters in them. Posters of [H.] Rap Brown, 37:00we had Muhammad Ali, we had Malcolm X, and others. Just big pictures of them. So when you were riding toward-- when you passed it people saw these things. They didn't know what was coming, you know? This was before it opened. They didn't know what was coming. So, you know, that then alerted police. So, I know my phones were tapped and things began to happen in that respect. But we went on and opened up and my friend, as promised, on the night before we were opening he brought a whole big truckload materials, African clothing, a sculpture, art, and all of this nature, you know, to be part of our inventory. And I had hooked up with a friend that I worked with at the Poverty Program, her husband's dad owned music-- records-- uh, he provided music, you know, he was a-- anyway I bought a bunch of records from him, which were African American records, you know, jazz 38:00and other kinds of things. And so I had the music, then we had books that we brought in, so it was a shop that became, like, the place to go get some African culture, African American culture and history and stuff, you know? So it-- people used to come to my shop and were very impressed and Dr. Maloney, who was teaching out here at the University of Louisville at the time, would bring students from the university there, doing field trips to here, exposing young people to what we were doing. It was just a fantastic experience, it was happening, you know? It was the place to be. And always you could hear good music and always [read] books. There were guys who would come in, buy a book, or buy a CD-- well, it was albums during that time, and they would come back and 39:00discuss the books that they had purchased, you know? So it became a place where [these] kind of conversations were taking place, you know? Now, we were robbed once. They broke in the back where there was an air conditioning place in the back wall, they broke in on that, and I never will forget that 'cause my girlfriend just went crazy. She just went off on it because, you know, we were trying to do something in the community, etcetera, etcetera. But the strangest thing happened after that. All of a sudden in that next couple of days after the robbery our-- some of our merchandise started coming back to us, you know? People would bring stuff back, put stuff there that they had found, I don't know how they got it. But the community response was just so fantastic in terms of 40:00their support for what we were doing, it was unbelievable. So we were very encouraged by that and we stayed and continued to, you know, run the shop. Now in May, when you're talking about the riots, or uprising, took place, I never will forget that day. It was a fantastic, beautiful, sunny day. We were there early because we knew there were going to be people there, you know, who had never been to our shop. So we stocked up with everything that we could, you know, and people would come in and they were so impressed with the shop, they were buying all kinds of items, earrings, jewelry, sculptures, African clothing, and [unintelligible]. And we felt we had a very, very, successful day. The place was packed in terms of that intersection of 28th and Greenwood. And then the 41:00program kind of began with different people out there speaking, and then they put a cart, or a truck, or something in the middle of the intersection so they made a podium there where people would get up there and speak. And people get up and speak, people get up and speak, and it was going - I thought -- going very, very, well, you know, til later. It was about to end-- well, the guest, the big guest, for the day was to be Stokely Carmichael and something-- he didn't show, he didn't come, and some guy, I think his name was Carlos or something, he got up and spoke as if he were representing Stokely, you know. And it was just kind of, all kind of-- didn't feel right, you know. But, at any rate, it was dying down, people were leaving, and then there was a policeman in a car stationed-- 42:00because they kind of were on the outskirts of that area, you know. And there was a little boy, I think-- I don't know for sure, but I think I know who he was, a boy named Jimmy, lived over in Conner homes. I think he threw a bottle down and POP! And the police somehow was motivated to drive his car right up in the midst of that whole thing, you know. And that kind of [snaps fingers]-- that kind of light the fuse. 'Cause things had been happening in Louisville in terms of police brutality, there was a lot of charges going on prior to that. This was kind of a-- the riot, or the gathering was kind of a result of that. They wanted to get together and protest police brutality, essentially. But then, you know, they-- the police drove up in their-- they got the car and they threw it over and boom, it started burning and stuff of that nature so there it was, you know? 43:00And then the police came down and after-- and people-- well let me-- people started-- the riot began, god. It went down to 28th and Dumesnil on back to-- up and down 28th street. There were stores, particularly in the Dumesnil area that got-- got messed up. But-- wow-- taking me back on that. After it died down I put on-- I had a speaker on the store that could play outside on the sidewalk, so I put on Aretha Franklin singing "Respect". And it was quiet out there before that cause things had died down, and when that music "Respect" came up then certain-- there were people who came, sitting in front of my store, and they were dancing to "Respect", you know? And that was key. Chief of Police came down 44:00that night, Chief Hyde, he came down that night and I took him in my back room 'cause I didn't want him to get hurt, you know. And we talked and he felt he had a good relationship with the African American community. I think he did, you know, but that was interesting. I don't tell people this often but I kind of hid him in my back room there because I didn't want him to, you know, I didn't want anything to happen to him, particularly on my property, you know? The next day I came over trying to go and check on my store and the National Guard had been called and they wouldn't let me in my store. So I went between a couple houses two or three-- about half a block down the street. And some other people were there and then some kids walking-- playing-- just playing kids, and one of 45:00them-- well, the National Guard and the county police were there on the porch and stuff and there was a policeman-- I'm down here [points down] there's a policeman right here [points up] with a sawed off shotgun, you know. And when the kids threw a rock it fell right in front of me [microphone is tipped by Mr. Clay's hand] sorry, I talk a lot with my hands.
PM: [microphone gets adjusted] Is that alright?
KC: Yeah, yeah. When the rock came down in front of me the policeman, it was acounty policeman with this double-barreled shotgun it seems, turned and put it right in my face. And I'm just looking up at him like "What the hell is going on", you know? And there was a guy standing next to me who saw it and he didn't know what to do, but there was some city officials out there with the National Guard in the street, and he saw one that he knew, and I knew too. And he called "Bill, Bill! Come here, come here!" So the city official came over and said "Get 46:00that gun out of his face!", you know. And that was an interesting thing 'cause I was that far away, if he gone-- and I could see in his face, I mean wow, he was afraid, he was scared, you know. I see a lot of hate in his face too, you know. But those were some of the kind of experiences that I had had during that particular time, you know? What once was a vibrant, active, growing little area there, you know, because there were black businesses down in that area, you know. After Walnut street closed black businesses didn't really have a place to gather so they begin coming together down in that particular area. But after the uprising the police just went pshew! Nobody showed up for, I mean for years. And it still hasn't gotten back together, you know? So it was a ghost land and it 47:00was just decimated. I sold the building-- the business-- I didn't own the building. I sold the business and we opened up a place on Cecil and Broadway was called the Whiskey Well, which was a liquor store. It was different in the sense that in wasn't an ordinary liquor store, it was more of an art gallery. The arts things, I guess, has always been with me. But we had community artworks, people would do art and bring arts in and we would exhibit and have showcases, those kinds of things, in addition to selling the liquor of course. But it was a community venue, really. So, go ahead and ask me something else [laughter].
PM: You mentioned a couple of times, previously you mentioned the events on May29th as a riot, you mentioned it as an uprising, what do you call it? 48:00
KC: Well, you know, I think it already-- it had the name of a riot but I don'treally think it was a riot, per se. I mean, people went around and hit certain businesses, you know? Interestingly enough they stood in front of my-- they being some of the "Young Turks" who were, I guess, in the riot. I'm not even going to say they were in it, I don't really know. But they stood in front of my building on the next day when the County Police and the National Guard were there outside with these bayonets and stuff. They stood in front of my place and said "We're not going to let you guys touch this place. This is ours. This 49:00business-- this place is ours." So I thought that was key. But I would have to describe-- even though I call it a riot I think it's more accurate to call it an uprising, a reaction, a response, a-- what do you call that when you-- somebody does something, you just strike out, you know, without thinking necessarily. But it was definitely a response to the situation that occurred, you know.
PM: As far as how that day is remembered in the community, do you think thatit's perceived more along the lines of what you are talking about, as a response, or do people-- do you often hear people referring to it as a riot and chaotic, or whatever the case may be?
KC: Well, you hear people referring to it as basically a riot, but those peoplewho were there, I think, would describe it-- between the two words to describe it I think uprising fits better than riot, you know? It wasn't a planned event 50:00It was just, like I said, a reaction, a response. It was like this policeman came in and ran through this crowd and it just set off a fire, a reaction, it blew, you know? So I think that most people who were there, actually there, would describe it that way.
PM: Did your business-- we talked about its place in what was going on at thattime, did it suffer any damage during that period?
PM: Was that purposeful?
KC: Well, I think it was. I definitely think it was. Like I said there werepeople standing-- guys standing in front of my place protecting it from the 51:00National Guard, you know? So the only damage I ever had down there was when-- I told you about the break-in earlier, you know? But other than that I think it was-- it was something that the community was proud of. I mean, they were "Young Turks", well I call them "Young Turks". They used to come and these were educated folks like Dr. Hudson, he was younger at that time. He'd be amongst those people who would come down there to buy the books, to come back and have the conversations, you know, to be a part of that. There were other guys-- I think some of these guys belonged to different kind of groups and organizations, but nonetheless they were all very supportive because it was something they could take part in. They knew that this was a message that needed to be delivered to a broader section of the black community.
PM: You mentioned that you eventually sold the business. Can you tell me aboutwhy that was?
KC: Well, it was shortly thereafter. It was probably around September of '69.52:00
PM: And what was the purpose of selling it at that time?
KC: There was no business on the street. Nobody came. That block was like aghost town as I said, you know? So people didn't even go down to 28th street anymore. Houses were-- all the businesses that were there became boarded up. It became like a wasteland and it was allowed to remain that way for a number of years. I mean there was no resources going into that area at all, to fix it up or anything like that.
PM: Why do you think that part of the neighborhood ended up that way after theevents of May 29th?
KC: Hm-- I don't know if I can answer that. I do know that there was no53:00government help, there was no-- any type of community action, as I recall, to go in and try to refurbish or re-establish that community, you know? And I think that was definitely intentional on the part of the movers and shakers. But there was just seemingly no interest in trying to re-do that thing, you know? Louisville is a-- well, I think a lot of people in the city, some of the old founders of the city, felt like-- maybe I shouldn't say that. Maybe black people should be beholding to the power structure for certain things. But 54:00Louisville has a history, a racial history, of being at least to have black people in the room to talk out problems, to, you know, make things palatable I would say. And there was no effort on the part, as I saw, on the part of black people to come together and try to address that issue either, you know? I think that added to the reluctance of anybody to come in and-- there wasn't any black leadership talking in that direction at least.
PM: So that area was just sort of neglected let to be what it was after that--55:00
KC: Yes, like they didn't know what to do with it or had no interest in doinganything, you know?
PM: And that was mostly driven by the city government as opposed to the local neighborhood?
KC: Well, the city government did nothing to make it happen and there was no,like I said I didn't see any leadership in the local neighborhood to try to bring the area back, you know? To do anything to make it functional or improve it or anything of that nature.
PM: Just to go back a little bit, you mentioned that the Chief of Police came toyour store and you had taken him in the back room for his own protection. Can you tell me a little bit about what you guys talked about when you were back there? Why did he come to your store specifically?
KC: Well you know, I think my place at that point was the center of the activityin terms of what was going on on the street. That's where the uprising started, 56:00right in the intersection there, you know? On one corner there was a liquor store, there was a pool hall, I was right next to the pool hall, there was a cleaners on the other corner, and Senator Georgia Davis had a little restaurant there, you know. But essentially I guess my place appeared to be the center of attention at that juncture, at that point. I guess the Corner of Jazz was the-- I think a lot of people might have felt that the gathering was held there 57:00because of my shop. Being located there, you know? But that was not the reason at all. I didn't know anything about the planning of it until, you know, a couple of days before it happened and then the announcement came out that they were having it down there. But it's a pretty key location in the black community. 28th street was always a kind of active strip, you know? And then going down to Dumesnil, etcetera.
PM: Why did the Chief of Police-- or rather, what did he say to you, what didyou say to him when you were talking to him?
KC: Oh, I said "Hey Chief!" [laughter]. He just didn't-- you know, he was thekind of guy that felt that he was loved by all, and particularly in the black community, you know? And he established, I think, some very good relationships in the black community. He was just seemingly so disappointed, so disillusioned, 58:00when he came in, you know? He was like "Damn--", you know? But we didn't talk about anything specific, like. I was just kind of there to hear him get off of his chest, what he had on his chest in a sense. But it all seemed to be a sense of disillusionment. And the fact that he's the Chief of Police I think he felt that he had some responsibilities that, you know, for keeping the community safe and quiet, I guess. And I guess he was a little disappointed in the fact that his relationship wasn't strong enough to keep this from happening, I think.
PM: So it was like a meeting between friends, basically?59:00
KC: Uhm-- I knew him, he knew me. Friends? I don't know, but not enemiescertainly. A very nice individual, you know, and very-- one that was very receptive to ideas, etcetera, you know? He was in a situation that things happened and he just had no control over it and I think he felt a sense of, like I said, disappointment or disillusionment that he wasn't aware [of] it. Well, neither was I, that this thing was there, it was potentially there. But it happened during a period of time that nationally, you know, there were "riots", quote, all over the country, you know? It was happening all over the country. Detroit, New York, California, and everybody had gone through that.
PM: We're about to run a little over here, do you mind staying for a couple moreminutes to talk about a few more things?
PM: Just real quick, I know you're probably a busy person but--
KC: Well, I got a funeral to go to.60:00
PM: Well, if you've got to go that's fine.
KC: No, we can do that. I don't have to be there til 3:30. I've already been toone this morning. At least a wake. OK.
PM: Just in terms of the relationship-- well, was there a relationship to theuprising-- with the other uprisings, or riots, or whatever they might have been, in other places, was there a connection there?
KC: Well there was no actual physical connection. No connection in terms of aplanning unit, or what have you, you know, anything like that. There was-- well, but I think people all across-- black people all across the country felt this same sense of oppression, of, you know, the pot is boiling and it's going to blow somewhere. OK, boom, it blew up in Detroit, it blew at Newark, you know, it 61:00blew in California somewhere. So all across the country, I think. But I don't think there was any, when you say "relationship", I don't think the people in Detroit were talking to people in Louisville or anything of that nature, you know what I'm saying? Now, during that period, however-- was it that period? I better not get this confused. There was a thing-- have you heard about the Black Six?
PM: I've heard of it, yes.
KC: See, I'm not sure if this was happening during that period or what. But theyhad accused certain people in Louisville, in the black community, of being involved in conspiring to blow up some stuff down in the West End, etcetera, etcetera. That case went on for years, I mean, it seems like. Ultimately the people were found Not Guilty, you know, of that. But that was something that was 62:00in the background, or backdrop of maybe what was-- with the riot-- uh, the uprising here. I don't know enough about it so I'm just suggesting that that may be something there. But no, I don't think there was any kind of connection directly between people in different cities, you know, no, no, no. That doesn't happen that way.
PM: You mentioned the Black Six. I think you said you didn't have too strong ofa connection of a connection to that, or you didn't know much about it at the time, is that right?
KC: No, I didn't know a thing about it. I knew people, I mean I knew some of thepeople that were involved, that were accused of having been involved in it. But I knew them in different ways. I just knew them, you know?
PM: You knew at the time that they were accused at the time of these things?
KC: I knew them, the individuals, you know, that were accused. I didn't know63:00anything about an organization or-- I didn't even know they were talking to one another, you know, I just didn't know about it. But I respected them, individually, definitely.
PM: So when you found out about the accusations against them, what did you thinkabout that?
KC: It was a lie. I couldn't believe that, you know? I couldn't believe that.
PM: Just to sort of wrap it up a little bit here, you had mentioned that thingsstarted to die down a couple of days later after May 29th. Was there anything specific that prompted that to sort of-- things to sort of die down, or did it just happen naturally?
KC: I don't think there was anything specific. I think people just didn't want64:00to come to that area. It became like a "Don't go down there!" type of area.
PM: Is that perception among black people, white people, or both?
KC: Both, both. Definitely both. They didn't come to my store. I don't thinkthey went much down on Dumesnil, which is, what? Three block away? But they had, see, they had a bank down there, they had a restaurant, they had a record shop, and some other activities down in that area. Hardware type stores. So I don't know, they-- I think they might have-- some might have continued to go to those businesses down there if they were open. But they didn't come to my business, I know that. Very few people walked through the door. 65:00
PM: I know we've gone over a lot of stuff in our time here, but I'm wondering--is there anything that I haven't asked, or is there anything you feel is important about this, or anything, that you'd like to tell me?
KC: Hm-- We covered quite a bit, I think. You know, as relates to the Parkland area--
PM: Or anything you think might be important, not necessarily Parkland.
KC: I guess not. I can't think of anything. Nothing immediately comes to mind. Iwas involved with the establishment of the Continental National Bank, but that came later. Well-- I just can't think of anything other than what we've already talked about.
PM: OK, well I appreciate your time and of course if there is anyting you canthink about later that you think might be important feel free to contact me anytime.
KC: OK, OK.
PM: And I guess I'll just stop that recording.