Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ed Hamilton, November 4, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:01 - Childhood community

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Partial Transcript: I'm just loving the smock. I do.--(laughs)--

Segment Synopsis: Ed Hamilton is introduced. He talks about growing up in Louisville, Kentucky and discusses his parents' business, Your Shop. His father was a tailor and his mother was a barber (in a time when barbers were mostly men). He talks about the insulation of the neighborhood, which was integrated, compared to the segregation in the wider city.

Keywords: "Biff"; Barbers; Black Louisville; Commercial zone; Fathers; Fifties; Fourth Street (Louisville, Ky.); Freedom; Insulated; Integrated neighborhoods; Integration; Mothers; Post-World War II; Safe; Tailors; Theaters; Walnut Street (Louisville, Ky.); Women barbers; Your Shop

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African Americans--Segregation; Childhood; Louisville (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.

GPS: Walnut Street (Louisville, Ky.) [now called Muhammad Ali Blvd.]
Map Coordinates: 38.251099, -85.757494
00:06:43 - Your Shop: Hamilton's parents' store

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Partial Transcript: And all the, the porters and the waiters and all the play--all the guys that worked uptown on Fourth Street and at the, at the exclusive clubs, the Pendennis Club...

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks more about growing up in his parents' shop, which was a barbershop and tailor combined. He talks about the air of dignity among the people in his neighborhood, and their distinguished fashions.

Keywords: Barber shops; Barbers; Bets; Bookies; Dignified appearance; Fathers; Gambling; Mammoth Building; Mammoth Insurance Company; Politicians; Post-World War II; Tailors; Talking; Uptown

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American families; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; Childhood; Clothing and dress.; Fashion.; Louisville (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.; Neighborhoods.

GPS: Walnut Street (Louisville, Ky.) [now called Muhammad Ali Blvd.]
Map Coordinates: 38.251099, -85.757494
00:10:16 - Family background and childhood

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Partial Transcript: Well let me ask you something. Your dad had this entrepreneurial spirit. He's doing all these things. Where, where does he come from? Where--what--

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about his father's background in Bardstown, Kentucky and his service in World War I. He talks more about his childhood, growing up in an apartment building in Louisville.

Keywords: "Little Africa" (Louisville, Ky.); Apartment buildings; Bardstown (Ky.); Businesses; Cost; Fathers; Freedom; Friends; Home; Money; World War I veterans; Your Shop

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American families; African American veterans; African Americans--Genealogy.; Childhood; Louisville (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.; Neighborhoods.; Textiles; World War, 1914-1918--Veterans

GPS: Bardstown (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.815556, -85.463056
00:15:45 - Changes due to urban renewal

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Partial Transcript: Well, well, tell me this, uh, there's a lot of history, Louisville history of Walnut Street. What happened to that world that you lived in and when did it happen?

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about the impact of urban renewal on his neighborhood on Walnut Street and how it affected his family and destroyed his community.

Keywords: "Urban removal"; Businesses; Changes; Eminent domain; Fathers; Fourth Street; Mayor Charles R. Farnsley; Mothers; Open housing; Parkland (Louisville, Ky.); Property; Redlining; Relocation; Replacement; Sense of community; Tearing down; Urban renewal; Walnut Street (Louisville, Ky.)

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American families; African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Housing.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination in housing; Discrimination in housing--Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky

GPS: Walnut Street (Louisville, Ky.) [now called Muhammad Ali Blvd.]
Map Coordinates: 38.251099, -85.757494
00:20:14 - School integration

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Partial Transcript: So you were, you were part of the, um, like the first wave of integration?

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about his schooling and his personal experience with integration.

Keywords: Beech Street (Louisville, Ky.); Brown v. Board of Education; Discipline; George D. Prentice Elementary School; Grade schools; Junior high schools; Mothers; Parkland Junior High School; Public schools; Shawnee High School; Signing up for school

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Louisville; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Childhood; Louisville (Ky.)--Race relations.; School integration

GPS: Beech Street (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.228850, -85.804993
00:24:38 - Discovery of artistic skills

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Partial Transcript: Now somewhere along the way, when did you discover this sort of artistic--cause it sounds like your mom worked with her hands--

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about his early creative endeavors which were possible partly because of his exploration of his father's tailoring supplies. He describes Sundays in his neighborhood and how they differed from the other days of the week.

Keywords: Artistic talent; Barbers; Creating; Fathers; Junior high school; Making; Mothers; Pinking shears; Pool tables; Quiet; Sculptors; Sewing machines; Sundays; Tailors; Wool suits; Your Shop

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Recreation; African Americans--Social life and customs.; Childhood; Clothing and dress.; Fashion.; Neighborhoods.

GPS: Walnut Street (Louisville, Ky.) [now called Muhammad Ali Blvd.]
Map Coordinates: 38.251099, -85.757494
00:31:09 - Honing his artistic talent in school

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Partial Transcript: So you were, you were this young boy growing up with all this stimulation and all this stuff and you get to junior high school and what--because I know that in the fifties a lot of African Americans, you know, they're preparing African Americans--

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about his early artistic abilities and how they were noticed by his art teacher during junior high school. He talks about how this teacher, as well as his high school art teacher, helped him to develop his talents. He talks about attending the Louisville School of Art for college.

Keywords: Anatomy; Art schools; College track; Dimension; Drawing; Fifties; G. C. Cox; Kentucky Art School; Learning; Parkland Junior High School; Portfolios; Scholarships; Shawnee High School; Sketchbooks; Talent; Trades; Visual art; White teachers

Subjects: African American college students.; African Americans--Education.; Art teachers; Artists--Kentucky; Teachers; University of Louisville

GPS: Former location of Shawnee High School (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.260317, -85.817098
00:38:31 - Artistic career and mentors after college

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Partial Transcript: So how long was this art school?

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about his graduate art show and how it led to his meeting several of his mentors. He talks about how they, along with his research into historical artists, influenced his work. He talks about learning through working with other Black artists.

Keywords: Abstract art; African American artists; Art school; Auguste Rodin ("The Thinker"); Black artists; Black consciousness; Bob Douglas; Bob Thompson; College; Fred Bond; Graduate art shows; Ken Young; Learning; Louisville Art Workshop; Neighborhood cultural arts center; Realism; Sam Gilliam; West End

Subjects: African Americans--Race identity.; African Americans--Societies, etc.; Artists--Kentucky; Minority artists

00:46:32 - Meeting his wife

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Partial Transcript: Now le, let's, let's talk about--at some point Ed Hamilton, nerd, meets this young woman.

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton tells the story of meeting his wife during college through a mutual friend. He talks about their marriage and children, and her supporting him as an artist.

Keywords: Art school; Bernadette Hamilton; Bigelow Hall; Black students; Breadwinner; Cafeterias; Campus; Children; Dances; Friends; Hangouts; Jobs; Married; Money; Struggling artists; Talking; University of Louisville; Wife

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African American families; African Americans--Social life and customs.; Artists--Kentucky; Minority artists

GPS: University of Louisville
Map Coordinates: 38.215019, -85.760222
00:53:26 - Meeting his mentor Barney Bright

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Partial Transcript: Well since you mentioned Barney Bright, let's talk about his influence on you.

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton tells the story of how he came to meet another mentor, sculptor Barney Bright, and how he became Bright's apprentice.

Keywords: "Earth Mother"; Afro; Apprentices; Barney Bright; Louisville (Ky.); Sculptors; Studios

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions.; Artists--Kentucky; Civil rights demonstrations; Minority artists; Race riots

01:02:33 - Commissions--Religious works

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Partial Transcript: Now Ed, you, you've done all this, we can fast-forward a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about how he became involved in creating religious artwork.

Keywords: Churches; Commissions; Religious art; Studios; Tabernacles

Subjects: Art.; Artists--Kentucky; Minority artists; Sculpture.

01:05:54 - Commissions--Booker T. Washington statue

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Partial Transcript: Now, fast-forward after the Main Street basement to the Cloisters to here, I'm on this track of doing these pieces, right?

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about how he learned of a group looking to commission a statue of Booker T. Washington. He talks about the design he created which was ultimately chosen by the group.

Keywords: Black history; Booker T. Washington; Hampton (Va.); Hampton University

Subjects: Art.; Artists--Kentucky; Minority artists; Monuments.; Public sculpture.; Sculpture.; Statues; Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915.

01:09:55 - Commissions--Joe Louis statue

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Partial Transcript: Uh, so all of a sudden, after Booker, I got another letter in the mail.

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about how he learned of a group looking to commission a statue of boxer Joe Louis. He talks about the design he created which was ultimately chosen by the group.

Keywords: Boxers; Compliments; Family; Joe Louis

Subjects: Art.; Artists--Kentucky; Louis, Joe, 1914-1981.; Minority artists; Monuments.; Public sculpture.; Sculpture.; Statues

GPS: Detroit, Michigan, location of the Joe Louis Memorial
Map Coordinates: 42.331389, -83.045833
01:11:52 - Commissions--Amistad Memorial

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Partial Transcript: So then, Ed, now you're getting these commissions.

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about how he learned of a group looking to commission a statue honoring the 1839 La Amistad slave revolt. He talks about the design he created which was ultimately chosen by the group.

Keywords: La Amistad; Memorials; Slavery

Subjects: Art.; Artists--Kentucky; Minority artists; Monuments.; Public sculpture.; Sculpture.; Statues

GPS: New Haven, Connecticut, location of the Amistad Memorial
Map Coordinates: 41.31, -72.923611
01:22:08 - Commissions--The Spirit of Freedom, African-American Civil War Memorial

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Partial Transcript: So up pops--I'm looking in a Jet Magazine.

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about how he learned of a group looking to commission a statue honoring the Black veterans of the Civil War. He talks about the design he created which was ultimately chosen by the group. He talks about some of his friends and family used as models for the piece.

Keywords: African American Civil War veterans; Bernadette Hamilton; Committees; Family; Models; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: African American veterans; Art.; Artists--Kentucky; Minority artists; Monuments.; Public sculpture.; Sculpture.; Statues; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans.; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Veterans.; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.

01:27:15 - Researching his genealogy and finding his birth mother

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Partial Transcript: Okay Ed, you're getting these commissions. We're, we, we're going on.

Segment Synopsis: Hamilton talks about how he began researching his genealogy for a photographic book about his work on the Spirit of Freedom African-American Civil War Memorial. He talks about learning that he was actually adopted, and about his decision to locate and meet his birth mother. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Adopted; Adoption papers; Biological mothers; Birth mothers; Birth records; Contact; Dreams; Family; Family history; Fathers; Mothers; Photographic books; Research; Secrets; Siblings; The Spirit of Freedom, African-American Civil War Memorial

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Genealogy.; Family histories.; Family--history