"Way up North in Louisville": African -American migration in Louisville, Kentucky, 1930--1970

Luther James Adams, University of Pennsylvania


Way Up North in Louisville: African-American Migration in Louisville, Kentucky, 1930–1970,” examines migration during the era of the Second Great Migration, During this period more than 17,000 migrants chose to make Louisville their home. Despite the fact that the highpoint of African-American migration within the nation as a whole was 1943, African-American migration during the World War II era was in fact a product of mechanization and displacement in the South fueled by New Deal. Migration to and through, Louisville, Kentucky represents a departure from the majority of studies of Black migration centering on movement to the North. Much of our historical understanding of African-American migration is particular to the North and not to African-American migration as a whole. Migrants arrived in Louisville equipped with networks of family and friends in place, a range of experiences with urbanity and a “cultural arsenal” to ameliorate the urban industrial experience. ^ Black migrants in Louisville consciously chose to remain in the South because they viewed it as their “Home.” In defining the South as “Home,” Black migrants demonstrated that neither their lives, nor their conceptions of the South were wholly defined by racial oppression or their resistance to it, rather they infused the South with their own meaning. Throughout the period African-American migrants were at the forefront of the city's civil rights movements, their political action was intimately linked to their decision to remain in the South. Between 1930–1960, migrants led campaigns to desegregate the public libraries, state universities, gain access to better employment opportunities, and spearheaded the effort to make the Republican and Democratic parties in Louisville responsive to Black voters. In doing so they anticipated and shaped the nature of later civil rights movements in Louisville. The actions of Black migrants in Louisville, whether political, social or economic, are illustrative of the ways in which they claimed the South and “the city” as their own, while working to make it a better place for African-Americans to live. ^

Subject Area

History, Black|History, United States

Recommended Citation

Adams, Luther James, ""Way up North in Louisville": African -American migration in Louisville, Kentucky, 1930--1970" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3043842.