Opinion: Combating neighborhood divisions along racial lines

December 15, 2014
Perhaps as a historical accident, many years ending with the number 4 have a remarkable civil rights significance. For example, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964. Ten years before that, another civil rights milestone was reached. The 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education began the long process of desegregation in public schools.
     Integration didn’t happen overnight, however. In the 1950s and 1960s, children attended schools which reflected the demographic makeup of their neighborhoods. In the “integrated” Seneca High School Class of 1962 , for example, there were fewer than 20 African-Americans out of a total of 250 students. Not coincidentally, the Bon Air neighborhood in which Seneca is located was nearly 100 percent white at the time.
     By the 1970s, decades of racist housing policies – both private and public – had carved the city of Louisville into racial enclaves. African-Americans were pushed out of downtown into the West End by urban renewal, and whites had fled south and east, insulated by banks and home builders who refused to sell suburbia to anyone else. As a result, schools in Louisville remained “de facto” segregated long after Brown.