1961 Campaign to End Racial Segregation - Fourth Street Shopping District
African Americans in Louisville protested segregation throughout the 1950s with mixed results. Though school integration passed in 1956, much of the rest of Louisville life remained racially segregated. The anti-segregation movement reached a critical mass in February 1960 when the a delegation of white and black community leaders expressed frustration at the failure of the city council or Mayor Bruce Hoblitzell to support their demand for a municipal ordinance banning segregation. In the spring of 1961, in part inspired by the successes seen in Greensboro, NC, the African American community effectively acted to organize major stand-ins in local department stores.
Backstory and Context
The protests led the management of Kaufman and Stewart's to request negotiation in 1961, but neither store proceeded towards integration. The joint department store sit-ins began under the leadership of Raoul Cunningham on February 9, 1961. On February 20, the police arrested Cunningham and four teenagers. By the spring of 1961, over 700 residents of Louisville had been arrested--more than in any other city in the nation. Between 1961 and 1962, African Americans continued their pickets, boycotts, and sit-ins, seriously disrupting business in the downtown area. Recognizing that these protests threatened their city's economy and might also disrupt the Kentucky Derby, Louisville businesses began to serve black patrons, and the city became the first major city south of the Mason-Dixon Line to bar racial discrimination in public accommodations in the spring of 1963.