For many people, Fourth Street is a recognizable street downtown. It’s home to things such as the Galt House Hotel and Fourth Street Live! but back in the ’60s, Fourth Street looked completely different. It was lined with small businesses and places for entertainment that not everyone could enjoy while feeling included. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended the segregation of public places but until then, protesters marched for their rights.
The protest against racial segregation of public places took place in 1961. There is a well-known picture from the protest with Manual graduate Bob Greene marching among many others while wearing his Manual letter jacket. In honor of Black History Month, RedEye decided to contact the man in the picture to learn more about the protest and how the times were in Louisville back in the ‘60s.
Greene, among many others joined together in protest of racial segregation of public places. Greene graduated in duPont Manual’s class of 1961. He was a senior at the time of the picture. The year that he graduated was the same year as the Campaign to End Racial Segregation. Around that time, racial tensions were high and segregation sparked many protests around the United States. Louisville was seen as a leader in race relations because of the passage of school integration laws in 1956, but public places continued to be segregated. The inequality caused many protests, especially among the African American youth.
“During the protest I was thinking that it needed to be done, but it was unfortunate that it had to be done. The only way to get the attention of the people who made the laws was to march and boycott so that’s what we did,” Greene said.
This protest in particular garnered a lot of attention, although there were many during this time. There were protests for many different causes and all were related to the rights of African Americans.
“We marched quite a few times because it needed to be done. There was a situation in Louisville at the time that needed to be corrected,” Greene said.
Louisville did outlaw segregation in schools earlier than other places but that didn’t change the laws put in place about segregation in public. Many people were discriminated against and couldn’t use the same facilities because of the color of their skin.
“I got to Louisville the first year that segregation was outlawed in schools. One of the good things about Louisville was that segregation was banned in all schools at the same time opposed to other places,” Greene said. “But we were in the same schools, we were in the same cafeterias, we were in parks together, we were in swimming pools together so I couldn’t see why it made any sense to not have certain things be available to everybody.”
Bob Greene lived all around the United States from New York to Georgia, where he lives today. He has a wife, kids, and grandkids and has seen times change a lot from the 50’s to present day, but, in some ways things have stayed the same.
“Attitudes in many ways have stayed the same. There are still people who think that discrimination based on race or religion has a place, and some of those practices still are being done that put people without means at a disadvantage, in terms of the justice system or where you live,” Greene said.
With this past election, Greene thinks it has shown how much we need to progress but he still has hope for the future.
“We’ve taken a step way backward. If you look at the policies that are being pursued, the people who are in key positions, and the goals of the person in the White House, there are a number of things wrong. Things are backed up quite a bit and I’m sad to see these things in place. We should be making more progress than this, we don’t need to be going backwards we need to be going forward,” Greene said. “I think it reflects narrow-minded thinking. People tend to support people who are like themselves racially and economically so I hope to see more leadership across the country from people of all levels of society in order to make progress.”