Historical Resources on Racial Inequality in Louisville

Historical Resources on Racial Inequality in Louisville

On June 2, 2020, the Filson joined cultural organizations across the United States in blacking out and silencing its social media accounts. This was intended to allow our hurting city and nation space to listen to and reflect upon the voices of the Black community experiencing the traumas of systemic racism in our past and in our present.  

You can read the letter sent to the Filson membership by President Richard H. C. Clay here: Filson Community Response to Racism 8 June 2020.

We seek to move forward as a space of open, inclusive, and informed dialogue. These resources can help guide both our reflection and our next steps of action. Our past is challenging and complex, and it calls us to explore it honestly and fearlessly.  

#BlackLivesMatter 


 Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and CultureTalking About Race.

The Smithsonian’s resources for educators, parents, and citizens help guide tough conversations about invisible racial identities and biases at work in American society and rooted in 400 years of American history documented in the museum’s collections on the mall. Guided activities and videos are appropriate for small group discussion and individual reflection. 

African American Intellectual Historical Society, #Charlestonsyllabus. 

Responding to the horrific shooting at Emanuel AME Church in 2015, a diverse group of scholars, led by Black historians, assembled reading lists on the history of slavery, emancipation, religion, white supremacy, and Confederate memory. While many of the resources are specific to Charleston, the reading lists for the broader South are invaluable for all Americans at any time. 

American Historical Association, Bibliography of Historians on the Confederate Monument Debate

In the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville in 2017, members of the American Historical Association assembled a reading list of public statements from historians. Video interviews, op-eds, and Twitter threads show how historians apply their knowledge of the past to deadly eruptions of our violent history. 

J. Blaine Hudson, Slavery in Early Louisville and Jefferson County Kentucky,1780-1812 Filson Club History Quarterly (July 1999)

Founded by Virginia soldiers and settlers, Louisville was stamped from its earliest days by the institution of slavery, writes the monumental scholar, community leader, and Director of the UofL Pan-African Studies Program, Dr. J. Blaine Hudson. 

Amy L. Young and J. Blaine Hudson, Slave Life at OxmoorFilson Club History Quarterly (July 2000)

Using archaeology and a close reading of the papers of the white Bullitt Family, Drs. Young and Hudson reconstruct the lives of resistance and accommodation on a Jefferson County plantation from the faintest echoes of African American voices in the historical record. 

J. Blaine Hudson, Crossing the ‘Dark Line’: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Louisville and North-Central KentuckyFCHQ (January 2001)

Reexamining Underground Railroad activity in the area around Louisville, Dr. Hudson finds that the city’s vibrant free Black community provided crucial support, supplies, and networks to help fugitives find freedom across the Ohio River. 

Luther Adams, It Was North of Tennessee: African American Migration to Louisville and the Meaning of the SouthOhio Valley History Journal (Fall 2003)

Fleeing the crushing poverty and violence of rural Jim Crow, thousands of African Americans migrated to Louisville from Kentucky and other Southern states in search of community and opportunity, but often finding poor-paying jobs and limited housing in segregated neighborhoods of the West End. “African American migration to Louisville offers an opportunity to explore the multiple ways African Americans conceived of the South, as a site of oppression, as a site of resistance and as Home.” 

Tracy E. K’Myer, The Gateway to the South: Regional Identity and the Louisville Civil Rights Movement OVH (Spring 2004)

As Civil Rights organizers began seeking change in the wake of WWII, they battled not only entrenched resistance but also the perception that Louisville as a city that straddled the border of the South and Midwest was, somehow, immune from the racism that plagued cities like Birmingham and Atlanta. 

Samuel Abramson, Disorder at the Derby: Race, Reputation, and Louisville’s 1967 Open Housing CrisisOVH (Summer 2015)

“No Housing, No Derby” was the slogan of Louisville protesters in the run up to the 1967 Derby, who planned to stand across the track to draw national attention to residential segregation in the city. “By early May, many Louisvillians were less concerned with residential segregation than they were with the national embarrassment that might stem from the accompanying protests. They simply wished to sip their juleps and place their bets in peace.” 

Develop Louisville, Redlining Louisville

This interactive story map allows us to visualize and document the unfair lending practices that hardened the lines of racial segregation in Louisville’s residential districts, one of the central themes of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Louisville history. 

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The Filson is temporarily closed to the public to protect our staff, volunteers, and patrons during the coronavirus pandemic. All events are currently postponed or virtual; to register for our live virtual events, please visit our Events Page; for information on recorded lectures and other activities, please visit us online at Bringing History Home.

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