Louisville NAACP and CORE activists campaign for open accommodations, Kentucky, 1961


Specifically, the NAACP Youth Council and CORE's goal was to desegregate theaters, Blue Boar Cafeteria, and two department stores, Stewart's and Kaufman-Strauss. Their larger goal was to desegregate all public accommodations in Louisville, KY. "We believe, that if we can achieve integration here(department stores), we shall eventually be able to integrate all of Louisville," stated student leader Lynn Pfuhl.

Time period notes

Although sporadic actions began earlier, we noted that the main campaign started with the joint actions on Feb 9, 1961.

Time period

February, 1961 to June, 1961


United States

Location City/State/Province

Louisville, Kentucky
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • at department stores

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

  • at Fontaine Ferry amusement park

Segment Length

Approximately 3 weeks


NAACP Youth Council and CORE


Adult branch of the NAACP

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to activists during campaign.


Business owners, Mayor Hoblitzell, heads of Louisville, county Democratic organizations

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Police arrests, cups filled with rocks and flashbulbs were thrown at the demonstrators


Human Rights
National-Ethnic Identity



Group characterization

African American students
African Americans

Groups in 1st Segment

NAACP Youth Council

Groups in 6th Segment


Segment Length

Approximately 3 weeks

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

10 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The activist achieved their goals within a two years of their campaign.

Database Narrative

In the late 1950s, Louisville, Kentucky, became known as a regional leader in race relations due to the passage of peaceful school integration laws in 1956. Although laws targeting segregation had been passed, Louisville’s public accommodations continued to be segregated. This persistence of inequality between the African Americans and the European Americans spurred much protest in the black community, especially among youth.

The sense of being a part of the larger civil rights movement coupled with the criticism of “black complacency” by the Louis Defender created vision and drive for integration in the hearts of Louisville’s black youth. From the mid-1950s through 1960, the Louisville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council (NAACP, a civil rights organization for ethnic minorities in the United States), the Congress of Racial Equality(CORE, a civil rights organization in the United States dedicated to equality), and others organized and participated in sporadic nonviolent action campaigns directed towards the desegregation of Louisville’s public accommodations. In 1959 and 1960 activists came up against thick political walls.  In 1959, members of the NAACP Youth Council confronted Mayor Hoblitzell on the subject of integration, but he refused to bend to their demands. In 1960, Charles W. Anderson of the NAACP drafted a bill mandating integration, which was quickly defeated by the board.

Inspired by 1960 region-wide sit-ins, especially Greensboro and Nashville (see “Greensboro, NC, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960” and “Nashville students sit-in for U.S. civil rights, 1960”), CORE, with some support from the NAACP, began to organize and participate in sit-ins, stand-ins, boycotts, and picketing targeting the desegregation of lunch counters in downtown stores. However, these demonstrations were disorganized and ineffective.

Yet, in January of 1961, Raoul Cunningham, president of the NAACP, united the NAACP Youth Council and CORE into a mass campaign. On February 9, campaigners began joint stand-ins at Kaufman-Strauss and Stewart’s department stores. On February 20, police arrested Cunningham and four teenagers. Within three days, the police had arrested fifty-eight as the campaigners began targeting the Blue Boar Cafeteria and theaters. By the end of the campaign, police had incarcerated over 700 people.

Simultaneously, adult members of the NAACP instituted Nothing New for Easter, a boycott of downtown businesses that continued until May and ended after the 1961 Kentucky Derby. This consumers’ boycott had the potential to keep 75,000 black Louisvillians from buying any items from the downtown businesses. This action also had the potential to deprive the downtown businesses of 18 million dollars a year. By the end of February, Kaufman-Strauss and Stewart’s opened negotiations. Hope for positive results from the demonstrations was high, but the inconclusive results caused the activists to launch further demonstrations, including a 250-person march through the downtown area.

In April 1961, the mayor announced a new proposition for integration in Louisville that was essentially a copy of St. Louis’s plan. This “new plan” only called for the desegregation of all downtown restaurants by May 1. Unfortunately, this measure also failed to be successfully enacted. According to a citywide test created and administered by black activists, 98% of Louisville restaurants and theaters remained segregated.

The failure to desegregate continued to anger the activists.  On June 19, they picketed outside the gates of Fontaine Ferry amusement park. Between 50 and 100 whites pushed through the police lines to throw cups full of rocks and flash bulbs at the demonstrators. By the end of the demonstration, the police had arrested twenty-nine people total including twenty black youths, two black adults, and seven whites.

Two years later, on May 14, 1963 the Louisville Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance for open accommodations. Finally, Louisville had a policy of nondiscrimination for public places. Nondiscrimination by race was not only spoken through the transformation of the law, but also through a transformation of the culture of segregation to a culture where it was looked down upon to be publicly pro-segregation.


The NAACP Youth Council was influenced by Greensboro and Nashville sit-ins of 1960 (see “Greensboro, NC, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960” and “Nashville students sit-in for U.S. civil rights, 1960”). (1)


K’Meyer, Tracy E. Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2009.

Garrow, David. We Shall Overcome. Volume 3. New York: Carlson Publishing, 1989.

Fosl, Catherine, Tracy E. K’Meyer. Freedom On the Border: An Oral History of The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2009.

Sitton, Claude. “Race Curbs Yielding To Louisville Drive”. The New York Times 25 Sept. 1961: 27.

“Negroes in South Show Gain in Jobs”. The New York Times 24 Apr. 1961: 23.

“Racial Gain Predicted: Negro Says Louisville Stores Will Have Full Integration”. The New York Times 28 Feb. 1961: 10.

“Louisville Negroes Plan Easter Boycott”. The Miami News 24 Feb. 1961: 7.

“Negroes Boycott Easter Shopping”. The Leader-Post 25 Feb. 1961: 11.

“Negro Leader Expects Mixing In Louisville”. The News and Courier 28 Feb. 1961: 7.

“Push Campaign To Prevent Race Discrimination”. Ellensburg Daily Record. 15 Mar. 1961: 2.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Hannah Lehmann, 11/09/2011