Murray Atkins Walls Historical Marker, Louisville
Erected in 2004, this marker honors the achievements of civil rights pioneer, Murray Atkins Walls. Walls challenged segregation in many public settings, including the city's libraries and schools. She also fought for equality and racial understanding within the Girl Scouts. Walls ended the practice of segregation at the local camp in 1956 and became the first woman of color on the Kentucky State Board of Education. The monument was dedicated by the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana and reflect her leadership as the first woman of color to join the local board of the Girl Scouts.
Backstory and Context
In the late 1930s, Murray Atkins Walls worked as a federal housing surveyor which began her fight for desegregation in Louisville. In the 1940s she began attending sit-ins at "whites only" libraries and continued to fight for desegregation until all branches were open to all regardless of color by 1952. Walls was appointed to the Kentucky Board of Education by the governor in the early 1950s. She used this position to fight for more equal funding and opportunities for black students and faculty.
Walls's efforts to desegregate the Louisville Girl Scouts began in the 1940s. She was frustrated that camp began for African American girls right after school let out for the summer as this practice allowed little time for families to prepare for camp. In 1954, she and others pushed the Cardinal Girl Scouts to consider integration.
"We must help our young people to hold with respect the dignity of human beings be they white or brown or black or yellow," Brown declared. "They cannot have it so long as we set one group off to themselves as untouchables, unworthy of belonging to the whole group" (Higgins 9-10). Murray Atkins Walls's inspiring words eventually helped convince the leaders of the Louisville Girl Scouts to officially integrate in 1956. For her efforts, she awarded with the Thanks Badge in 1962--the highest honor one can receive from the Girl Scouts.
Murray died in 1993 and eleven years later, the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana dedicated this marker in front of the Louisville Public Library to honor the woman who challenged the schools, libraries, and Girl Scouts to serve all residents equally.
Whitney Todd, “Murray Atkins Walls (1899-1993),” ExploreKYHistory, accessed February 28, 2018, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/310.
Higgins, Amanda. Learning to Live Together: Murray Atkins Walls’s Fight for a Fairer Louisville. Nursing Clio. January 27, 2017. Accessed February 26, 2017. https://nursingclio.org/2017/01/26/learning-to-live-together-murray-atkins-wallss-fight-for-a-fairer-louisville/.