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00:00:00 - Black community in Louisville, Kentucky / Leaders in the black community

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Partial Transcript: --it was made at the home of Lyman Johnson on May the 30th, 1979, between the house of eleven a.m. and three p.m.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes Louisville as a good example of what a southern city was back in the early 20th century. He describes the race relations to be good for a southern city, but segregation was "iron clad." Violence between races was relatively low, but that could be attributed to how separated the races were. Johnson begins discussing how difficult it could be for a black person to find a professional career. Without access to reliable education that was not segregated or for just blacks, job titles like doctor and lawyer were hard to obtain but when they were obtained, the title job gave people large amounts of success. Mainly doctors and pastors in black communities were seen as the most successful members of the community. They had a lot of education, combined with a large presence in the community, which contributed to their economic success. Oftentimes pastors and ministers could rise up in the ranks of politics, becoming powerful and influential depending on the size of the congregation of their church. Johnson remarks that in reality, the best job to have as a black person in the city at that time was a job with regular pay. For example, letter carriers and teachers or people who worked in the schools always had regular pay and were not hit as hard during the Great Depression. In Johnson's eyes, regular pay (a teacher) was a better career than a doctor, given the fact that there was always a paycheck coming.

Keywords: Black; Inequality; Jim Crow laws; Race; Racial wage gap; Racism; Segregation; Separate but equal; Unequal; Wage gap; White

Subjects: African American leadership; African American.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Southern States.; Classism.; Discrimination in employment.; Louisville (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Racism.; Segregation

00:15:46 - Segregation in employment

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Partial Transcript: And that was, no matter how high a black rose in the, uh, in the black community, when he moved outside of the black community he was humiliated by being treated just as another black.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson makes the statement that when black Americans move outside the black community, they are only seen on the surface level or skin level. Because their skin is black, they are equivalent in the minds of white people to every other black person, even though they may be very powerful and educated in the black community. Johnson also remarks that this negative attribute was an asset inside the black community. Since everyone was viewed the same by outsiders, people treated each other more equally inside the community. The community was almost seen as a family. Because of inequality and segregation, blacks simply make less money than whites, even when they are doing the exact same job, or also when they have more experience than people working under them. Employers were allowed to discriminate towards black employees, but were not allowed to be paid less for the same work. Johnson said it was very common to change the job title on the payroll to a tier lower than what it actually may be. For example, a black skilled worker doing the same work as a supervisor would be labelled as a common laborer to avoid paying the black worker the same wage as the white worker. Black workers in the north and south were exploited because employers knew they could be paid less. Many companies in the north experienced shortages of white workers who, at the time, were protesting for better wages. These companies advertised the jobs to blacks working in plantation-like conditions in the south. The companies knew that they could hire black workers for significantly less than what they were paying white workers, and the quality of the product coming off of the production line was the exact same. Johnson also mentions the inability of black workers to join unions. Because even unions were segregated, black unions existed but had virtually no power when it came to requesting better working conditions or wages.

Keywords: Apprenticeship; Classism; Employees; Employers; Jobs; Payroll; Racism; Segregation; Teachers; Trades; Unions; Wages; Workers

Subjects: African American leadership; African American.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Southern States.; Apprentice; Classism.; Discrimination in employment.; Gentrification; Louisville (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Racism.; Segregation; Working class.

00:36:22 - The northern economy's exploitation of southern black workers / Exploitation of black workers in general

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Partial Transcript: Look at the whole, um, the whole uh, uh, rearrangement of the economy of this country, uh, up in New England--well, uh, from Philadelphia on up to, uh, to Massachusetts...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson recalls when companies were first starting to realize that they could process their textiles in the south using black workers. Johnson says the companies were frustrated by unions demanding higher wages which caused them to move the processing mills down south, decreasing the cost of labor by exploiting black workers' low wage expectations. By producing the cotton in the south and now also processing the cotton in the south, the companies were able to save so much more money, and they did not have to change the price of the finished product. Buy and produce low, sell high. Johnson says the rich business owners of the north and south knew that they had to give the impression that poor whites were above blacks so that no one knew the real "score" between who was at the bottom and who was actually in control. Racial intermixing was seen as extremely taboo, and black males were always kept away from white females, even to the point of avoiding any sort of contact, visual or physical. Unions were prevented in the south in order to keep the wages low. Johnson remarks that when he was working as a teacher they had a teacher association that acted as a union for the black teachers, but no actual sort of union with any kind of real power. Unions were seen as communistic at the time, and if it was rumored that you were communist, it could cost you your entire career.

Keywords: Black workers; Cotton; Cotton mills; Exploitation; Industry; North; Poor whites; Racism; Segregation; South; Unions

Subjects: Civil war.; Cotton.; Exploitation.; Industrial revolution.; Racism.; Segregation; Textile industry.

00:54:22 - Race and job title

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Partial Transcript: Now one of the big employ--em--em--employers in Louisville, I guess in the thirties, certainly thirties, forties and fifties was the L&N.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson remarks that black workers who do the same work as supervisors are paid as common laborers. Johnson says that no matter how long one works for a company, and no matter how much experience they gain, their salary will never go above the highest amount for a common laborer because of their skin color. Johnson does recall one instance where a neighbor became a supervisor after working for the same company for a few decades, but still did not get paid as much as his white counterparts. Johnson recalls another example where a well deserving black employee was given the title of a supervisor in the school district, and how it made them feel so much more empowered and they did an even better job than before. However just because some blacks experienced success, many more did not. Jobs were very hard to find in the early half of the 20th century Johnson says. He said that people would take any job they could find, and many people worked all day for such a little paycheck, but it was better than having no income. Johnson also recalls his experience working in the service industry as a waiter. Johnson says the wages would be so low you would basically rely completely on tips, eliminating a regular trustworthy source of income.

Keywords: Division; Education; Employees; Employers; Helpers; Inequality; Jobs; Laws; Payroll; Race; Segregation; Supervisors; Trades; Training; Unions

Subjects: African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Southern States.; Apprentice; Classism.; Discrimination in employment.; Discrimination.; Education.; Gentrification; Louisville (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Racism.; Segregation; Working class.

01:09:21 - The effects of segregation on education in urban areas

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Partial Transcript: Where did you live when you came to Louisville?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson recalls his first few months in Louisville, and realizing how segregated the city truly was. Like every other southern city in the United States, Louisville was segregated but Johnson recalls that even the ideals of the city were so separate when it came to black and white that even the idea of intermixing was heavily frowned upon, but no one really knew why. School systems were a mess because black schools were often inaccessible to anyone except the people who lived near enough to them. Even public resources like libraries had to be segregated. Johnson also describes instances where the black community would expand and "encroach" onto the white community. In the downtown area, black business were opening up on the other side of the street from renowned white businesses. Johnson gives the example of what happened to a black owned theater that was opened across the street from the well known Brown Hotel. The owner of the hotel saw the theater as nothing but an eyesore, even going as far as to call it an insult to his guests staying on the top floors to have to look down onto it. The owner "fixed" this problem by tearing down the entire block after buying all the black owned businesses on it in order to construct a parking lot for the hotel guests. Johnson and the interviewer mention that as times have changed 4th Street looks a lot different now, but the loss of the culture from that era still has a profound effect on the black community now.

Keywords: Black community; Clean cities; Community; Cultural centers; Culture; Degradation; Deterioration; Education; Idealistic divide; Ideals; Libraries; Neighborhoods; Public resources; Public works; Racial divide; Segregation

Subjects: African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Community.; Culture.; Discrimination in education.; Division.; Education.; Gentrification.; Louisville (Ky.); Neighborhoods.; Public works; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Segregation; Segregation in education--Kentucky

01:25:48 - Slow degradation of black neighborhoods

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Partial Transcript: People down in the West End gave up nice, pretty, substantial homes to buy new buildings--new homes out in the, uh, suburbs...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson recalls when the black community in Louisville began its expansion towards the river and developing into more of the West End. He recalls that almost all of the white people who lived in the nice waterfront properties moved because they did not want to live in such close proximity to the black community. As the white people migrated into the suburbs, some of the black people migrated into the areas near the river, leaving vacant spots in the center of the west end. Disingenuous landlords then moved into the nice homes in the developed neighborhoods and began renting them out to many families at a time. Often the tenants of the houses were very poor and could only afford to pay the rent, but could not afford to upkeep the building when the landlords didn't care enough to.

Keywords: Absentee landlords; Classism; Deterioration; Housing; Housing inequality; Income inequality; Landlords; Racism; Segregation; Shacks

Subjects: Absentee landlordism.; African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Classism.; Community.; Culture.; Discrimination.; Division.; Gentrification.; Housing.; Income.; Louisville (Ky.); Neighborhoods.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Racism.; Segregation

01:34:38 - Origins of a black neighborhood in Louisville

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Partial Transcript: H-how did, how did black people get into this pocket originally?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson remarks that most of the black servants served white households in the East End, and that the white employers would travel all the way to the West End to get the black servants to transport them back to the East End. This is most likely because the white people inhabiting the East End would rather have the blacks on the other side of the city rather than the same side. Johnson also remarks that most of the time, servants would live in some of the many stables and barn areas that lined 3rd Street, most of which he says were torn down in an effort to cover up the dark side of the history that people no longer wanted to associate with their culture. Johnson emphasizes that all of this information he is giving about the formation of a black community in Louisville is all a speculation. Whether the community formed from the "quarters" of the slavery era or a different reason is not totally known by Johnson.

Keywords: Black; Black community; Black neighborhoods; Black people; East End; Poor; Rich; Segregation; Separate; Servants; Servitude; Slavery; Slavery era; Stables; West End

Subjects: African American neighborhoods; African American.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Classism.; Community.; Culture.; Discrimination.; Division.; Gentrification.; Housing.; Income.; Louisville (Ky.); Neighborhoods.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Racism.; Segregation; Servitudes.; Slavery.

01:39:25 - Segregation's influence on daily life

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Partial Transcript: What could you do on 4th Street as a black person?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson remarks that many stores on 4th Street, which at the time was the center of the business and entertainment of Louisville, were open to blacks, but that did not mean you could actually buy something from there or even try anything on. Johnson says the most fashionable stores, the most well known movie palaces, etc. were all closed off to anyone who was black. Johnson says some stores went as far as to refuse entrance into the store for any black people, saying their business would only do harm to the overall image their store has. Back then, it was a popular thing for stores to have charge accounts for people to use to buy clothes as soon as they came out, and then pay the store back later. Johnson says that many of the stores would not allow any black people to have a charge account, unless they were deemed worthy of one. Johnson recalls even refusing his own offer to open a charge account simply because he did not want to give in to the racism at play in the businesses. Johnson says that at some point, businesses realized money coming from white or black was the same, and so they could increase the quality of the goods and not go bankrupt by selling to consumers of both races. Johnson also remarks that there were no black owned businesses that could compete with the white businesses. Movies were also segregated, meaning oftentimes movies that ran in white theaters were not shown in black theaters as black theaters would not receive the movies until sometimes many months after their release.

Keywords: Accessibility; Black owned; Black owned businesses; Clothes; Community; Entertainment; Fashion; Movies; Nightlife; Shows; Stores

Subjects: African American neighborhoods; African American.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; Business.; Fashion.; Nightlife.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Racism.; Segregation

01:53:49 - Segregation of public resources

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Partial Transcript: But, um, now even on the streetcars though there were certain, uh, uh, places where you could sit--?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson recalls that from the moment he arrived in Louisville he never remembered there being any segregation on the public transportation that was located inside the city limits. He said outside the city limits everything was segregated, and you had to sit in the back of buses, but inside the city public transportation was never segregated. Johnson attributes the lack of segregation in public transportation to the proportion of blacks versus whites that used public transport. Johnson also mentions the city parks, and how the black community was allocated a very small park near the Ohio River, named Chickasaw Park. This park, as Johnson describes it, was much smaller and more dilapidated compared to the other white only parks that dotted the city. Johnson says the park did not have any of the fancy amenities seen in the white parks, nor did it have any fancy touches. Johnson says it was common for blacks to drive through the white parks, but if they ever got out to try and enjoy the park itself they would be prosecuted. As long as one stayed in their vehicle it was legal for them to be in a whites only park.

Keywords: Buses; City parks; Parks; Public transportation; Public works; Segregation; Streetcars; Transportation

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Buses.; Parks.; Public transportation; Public works; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Segregation; Segregation in transportation; Transportation.

02:02:27 - Johnson's early career in education

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Partial Transcript: W-when did you get your first car?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes his first car, a red sports car that helped him begin a relationship with his wife. He denotes that the car is a very important symbol in their marriage, and jokes at the possibility that she may have married him just for the car. Johnson is then asked how he became involved in the Louisville school system, to which he answers that he was lucky enough to secure a job as a high school teacher after another teacher had abruptly resigned two weeks before the start of school. Johnson mentions that the Great Depression was just beginning to be in full swing at that time, and jobs were becoming so hard to find. Johnson attributes his securing of the position to his graduate level education. Johnson was probably overqualified for the job for many reasons, but one in particular being he had a teaching license from Michigan, which at the time was very prestigious. Johnson liked the job and excelled at teaching, to which people quickly began to take notice. Johnson had been through an immense amount of education and training before landing the job, mentioning he was a student teacher in the district beforehand and was able to make connections with many of the staff at the school. Johnson mentions that one very important thing to note about the black school he worked at is that every single person, every student, teacher, assistant, even janitor, had to be black. This rule however, did not extend to the supervisors, who at the time were all white.

Keywords: Black schools; Degrees; Education; Education system; Great Depression; Higher education; History; Inequality; Job scarcity; Math; Post-graduate education; Racism; Segregation; Student teaching; Teaching; Teaching certificates; White schools; White supervisors

Subjects: African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination in education.; Division.; Education.; Great Depression.; Intelligence; Louisville (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Racism.; Scarcity.; Segregation; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Teaching.

02:18:07 - Black schools' validity in sports / The extra price paid for black athletic programs

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Partial Transcript: What, what, what was Central like?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes the facilities at Central High School to be very meager. Johnson says that compared to other high schools in similar urban areas, Central was neither better nor worse when it came down to available facilities. Because black schools at the same level as Central were few and far between, the sports teams would travel great distances for games, travelling as far as a 12 hour drive away. After travelling such great distances, finding lodging for an entire football team and a group of supervisors became very expensive. Johnson says the home team was expected to arrange lodging for the visiting team, whether that be at the school, a local YMCA, or very rarely even at a black hotel. Johnson says that as manager, his job was to make the visiting team's stay enjoyable, not forgetting or discounting the fact they had to travel so far for one measly game. Each game had to financed expertly, and ticket sales and money from the school was difficult to source sometimes. Johnson mentions that it was very difficult to make any money from ticket sales because although the stadium would be full, the stadium itself would only be able to hold a few hundred people, barely enough for the expenses of uniforms, transportation, etc. to be paid off. Although Central High School was a larger school, given their region they would still face up against teams from across the state of Kentucky, many from very small high schools where every single male in the school would be needed to be able to make up a full team. Sports were very vital to black schools because they offered great opportunities for many black athletes. Without sports, Johnson says many of the athletes would never have had the chance of going to college, or pursuing any form of higher education.

Keywords: Education system; Finances; Football; High school football; High schools; Inequality; Lodging; Money; Opportunity; Resources; Sports; Ticket sales; Transportation; Travel

Subjects: African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination in education.; Division.; Education.; Football.; High school; Louisville (Ky.); Money.; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism.; Scarcity.; Segregation; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Sports.

02:40:12 - What made Central High School a "comprehensive" school

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Partial Transcript: What, uh, what kinds of students did you have when you came to, came to uh, Central?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson says that every single black student in the county went to Central High School. This was because the population of the rural areas versus the city's population of black students was so low, it simply would not be worth the trouble to build a whole other high school for these students. Johnson mentions there was a black only boarding school in nearby Shelby County that was used for black students from very small communities where there would be no point to have a high school. However, as long as someone could theoretically get to Central, or if the buses could reach their homes, Central is the school they would have to attend. Johnson also mentions the high rate of black high school dropouts seen in the Louisville area at the time. Johnson says that many kids would drop out the day they turned 16 in order to go find work or to do something "more productive" than school. Even children who dropped from school earlier, say at the age of 13-15 would not really be enforced to go back to finish school because the education of blacks was not as enforced as the education of whites.

Keywords: Boarding schools; Bus systems; Comprehensive; Dropout rates; Education; Education system; Ethics; High school dropouts; Segregated; Segregation

Subjects: African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Buses.; Discrimination in education.; Division.; Dropouts.; Education; Education.; Equality.; High schools; Louisville (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism.; Scarcity.; Segregation; Segregation in education--Kentucky

02:46:11 - How Johnson found passion in teaching

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Partial Transcript: Did you, did you enjoy teaching?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson is definite about how much he enjoyed teaching. Johnson enjoyed teaching so much because of the impact he was able to leave on students' lives. Johnson knows that there were many students he had through the years that he bettered the lives of, and gave them opportunities and knowledge that carried them out into the world where they are now very successful. Johnson recalls the story of one student in particular. He begins by describing the living situation of the student, which was incredibly dilapidated and worn. Johnson also mentioned that the student's parents would discourage him from studying because they saw it as a way he could avoid doing household chores. Johnson knew that this student cared about his education and so encouraged him by giving him extra money on the side to buy things he needed, such as shoes, school supplies, books, etc. Johnson is confident that his encouragement paid off, because he knows that now the student has a career which he would not have had without the encouragement and exposure from the good teachers who paved the way for him. Johnson takes great happiness in seeing his students succeeding in life. Johnson then begins to also discuss the great distaste he has for the racism and discrimination he experienced working in the school system. He agrees with the interviewer that it is quite ironic that he has an honorary degree from the same place that desperately tried to keep black people from attending. Johnson ends the interview by recollecting a story where he was able to make a statement in front of the board of education demanding blacks to be a part of the Kentucky Education Association (KEA).

Keywords: College; Discrimination; Equality; Helping; Mentors; Mentorship; Preparedness; Racism; Resourcing; Studying; Success; Teaching; Unfair treatment

Subjects: African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination in education.; Discrimination.; Division.; Education.; Equality.; Equity.; Louisville (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism.; Segregation; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Teaching.