The Wade House Bombing 1954
On June 27, 1954 local white supremacists bombed the home of Andrew Wade and his family. Wade, an electrician and a veteran, moved his family to the segregated Shively suburb in Louisville, KY; home to white residents only, the suburb was hostile to black residents who sought a home in the neighborhood. Despite this hostility, his family was the first to challenge the segregation in the neighborhood with the assistance of civil rights activists Anne and Carl Braden. Immediately, the Wades became victims of violence fueled by hatred that escalated to the bombing.
Backstory and Context
There have always been challenges to segregation. In 1954 the Brown v. Board
of Education decision outlawed segregation in the school system. After
1954, challenges to segregation increased with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in
1955, the formation of the SCLC, and the sit-ins and marches of the late 1950s
and 1960s. However, while these advances in civil rights were being made,
America's communities were segregated for several years later. It was this
continuation of segregated communities that allowed the hostility towards
blacks in Louisville residencies.
Initially several realtors refused to help Wade find a home outside of the city for himself, his wife, and daughter, Rosemary. Because Louisville still practiced segregation in its communities, one realtor suggested to Wade that he should find a white person who would purchase a home on his behalf and then transfer the title to him. Taking the realtor’s advice, Wade turned to Carl and Anne Braden who were already seasoned civil rights activists. The Bradens bought Wade a home and quickly put the title in his name. Despite the help of the Bradens, the Wades became victims of racist white neighbors once they moved into Shively.
The Wades' home became the target of gunfire and a cross was set aflame on the property. Coincidently, the Wades moved into their home only a couple of days before the ruling was made on the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. While these actions against the Wades may have seemed bad enough, their attackers took another extreme. Early on June 27, 1954, while the home was empty, a bomb went off under Rosemary's room. While it was known who the guilty parties were, they were not arrested or given punishment but instead, the Bradens and other civil rights sympathizers were blamed for the bombing.
The Bradens and others were accused of communism and of forming a plan to incite disorder and take over the state government. The communist accusation was made possible due to the spread of McCarthyism. This philosophy involved the creation of false accusations, often of communist nature, toward those who violated the political status quo. Several months later, the Bradens and others were cleared of this accusation but their reputation never regained its former respect. Andrew Wade and his family had to move to an African American community in Louisville to find peace. Despite these events, this injustice helped push for desegregation of communities during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and helped create the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Today, the location of the house finds itself in a desegregated community.
2. Tim Talbott, “Civil Rights Struggle, 1954/Wades: Open Housing Pioneers,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed September 16, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/298.