Black Unity League of Kentucky
= Audio Available Online
Bill Allison, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, acted as an appeals attorney for one of the Black Six defendants, Ruth Bryant. The Black Six were a group of five men and one woman who were prosecuted for inciting rebellion during the Parkland Uprising of 1968. Allison also represented the Black Panthers in Louisville and in Memphis, Tennessee. In this interview, Allison speaks about cases he was involved in involving government repression and retaliation against Civil Rights activists and how he became involved in that work through the Southern Conference Educational Fund, serving as SCEF's lawyer from 1969 to 1974.
Bryant discusses her childhood in Detroit, Michigan, where her father was involved in fair housing work. The interview also includes recollections of her education at a private girls' school in Washington, D.C. and at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she received an AB in history; her move to Louisville with her husband, a physician; her work with the West End Community Council; and involvement with the Black Six conspiracy trial.
Civil Rights Activist Ruth Bryant (1923-2013) speaks about her childhood and family history growing up in Detroit; her move to Louisville and observations about housing available to Black Louisvillians; how she became interested in and active in the open housing movement; her work with Committee on Community Development oversaw all federal funding that came into Louisville and how it was dispersed; and her involvement with other organizations such as the West End Community Council, Head Start, Citizens' Advisory Committee under the Urban Renewal Program, Black Unity League of Kentucky, and Women United for Social Action. She also talks about her arrest at open housing demonstrations and her memories of the 1968 Parkland Uprising. She mentions but does not speak at length about being one of the "Black Six," a group of Black Louisvillians accused of inciting rebellion during the 1968 Parkland Uprising and charged with conspiracy to destroy property and to blow up West End chemical plants.
The third of four interviews in which Mr. Ellis reflects on his friendship with Ross Jessup, Grace Hope Presbyterian Center, early work in community service, halfway house director, violence intervention and juvenile diversion programming, gang violence in Louisville, Cryps and Bloods, civil rights work, Shelby Lanier, Black Police Officer's Association, West End advocacy, Black Unity League of Kentucky (BULK), 1968 "Riots," Black Six, NAACP, career in Louisivlle government, Harvy Sloane, Jerry Abrams, conversion experience, divinity school, preaching in the ministry, history of AME churches.
These and other interviews were conducted by the Louisville Story Program and collaboratively edited with the participants authors between 2020 and 2023. The culmination of this collaborative work is the documentary book, “If You Write Me A Letter, Send It Here: Voices of Russell in a Time of Change.” This anthology of nonfiction documents the rich layers of history and cultural heritage in the Russell area of west Louisville, a neighborhood whose history is centrally important to the Black experience in Louisville.
Eighty-years-old Hawkins, a native of Kuttawa, KY., discusses his childhood and youth in Louisville’s California neighborhood in the 1950s, his travel in freight cars as a youth, and how racism in the U. S. prompted his resignation from the Marines. He then describes his enlistment in the local Open Housing movement, his work as a VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America) community organizer in both Louisville and Philadelphia, and his involvement as President of the Black Unity League of Kentucky in the local Police brutality protests in May, 1968, the Police provocation that led to days of civil unrest in the Parkland neighborhood, and the bogus charges and litigation that followed against himself and five others as the “Black Six.” Mr. Hawkins frequently focuses less on legal actions and more on what happened to those involved, including his friend, Robert Kyyu Sims, both at the time and subsequently.