CHUCK STAIGER: Can I close . . . do you have a door?
LOUIS COLEMAN: I certainly don't. Will that pick up some of the clatter?[background noise, women talking]
CS: Well, that's all right. Let's go ahead and try it unless you have anotheroffice. [tape shuts off, then resumes] Today is April 15, 1977, and we're talking with Louis Coleman of the Urban League. And this is part of a series of tapes for the Black Oral History that we're conducting at the Oral History Center at the University of Louisville and I wonder if we could begin, perhaps, by getting some biographical information from you; where you were born and raised and your education and eventually how you became involved with the Urban League.
LC: I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in an area called the Jackson area in1943 at 625 Fenzer Street. My education, early education was at Booker T. Washington, Jackson Junior High School and Central High School. Later I attended Indiana University and graduated from Kentucky State University. I received my 1:00master's degree at the University of Louisville. After getting out of college I had a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball organization; and then later I came on over to the Urban League. In 1969 I began my tenure with the Urban League and I've been with the Urban League ever since that period of time. The areas of concern that I have addressed myself to at the Urban League is in the area of housing and community affairs. And basically I've been somewhat of an advocate for equal rights and civil rights for disadvantaged people and 2:00minority people in this community for the past seven or eight years that I've been with the Urban League. Areas of concern such as police and community relations, decent housing for the low income, programs for the elderly . . . constantly we have been meeting with committees and boards in this community to better the life of disadvantaged people. Some of the boards and committees that we have met with have been the Civil Service Board, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, the Housing Authority Board, countless, countless . . . the Library Board, countless, countless boards we've met with.
CS: Your experience in Louisville has been from about 1969, in here, with theUrban League?
LC: Right. That's my, I guess you would say the human relations experience, even3:00though I was reared in Louisville, that has been the extent of my involvement with people in this community from 1969 until the present day.
CS: In that time period, I wonder if you could describe the thrust of thedesegregation efforts in Louisville that you have dealt with.
LC: You're talking about overall desegregation?
CS: Any field.
LC: Any field. In the area of housing, desegregation efforts have been very,very slow, almost minute; blacks still live in several little ethnic enclaves in this community in the West End part of town, the Newburg part of town, the California, Jackson, Russell, and Park DuValle. Louisville is still a very, very segregated housing arena. At one time, Louisville was complimented on its affirmative marketing plan as far as housing thrusts. At this time Louisville can't be complimented because there is evidence that local realtors are 4:00encouraging scare tactics when black families move into predominately white neighborhoods, when black families integrate neighborhoods. There's an avalanche of local realtors that discourage the white families from staying in those neighborhoods and the neighborhoods are becoming segregated, more segregated.
CS: Can I interrupt?
CS: That was in the newspaper recently. Have there been any final results, anycourt actions concerning those problems? Or any of the realtors' names? [office sounds in background]
LC: Well, one of the hardest things to do is to get individuals who have beenapproached by realtors to file an actual and a written complaint against a realtor or builder who is doing this type of thing. It's very, very difficult; 5:00the individual who has been approached by the local realtor feels that somehow retaliation is going to come against them if they file such a complaint. We've had the FBI in this community and also local housing officials to try to get people to submit, volley complaints, and written complaints against realtors who are implementing such action. We have written a letter to the Kentucky State Real Estate Commission here in Louisville and the letter stated that if any realtor implements scare tactics and is found guilty of this type of violation, which is against Kentucky state statutes, that this realtor should be, his license should be revoked. That's what we've done as an agency. But, other than 6:00that, nothing else has happened.
CS: Have you been able to get any licenses revoked?
LC: Not at this date. In fact, we're having difficulty in getting a responsefrom the head of the Kentucky Real Estate Commission. We've sent him the letters, it's documented and in our files, we've been trying to set up a meeting with him to discuss the issue at length but we've been unsuccessful. So we're still trying to set up a meeting with the head official.
CS: So you have some cases before him now but nothing has been resolved.
LC: Nothing has been resolved, right.
CS: I don't want to infringe on all those cases. How about, along these samelines, have you run into the red-lining practices of the banks?
LC: Well, to be quite honest with you, we haven't even had time to get intored-lining. Right on my desk, and even though we're talking over the microphone, I have a huge document on red-lining in which we are in the process of sending 7:00to the governor of the state to ask him to set up a commission in the area of red-lining. The Illinois state legislative branch has set a . . . the governor appointed a commission to deal with red-lining throughout that state and this document that we have we want to encourage the governor of this state to do a similar thing because we feel very strongly that red-lining exists. As I mentioned, we haven't even had time to get into red-lining. You talk to other people who work with black agencies, you'll find out that often times these individuals are all things to all people; they deal with housing, they deal with 8:00employment, they deal with education and that's our case here, too. And so, when we get to the chance of dealing with red-lining, we will. We haven't really gone into detail on it.
CS: Yeah, in the future.
LC: Right. You were talking about desegregation in all areas.
LC: I just mentioned the housing arena but we've also had a great amount ofdifficulty in desegregating our police department. In 19 -- I believe I mentioned it here -- in 1921, the first black police officer by the name of William Downs became a part of the Louisville police department. I may stand correction on that date, I believe it was 1929. The Urban League, during that period of the '20s, was very instrumental in recruiting black officers for the police department, which is a function of the civil service department, recruiting black officers. In 1940, Louisville, Kentucky, was commended on its hiring of black officers. In one 1940 class there were about eleven or twelve 9:00blacks in that class; Jessie Taylor was one of the officers in that class. Since then Louisville has retrogressed and its recruiting efforts have been counter-productive and right now Louisville, Kentucky, has about eight hundred white officers on the department with about fifty blacks in the department. There's a court case, which will be this month, looking at the hiring practice of the city of Louisville police department. I will be subpoenaed to testify against the city and its hiring practices next week. I received a deposition and I have to appear before the lawyer tomorrow in regards with Louisville, Kentucky's hiring practice. And it's been pretty, pretty regrettable. The Urban League has referred over seven hundred black people to the civil service board in order for them to be hired as police officers from 1973 until 1977. 10:00Approximately fifteen or twenty of those persons have been hired so we do have to deal with this problem through the courts now.
CS: What is the civil service's board or the city's main reason for not hiringthese people? Did they flunk their standard tests or. . . ?LC: Well, I've worked with two civil service directors, Jack Richmond and Jeaneta Pleeby, the current director. The constant concern that I heard from Jack Richmond was that blacks would not want to be a part of the police department, blacks cannot pass the examination. We eliminated that old chestnut and that old cliche because we found out that blacks did want to be a part of the police department and that blacks could pass the test. Now it's when blacks want to become police officers, when they are passing the tests that new standards were set up; and I don't want to sound like I'm complaining but new standards were set up to eliminate blacks 11:00as far as being a part of the police department. Those new standards were set up that you had to post the highest grade score, you had to have the highest physical agility score and so forth. And we just see that there's no affirmative action commitment from top administrators in this city, from police department officials and from civil service officials and that's why it's in court right now.
CS: Do you -- back when -- one of your previous statements rang a bell with me;one of my classes out at U of L in political science indicated that the policeman does not want to necessarily live in the neighborhood that he has to patrol. For fear of reprisal. Do you find that to be the case? 12:00
LC: Well, eighty-eight percent of Louisville police officers live in the countyand we find that very regrettable as a community agency that works with disadvantaged people, black and white in this community. We find it counter-productive for a police officer to know anything about the individuals that they're dealing with in that particular community if they live elsewhere and don't live in that near vicinity of that community. Atlanta, Georgia, and Detroit, Michigan, these two cities that I know of are working on that type of concern. Even the mayor in Atlanta, Georgia, was very instrumental in drafting some ordinances to say that police officers in Atlanta, Georgia, must live within the inner-city, must live within the area which they are patrolling. We find that if individuals do not know anything about the community that they're patrolling, that often times they cannot deal with some of the community 13:00problems. And we have a very great board of adequate police and community relations in this community, not only in the black areas but in the low-income white areas, Portland areas and the Manley area and other areas in this city.
CS: Would there be any problem though for a policeman, say, that lived in one ofthose areas that you just said, if he arrested someone in his neighborhood that he lived in if there would be reprisals against himself or his family? Is that a figure?
LC: The black police officers that I know, the retired Major Johnson; EdwardWalters, who was a sergeant who lives in the Cecil area; Ralph Shelton; Virgil White; Jessie Taylor; I can just go on and on and name black police officers that live in the city now that have arrested many, many young people, old adults 14:00and have even been in gun battles and never have I heard of them talking about reprisals from the citizens that they live with in their immediate neighborhood. And I think it keeps the police honest; if he lives in that neighborhood, he knows he's going to have to do positive and adequate policing. He knows that if he misuses or abuses someone or their rights, that there could possibly be reprisal in that particular neighborhood; but if a police officer is known as an honest police officer that will not abuse a citizen's right, then I don't think that police officer gets any flack from black people and poor white people in this community. You hear that argument from those individuals who do not want to live in the city; that's the argument that you hear. And, in fact, if you look at the city officials who run city government, most of them don't live in the city either, they live in the county. 15:00
CS: Do you have any further comments concerning desegregation since you --?
CS: How about with job opportunities and the unions, craft unions especially?LC: There are various companies that I've worked with and I can just name them, in which we have been trying to get them to integrate and hire more blacks and desegregate their working facilities. And one is the mass media, the television arena; there are very few blacks in the mass media arena and that includes the newspaper. We have a sports department, the Louisville Courier Journal, which -- the Louisville Times and the Louisville Courier Journal -- in which there are forty-five employees in the sports department and none of them are black, in an area which is very heavily populated with black athletes. That's a concern. The fact is the total newspaper is a concern as far as its affirmative action. We've 16:00also worked, had successful dealings with the water company in which they have already on record with the Urban League a very positive affirmative action program, but it could be better. They're trying to reach the ratio of fifteen percent of blacks in their company. Whenever we work with companies we try to encourage companies to have at least twenty-four percent blacks in the work force. One particular company -- and you may erase this part of the tape -- is the University of Louisville. We've been working with the University of Louisville the past four or five years in their hiring practices. We are very concerned about the lack of black professionals at the University of Louisville; 17:00eighty-seven percent of the blacks that work at the University of Louisville are not in a professional status. Over one-third of the employees are in custodial and janitorial positions at the University of Louisville. Still today the coaching staff leaves a lot to be desired at the University of Louisville with all the black athletes we have. Now, you may erase that if you want. [laughter]
CS: No. I wonder if I could read a quote to you.
CS: This is from a book, From Slavery to Freedom, and one passage stated that in1963 -- this is the 1960's era -- "There were about as many demonstrations in the North and West as in the South and the emphasis was on increased job opportunities and an end to de facto segregation in housing and education. The demonstrations sought to block tax supported constructions on which Negroes received little or no employment; prevent construction of schools in all black neighborhoods; obtain legislation to strengthen voting rights; desegregate schools and desegregate public facilities." Regarding this passage, what 18:00happened in Louisville here or, at least, from the time you became involved? Were these similar goals?
LC: These were similar goals; as I've mentioned I became active in Louisvillearound 1969. I was away at school at the time when these open housing accommodation issues were being dealt with and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., came to this city and the Reverend Leo Lesser, Jr., was leading various marches. And when I read in the paper about how many local Louisvillians were being arrested and so forth I was away at school at the time. But these things did come about; Louisville, Kentucky, is a very, very passive city when it comes to individuals 19:00dealing with their actual civil rights and God-given rights in this community. It must have really been some outstanding leadership to get as many people to demonstrate, to come out in the street and deal with and give -- [phone rings, tape shuts off, then resumes].
CS: Okay, we're back on.
LC: During the '60s, it must have taken some outstanding leadership to get asmany people to come out and participate in the demonstrations in Louisville and I guess Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a great deal to do with that. During the '60s when we had a lot of laws put on the books --.
CS: City ordinances?
LC: City ordinances, state-wide ordinances put on the books --.20:00
CS: During civil rights.
LC: Right, in the civil rights movement. But those ordinances are on the booksbut it's a great concern of mine today, in the '70s, to have those ordinances and those statutes actually implemented. Because we see very little implementation of those ordinances that individuals that there should be affirmative action in city and county government; there is no affirmative action in county government as far as its hiring practices. There should be affirmative action in state government; there is no affirmative action in state government, you know. You can classify the employment practices of state and county government as just equal opportunity employment; city government is a little better than state and county. There are blacks in decision making positions in the city government. 21:00
CS: What was the major thrust of the Louisville civil rights movement? Increasedjob opportunities, housing, use of public facilities?
LC: Housing and use of public facilities.
CS: Were they all intertwined or was there one that really stood out, or is thata fair statement?
LC: Well, housing and --
CS: School desegregation?
LC: School desegregation wasn't that great of a problem. I was a part of thatschool desegregation era. This was in the, oh, when Omar Carmichael was the superintendent of the Louisville school system, school desegregation wasn't that great of a problem because you had a very positive media which supported school desegregation; you had the University of Louisville which was leading the way at 22:00that time; they were doing some very affirmative things out in the community. You had the political officials who were very much for and supported school desegregation and it went off pretty smooth. Because I left Jackson Junior High school and I attended Parkland Junior High School, at one time an all-white school and things went rather, rather smooth during that process. It's a little different than today because those factors that I mentioned that were positive are not positive today behind our school desegregation efforts now. There is the negative media, mass media, there's the negative response from the political officials, there is the University of Louisville itself which is having trouble in having equal opportunity employment and I think that's basically it. But, in 23:00answer to your question, I believe the major thrust in the '60s was to obtain housing where one wanted to live instead of the little ethnic enclaves in the city. At that time, you had little Africa in the heart of the West End and it was just deplorable, the housing conditions and so forth and black people were just so upset, and poor white people -- during the '60s you had just as many whites picketing and boycotting as you did blacks. When I would look in the paper -- as I mentioned I was away at school --and when I would look in the paper I would see the marches and I would see many, many whites in the marches, just as many.
CS: West End residents?
LC: West End residents. And it gave a lot of, I think it gave a lot of thrust tothe efforts that the individuals in Louisville were doing during that time.
CS: For housing, how have those efforts been successful and how have they been failures?
LC: Well, the efforts have been successful at the West End, certain parts of the24:00West End it was very segregated and blacks could not live where they wanted to live; now the West End is almost predominately black. It was successful in that effort that you could live where you wanted to live but there's always, I don't care what type of law you get on the book, there's always individuals who can find ways to get around the law and to go back to the segregation type of tactics. There are realtors who know how to get around the law; there are people who are employment officials at various companies who know how to get around the law; oftentimes when I'll go to a company to talk to them about affirmative action they'll state to me that the courts have stated that women are a minority 25:00and they have to be a part of affirmative action and oftentimes the black male and black female have suffered because of this way of trying to get around the actual affirmative action of hiring black males and females. And they use women as a minority and it really phases out a lot of jobs for black males and females. There are very, very subtle ways in which the laws that are on the book can be dealt with, and individuals get around them.
CS: Oops, I'm sorry. We're going to move on to a follow-up question of sorts --I just dropped my notes here -- again, from that same book, From Slavery to Freedom, one passage said that, "During the years of the Negro revolution in the '60s it was widely assumed that the vigorous thrust for equality had begun to close the economic gap between Negroes and whites. The assumption was entirely 26:00erroneous caused in part by the opening of a few widely publicized opportunities that can best be described as massive tokenism. Economic differences failed to increase. In 1963 the unemployment rate for Negroes was 114 percent higher than whites." Is this descriptive of today, would you say?
LC: That's very descriptive of the day. I believe the unemployment rate wasseventeen percent; at the latest time I looked at the statistical breakdown of unemployment for blacks in this country and I've even heard reports that it's even forty percent in certain areas in certain cities. I personally don't ever feel that the economic gap will be equal, that black economic standards will be equal to the whites in this country, in this city, in this state because of 27:00existing attitudes that we have with top administrators who hold the positions and the job thrusts for people in various employment arenas. When I look at the engineering field, every company that I'll go to will ask me for black engineers and they know that it's highly impossible for me to come up with black engineers in abundance; there are black engineers but they're not in abundance. That's another subtle way to get around affirmative action. And the economic gap is still . . . it's not getting narrower, it's not narrowing, it's widening, even today. You know, you have, I look at the University of Louisville -- I hate to 28:00keep saying the University of Louisville -- I look at the number of blacks that are on tenure at the University of Louisville, there are about a handful on tenure and I mean a handful, four or five, in comparison to 327 individuals that are on tenure. Now there's a way to deal with that problem. Even with blacks on the staff, if you know the requirement for a person to be on the University of Louisville staff that you have your Ph.D., you set up some type of incentives for that individual, that minority individual, whether it's black, white, Puerto Rican, it doesn't make any difference, you set up some incentives, some financial aid, some scholarship, some type of stipend to encourage that racial group, that ethnic group to get their diploma or get their qualifications so they can get on that staff. And then maybe the economic gap could narrow instead of widen.
CS: What do you see as the best strategy for the segregated businesses? The best29:00strategy for blacks to integrate in jobs? Setting quotas -- I know quotas, all of a sudden that's like waving a red flag in front of some of these people.
LC: Well, I believe quotas, we have to go to quotas; I'm always told that quotasaren't the best way and the courts are throwing out quotas. But if you leave it up to companies to come up with goals and objectives, goals and objectives don't do it. I really have a concern; I think that if you don't have quotas you ought to have some timetable saying at this particular time I'm going to hire five women, I'm going to hire five blacks at this particular time of the year.
CS: Actually a timetable gives the businessman more leeway than any quota actually.
LC: That's right. That's right. In fact, that is what we're asking the police30:00department to do. I think the courts may be asking them to do it also. But we were trying to do it before the courts were asking. It's almost, we think that it's easier for the individual institution to cooperate with a local agency than the courts. And that's why we're trying, we're giving the city some timetables but they're not listening.
CS: Actually, you're going more away from a quota system, although you wouldlike it, to a timetable system. Kind of testing that to see if it works out?LC: Right. When I go to these companies I deal with quotas often times. And when I'm told quotas are against the law then the other alternative is we talk about timetables. So I know that courts are throwing out quotas but we deal with an alternative, we deal with timetables. 31:00
CS: Very interesting. [pause] What would you consider to be the most significantevent in beginning desegregation in Louisville? Perhaps, if you can even stretch back to the segregation laws that once existed, the Day Laws.
LC: Well, I guess you would say that the most significant event that affects thelives of many, many black and poor white people in this community in the era of desegregation, has to be in the era of 1950, when the Day Law was amended. You began to have universities --
CS: Pardon me for one moment. Let me cut this off and flip this over.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A
START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
CS: Okay, we're continuing on side two of this tape with Louis Coleman.
LC: I guess you would say that the most significant event that has happened inthis period of time, during desegregation, I would go back to 1950. I was seven years old when the 1950s rolled around. But the amendment of the Day Law and I believe Lyman T. Johnson played a very major role with that. He refused to take classes at Kentucky State University and Kentucky State College at the time when the classes could have been given at University of Kentucky. Berea College in the early 1900s wanted to integrate its schools with black students but the law as it stood on the books prevented Berea College from doing that. So the Day Law, the amendment of the Day Law, which is probably the most significant event during our time because of education, what it means to black people as progressing through the system of our society. I think also in 1921 a gentleman 32:00by the name of A.D. Porter ran for mayor in this city; I think that was a very, very influential move in this city in 1921. Also, Woodford Porter became the first black to be elected to the Louisville board of education and now he's president of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. That was a very influential move. Blacks being heads of schools -- there was a great wealth of educators in this community: A.E. Meyzeek and Russell, I can think of -- Dr. 33:00Parrish who is still alive today -- the Wilson brothers, who were administrators at the Municipal College, they were outstanding administrators; I think that was a great breakthrough. Samuel Plato, the contractor who built the homes on Northwestern Parkway, that was a very great thrust because Samuel Plato during the Depression was hiring blacks and whites in this community to work in order for them to survive during the Depression era. But that doesn't deal with the most significant accomplishment; I'm dealing with personalities and individuals, not --.
CS: But you're leading into my next question. I was going to ask you to identifysome of the more influential black leaders in Louisville and you've already started on that. Perhaps you could back up and speak a little bit more about A.E. Meyzeek.
LC: Okay. A.E. Meyzeek was the founder of the Urban League. He took a housing34:00survey and found out the housing needs in this community and he was the founder of the Urban League as it exists today. Also A.E. Meyzeek was the founder of the Chestnut Street Branch YMCA; he was the principal of Jackson Junior High School at one time, Central High School and Booker T. Washington. There's a school named after him today. But in education I guess we would rank A.E. Meyzeek as one of the outstanding educators in this community. Along with A.E. Meyzeek there was a woman by the name of Maude Brown Porter of Central High School; she was assistant principal. This woman was known as a disciplinarian from 1916 to 1960, pardon me, from 1920 to 1960. She was a diplomat in that school, Central 35:00High School. She was very, very rough on students who didn't toe the line and students respected her because she taught many of the students' mothers and fathers who came under her. I remember in 1959 at Central High School Maude Brown Porter called me in her tardy room, detention room -- when you acted up on class, like if you came to school late she'd bring you in -- and I can remember her exact statement: "Louis Coleman, I had your mother in here and I had your father in here and I got you in here now and you're going to straighten up and fly right." So she was, every student who went to Central from the '20s to the '50s knew Maude Brown Porter. I've already mentioned Samuel Plato but in the sports arena I think of Henry Arthur King. Henry Arthur King was an outstanding 36:00coach in this community; he coached at Central High School and later went to Kentucky State College and he coached them to an outstanding football team and then in the '40s he made $10,000 as the coach at Tennessee State University. He was simply outstanding. I think of Charles Henry; many people don't know Charles Henry but Charles Henry pitched for the Zulu Cannibals in Louisville and Charles Henry played against great baseball players like Satchel Page and Josh Gibson; he pitched against some of the greatest baseball players that ever lived: Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and this man spent most of his lifetime in Louisville. He died several years ago.
CS: Was this an all-black baseball league?
LC: Yeah, this was an all-black baseball, right. He wasn't inducted into theall-black baseball hall of fame but Charlie Henry was very instrumental in working with young black athletes in Louisville, taking them to the Cincinnati Reds camps and so forth. This is oftentimes forgotten about this great man. One 37:00of the first black doctors that we had in this community was Dr. J.A.C. Latimore and there was a Latimore clinic on Walnut Street -- I believe it was Thirteenth and Walnut -- but at that time if you went to Dr. Latimore's office it would cost you fifty cents to see the doctor. Those are just a few of the individuals that I can think of that were very outstanding. I guess individuals have talked to you about Charles Anderson. Charles Anderson was instrumental in abolishing the lynching laws and setting up integrated nursing schools and so forth. Harry McAlpin (?), the former NAACP official and also an attorney in Louisville; I think of Dr. Parrish's father, who was at one time an official at Simmons 38:00University, that was a Biblical college, and NAACP official; Nathaniel Harper was the first black judge and the first black lawyer in the city of Louisville. Louisville goes down in history as having the first boycott in the nation, in the United States. In the 1890s black men could not sit down on the streetcars and they had to stand out on the edges of the streetcars and the black men refused to stand on the edges and they wanted to sit down and that was taken to court and Nathaniel Harper, the black judge at the time, the black lawyer at that time, handled that particular case.
CS: That's interesting. Moving on to a different kind of question, are there any39:00differences in Louisville for blacks when you were growing up and today? Possibly? What could they be?
LC: Well, there's a difference in the education arena; when I was growing up inLouisville we knew that education was a key to whatever success you attained in life and today it seems that there's a new breed of youngsters in this community as far as education is concerned. Education doesn't seem a priority, I don't care how often you go to schools and tell youngsters we cannot find them jobs unless they get their high school diploma. For some reason it doesn't sink in. There also seems to be a family life, a deterioration in the family life. There 40:00seems to be that parents are not overly concerned -- they may be concerned but they're not really, have a great amount of concern -- that their youngsters respect others and respect property of others. And you have a large amount of crime rate in Louisville, Kentucky, and I contribute that to be a part of it. If I may back up, when we look at dropouts in the city of Louisville, in the Louisville school system there are over 2,000 dropouts a year. When I was coming up that number wasn't even close to that. It was a dishonor to drop out of school without getting your diploma. Today -- it was a dishonor to be caught in a crime -- today it seems as though our society applauds an individual who drops out of school; our society applauds an individual that has a record and we're seeing, number one, there seems to be a deterioration in the family life and 41:00also in the aspiration of young people obtaining their high school diploma. In the employment arena, there seems to be a move afoot for blacks to be put in positions that traditionally blacks were not in, such as in the engineering arena, but it appears to be only in the window dressing form. There are several companies I could name and say that, "Oh, they're doing an outstanding job." But the majority of the companies that I deal with in the city of Louisville I don't see a great amount of affirmative action.
CS: Is the Urban League or any groups perhaps trying to combat this new attitudeyou're speaking about of the youngsters?
LC: Every day, every day. We . . . I just recently received a $68,000 funding42:00for ___________ proposal that deals with student suspension and student dropouts and we're going to try to change these students' negative attitude into some positive ones in the academic arena and in the counseling . . . we want to counsel them to get them back on track and in the right frame of mind. We tutor youngsters every Saturday, we tutor approximately sixty youngsters from grades two to grade elevens and I do this on my own time on Saturdays, whether it's a black and white youngsters at Twenty-eighth and Virginia. We're finding out that teachers don't have the time or don't take out the time to work with youngsters on a one-to-one ratio; sometimes it's understandable because they have so many children in the classroom but we're seeing a basic lack of concern on the part of some teachers in trying to get this kid out of school. There has to be some way . . . children are evaluated on how well they do in school but our system 43:00needs to come up with some type of evaluation on how well a teacher teaches that particular child. And unfortunately that's not being done.
CS: A lot of teachers -- this may not be a fair question to ask you -- therehave been some people to indicate that some of the less qualified teachers or less motivated teachers would often be shifted around and placed in the West End schools where they would just fill out their tenure and go away. Have you run into any of that?
LC: I've heard of that, I've heard of that type of thing. I've heard the sametype of information passed along the police line; some of the less qualified police or police who have done something wrong receive disciplinary action by being placed in the West End area, teachers being placed in the West End area. My mother has taught school for thirty years -- and this will give you some idea of what's going on in the school system -- she and another teacher have, well, there were three teachers, they have ninety years of teaching experience between 44:00them. They wanted to continue to teach in the West End schools when school desegregation came about but they had to go, I would say they have to drive approximately forty miles a day to get to the school they're going to teach at, round trip. They found out that there were a lot of younger teachers who had less tenure than they did could teach in the school in the West End, even though they didn't put in for that school. In answer to your question, I'm saying that there's a move afoot, there seems to be a move afoot to get some of the more qualified teachers out of the school system, to discourage them by having them to travel as much as they're travelling every day to teach at a school. We're seeing this, we're seeing, we have teachers that complain about this. I wouldn't 45:00put it past the officials that are over the school system to put younger, inexperienced teachers in West End schools. I've seen everything else done so I wouldn't put it past them. [laughter] I wouldn't write it off.
CS: I'm just curious, with all these things that we've been talking about, andespecially in regards to education and job opportunities and the busing that we see today, how serious do you believe is the white backlash problem?
LC: I think it's serious, I think it's very, very serious. I think in the '50sand '60s I thought Louisville was a very progressive city despite the problems we had to have in getting some open housing and accommodation laws passed but in 46:00the '70s I believe the real Louisville, Kentucky, stood out as far as just racial attitudes and so forth. I didn't really actually realize there was so much hostility between the races of people in this community. I didn't realize there was so much --.
CS: You're talking about community now. I think it would be good to define this;are you talking about the city of Louisville or Jefferson County?
LC: I'm talking about the city of Louisville and Jefferson County. Combined. Ididn't know that there was a feeling of "do nothingism" on the part of political officials as far as working in a constructive manner with all people in this community. Black people have borne a large amount of frustration through the 47:00whole school desegregation process and really have borne a lot of unfair criticism, a lot of unfair amount of distrust. See, as a black person, my mother and father, my grandmother and grandfather, they were bused to schools. They were bused to schools when the school bus wasn't even yellow, you know. The school bus was red and they had to, often times they were bused by the white school which was right in the same neighborhood and so busing really isn't anything new; but the attitudes that the city officials and leading government officials took in this effort, it just showed a complete disregard for a struggling people in this community. There was little, if any, regard for black people in this community as far as safety for their children, as far as obeying 48:00the law of the land -- we may not like the law of the land . . . for years black folks have not liked the law of the land but we have obeyed the law of the land -- but you found ranking government officials, ranking political officials refusing to obey the law of the land. And it really brought out a great amount of concern on the part of blacks . . . I've even run into some formerly passive blacks, blacks who were, you would consider very, very passive, who are very hostile now because of the existing attitude and "do nothingism" on the part of the local officials to assist in a problem area.
CS: Is that, are you speaking in relation of busing now?
LC: Right. In the area of school desegregation I'm speaking in that area right now.
CS: And local officials include school -- ?LC: Yeah, school administrators; I've49:00been out to the county board many, many times voicing some concerns on the safety of our children, voicing concerns on school principals and school administrators who were using racial slurs in addressing students and to this day the Urban League hasn't received any response. We are seeing that -- it's a great concern and Louisville is not the city that I thought it was. In the '50s and the '60s I thought Louisville was a beautiful place to live but I have a different attitude and mind frame of Louisville, Kentucky, right now.
CS: Do you have any hope that your efforts here in the Urban League may bring50:00about a change in the attitude you're speaking of?
LC: We do hope so. The Urban League and the school desegregation crisis becausewe are a United Way agency; we have to walk a tightrope in dealing with this particular issue. I go to the schools practically every week because I'm called out by parents to look into some problem or some principal calls me and wants me to talk to his class or to some students that are disruptive. I do hope that our efforts at the Urban League will assist and by getting these funds from the Eastley (?) project, $68,000 will address the problems of student dropouts and student suspension. I feel that we can indirectly have some effect on this school system as far as the attitudes of young black and young white students 51:00towards the administrators at the school. Now somebody else, I don't know who, needs to be dealing with the attitudes of the administrators. If we can deal with the attitudes of students then somebody ought to deal with that. Maybe University of Louisville! [laughter]
CS: You think that -- in the paper recently they were talking about the"time-out" rooms as an alternative to suspensions and you indicated that one of the most important things would be for kids to stay in school and integration and change their attitude; I know this is a relatively new thing in Louisville, do you think that may hold some promise?
LC: Well, I see you've been studying on this school system, haven't you?! I'veseen time-out rooms where they're not very constructive; in fact, many youngsters refer to it, black youngsters refer to the time-out room as Siberia. A time-out room, if it's used in the way of addressing a kid's, a youngster's academic problems -- that youngster is taken out of his classroom and he's not keeping up with that class -- that person over that time-out room is not getting 52:00the academic needs and the academic curriculum of that youngster for that particular day then I think the time-out room is a waste of time. If a youngster is going to sit in a time-out room and just play cards and just sit around and some play records, then that's a waste of time; the kid should be expelled or sent home, just send him on out of the school. But if a time-out room is used to work on the academic problems and work on some attitudinal problems of that youngster to change that negative attitude to a positive attitude then I think the time-out rooms are very, very positive. I even like the idea of the traditional schools where you have discipline in the classroom because you cannot -- I'm not a school teacher, I'm certified to teach school -- but you cannot teach a class if there's no discipline in that classroom. And there are 53:00teachers in the school system -- I visited thirty schools last month--and there are teachers in the school system who do not have discipline in their classroom and so consequently they cannot deal with any academic subjects in their classroom. They are battling for survival in the classroom themselves and I'm seeing that students don't respect teachers like they used to. All of this may come from the combination of things that I mentioned: the home environment, the teacher who may not be qualified to teach school, you just can't thrust a teacher out of college into an urban setting. At one time you used to do that but I think teachers need . . . the colleges need to teach these teachers who are going off on their practice teaching how to deal in the urban setting because they're going to deal with a lot of different attitudes and a lot of different problems. 54:00
CS: I would just like to ask you now if you had any other general comments thatyou'd like to make concerning the economic aspects of the Negro in Louisville's history?
LC: Well, I think basically I have exhausted all of my efforts through thisinterview and I hope what has been said will be helpful. Forgive me if I seem fatigued; I usually don't talk this long.
CS: I know. I kept you on for quite a bit.
LC: But I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to share some things with youand if any time I can be of any assistance, I'd be more than happy to.
CS: Thank you very much. I believe that concludes our interview.
END OF INTERVIEW