Combating Hate With Peaceful Protest
Throughout the early 1960s, Louisville, Kentucky, erupted in a series of demonstrations and protests pushing for social change within its structurally segregated communities. Pioneering these efforts in 1960, a delegation of black and white civil rights activists met with Mayor Bruce Hoblitzell to press for passage of the public accommodations ordinance to end segregation in white-owned establishments. The mayor’s passive response spoke volumes, and this was ultimately the catalyst for the sit-in movement in downtown Louisville. While the demonstrations mirrored Martin Luther King Jr.’s model for nonviolent, peaceful protest, local businesses felt the increasing economic pressure of the movement. Yet city officials remained unresponsive. In a time when violent protest was a common and widely considered strategy, the Louisville community chose to raise their voices, not their fists. In the summer and fall of 1961, activists initiated a voter registration campaign that elected a new mayor and a new board of aldermen. On May 1, 1963, the public accommodations ordinance was passed.