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Desegregation: Who really benefited?

November 1, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Oral history, Social history

Who really benefited from desegregation? This may seem like a foolish question in light of what many suffered during the Civil Rights era to where we are today. This question arose after hearing from most people of color, especially women about their post segregation experiences.

Alice Monyette Wilson, interviewed for KET Living the Story

Alice Monyette Wilson (from Mayfield, KY) tells her story on the KET website - click on her picture

Many black students, like Alice Wilson, who went to integrated schools stated that their white teachers were not very interested in their educational well being. If students were sent to schools where they were not welcomed or cared about was this good for them.

Sit-ins were a popular form of civil disobedience to force the integration of public places. When she wanted to join in protesting a local restaurant, Joyce Hamilton, now Dr. Joyce Hamilton Berry, was told by her father, “why would you want to go into a place that did not want you?” It seemed like good advice to her, so she did not join the protest.  Marching to spend your money where you were not welcomed was ludicrous as far as her father was concerned. This may have led to closure of many “black” businesses after desegregation because many took their business to those places. 

Jackie Robinson’s entrance into the Majors, many believe, led to the downfall of the Negro League. Many blacks lost a lot of the money they invested in the league when that happened.

In Lexington Kentucky, most black owned businesses in the Martin Luther King, Jr. neighborhood closed after integration. Women and children suffered the most as result of the economic hardship that hit that community. It still has not recovered after all these years.

The place to showcase their artistic expression in the community was also closed after desegregation. The Lyric the only African American theater in Lexington would be closed for a generation.

 Was desegregation a good thing? Many would answer yes. The question remains, who really benefited?

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