In this interview, Mrs. Beckett discusses her life as well as her husband’s experiences as alderman in the city of Louisville in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Mrs. Beckett briefly describes her early life and education, including her graduation from Kentucky State College. Mrs. Beckett had a career in education, but also worked with her husband, and for her brother, in the undertaking business in Louisville. She speaks of the Walnut Street area before Urban Renewal. Mrs. Beckett’s husband, William Washington Beckett, was elected alderman in 1951 and served until 1961. In this time, he played a role in the integration of the fire and police departments, the parks, and public accommodations, and in developing a Human Relations Commission. Mrs. Beckett discusses her husband’s contributions and the civil rights movement in general (both in Louisville and more generally) and gives her opinion on the roles of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the African American church.
Mr. Shively focuses largely on his education in Louisville, at Louisville Central High School and the Louisville Municipal College, in the 1930s and 1940s. He discusses his extracurricular experiences as well as the more academic aspects of both of these institutions. He also describes his experiences during World War II, when he served in a segregated signal corps unit in Italy. Mr. Shively finished college on the G.I. Bill following the war, and he talks about the difficulty of finding a job once he completed his education, due to discrimination on the basis of race.
Mr. Stewart, business manager for Local 576 of the Laborers' International Union of North America discusses segregation in education in Tennessee where he grew up, talks about his growing awareness of labor unions, how he came to Louisville and how he became the first black foreman at a construction company there. He reflects on the evolution of the construction industry and particularly describes the place of black laborers within the industry. He talks about women in construction, training opportunities for young people to enter the field and his work with Local 576 of the Laborers' International Union. The interview concludes with a discussion of health and pension benefits provided by Stewart’s union.