LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Civil Rights Movement may have ended more the 50 years ago, but there’s still progress to be made. Spectrum News 1 is taking a look back to the fight for equal housing rights, and the challenges minority homeowners in Louisville still face today.
Our first stop on this journey took to us a few neighborhoods around Churchill Downs. It’s known for mass resistance when it came to allowing black residents. It’s also where the marches for open housing were staged. It’s where Raoul Cunningham spent countless hours in 1967.
“To be able to live any place you could afford segregation prohibited that we had to live in areas where they were willing to sell to us,” Cunningham, President of the Louisville branch of the NAACP, said.
Cunningham says a change in local government was critical. Some Republicans were voted out and Democratic leaders passed a housing ordinance.
“We had the elections in November of ’67 the law was passed in December of ’67,” Cunningham said.
The late ’60s was also a time for a change for Rita Greer. She got married and moved into her first house in the west end in 1968. She says neighbors didn’t greet her with a smile or a welcome basket.
“We moved in on Christmas Eve and on the day the second day after new year’s the people next door to us put their house up for sale and then started the movement then the people next to them out their house up for sale,” Greer said.
The sale signs were just the beginning for Greer and her husband. When she moved into a new house in 1991, she says experienced striking and demoralizing racism.
“We woke up and our swimming pool was trashed and the garage door of the doctor down the street was littered with ‘n***** go home’ that’s this neighborhood in 1991, 1992,” Greer said.
Stories like Greer’s don’t surprise the Urban League who work to assist minority homeowners and even though it’s 2020 the challenges are still very real especially the consequences of redlining.
“There are actually city maps, they are actually maps in place where you can see that people went in and red-lined communities that were predominantly African-American. So you could have two communities with similar amenities. One is near a park, near water, or near the railway whatever high popular African-American population too much risk. So they couldn’t get insurance couldn’t get home loans, so it’s just sort of this cycle of poverty that continues and continues,” Sadiqa Reynolds said.
Denying many of the American dreams of homeownership something the Urban League works daily to overcome.
“Last year in a 12 month period 85 families bought new homes, it was something like 9.6 million dollars’ worth of mortgages. Our clients don’t get foreclosed on because they don’t overbuy, they understand you know we have sent them through credit counseling, they have gone through budgeting classes and they really do understand because you have to understand. If your parents haven’t had the opportunity or didn’t have the opportunity they are some things that you just haven’t been exposed to but a little bit of education goes a long way and so that’s what we want to see. We have to be willing to try and make a difference around these issues,” Reynolds said.
And Cunningham like many African-American will say things have come a long but it’s still a long way from over when it comes to diversifying neighborhoods.
“It preserves yesteryear in as much as if they are in an all-white neighborhood they go to predominantly all-white schools and they don’t have to deal with the outside world as it exists,” Cunningham said.