Parkland neighborhood still recovering from so-called Louisville Riot 50 years ago
An imperfect storm of injustice and anger led to the so-called Louisville Riot in May 1968.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An imperfect storm of injustice and anger led to the so-called Louisville Riot in May 1968.
While some call it a riot, others call it a "disturbance." But whatever it is called, Louisville's Parkland neighborhood is still trying to recover from deadly unrest that began 50 years ago this weekend.
Right now, 28th Street and Greenwood Avenue is an intersection of economic distress. Once-thriving businesses have been replaced by boarded-up buildings.
But it wasn't always that way, historian Tom Owen said.
“There was developing and emerging a small node of African-American businesses,” Owen said.
But things began to change for the worse on May 27, 1968.
Metro Council member Cheri Bryant Hamilton was there. It began as a protest over the pending reinstatement of a Louisville police officer suspended for beating a respected black businessman.
“Enough is enough," Hamilton said. "We were sick and tired of this kind of treatment."
The rhetoric was heated, and eventually, the anger exploded. The anger was further fueled by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. the month before.
“Somebody threw some bottles, and the next thing you knew, police, who had been lurking in the area, came and descended upon the crowd,” Hamilton said.
The disturbance lasted for several days. Two people were killed, and the Parkland neighborhood was left scarred as businesses fled.
“Ultimately, quickly, a police cruiser was overturned, a civilian vehicle was overturned and set on fire, and then the rest is history,” Owen said. “And the business district in Parkland is still critically wounded."
Tarrance Thompson is one of the few business people around. He is a barber at the corner where the riot began, and he's watched the neighborhood decline in the years since.
“When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike around, and it looked fun," Thompson said. "But now, there's nothing around."
Fifty years after the unrest, Hamilton said recovery will take both public and private investment and a dose of courage.
“I'm hoping that the city will invest in people who want to invest their own community,” she said.
Hamilton is hosting an anniversary event at 3 p.m. Sunday at the corner of 28th Street and Greenwood Avenue.
It is called "Looking Back While Moving Forward - The Struggle Continues."
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.