In a 1997 interview, Audrey Grevious explained her work with the Charles Young Community Center. Without question, this center was a large part of Audrey’s childhood and became a place where she later offered her services to the community. The following provides a brief history of the center as well as activities Grevious commonly participated in and supported.
During her interview on April 23, 1997 as part of the Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project, Audrey Grevious had the following to say about the Charles Young Community Center:
“We really used Charles Young. That was the place to go, and it was an everyday thing. There was something going on every day. It was open also to families for their activities as well as for the young people. I remember many, many times being upstairs doing something, and my mother and some of the other ladies in the neighborhood being downstairs playing cards or just having club meetings, so they were there at the same time we were there.”
“Well they did not have structured act-…inside structured activities like they did at Charles Young. Charles Young was the biggest structured one, even Douglass Park had that little, small building, but they did not have the activities in the wintertime like they did at Charles Young.”
Property of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Today, the Charles Young Community Center is still located at 540 East Third Street, Lexington, KY 40508
The Charles Young Community Center (CYCC) is a LFUCG Community Center located in the East End Community of Lexington, Kentucky. As a valuable establishment in the East End neighborhood, the center’s residents and community have a vested interest in the continued neighborhood based utilization of the CYCC for the purposes of community based activities. The Center has historical significance in Lexington, particularly in the African American community that utilized the center in their youth. In the past, the Center was used as a gathering place for dances, a skating rink, parties, reunions, a tutoring and mentor center, a place for the Charles Young Dancers and even a place to play and barbecue and commune with family and friends.
In order to fully understand the significance of the Charles Young Center, one must first understand and appreciate the significance of why and how the naming of the building came into being. The historical perspective of Charles Young will further shed light on the significance of the building and why the neighborhood considers this building to be such a community asset. Colonel Charles Young was a native of Mayslick, Kentucky, born in 1864 the son of former slaves. His family moved to Ohio when he was a young boy. Colonel Young may have started with humble beginnings but he achieved greatness and was known for his remarkable achievements. Charles Young was the third black man to graduate from the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point and be commissioned as an Army Officer. Although the military was segregated at that time and Young was faced with discrimination at every turn he preserved and reached the rank of Colonel, the highest ranking black officer until his death. He was nominated for Brigadier General, but unfortunately did not make that rank due to opposition from white soldiers. Colonel Young was fluent in many languages and was a music composer and played the flute, piano, violin and guitar and was also a writer.
The phenomenal story of the life of Charles Young is exactly why the Community Center is named in his honor. This man was humble and an incredible leader in a time of racial tension and discrimination. He faced many hardships and stumbling blocks but he turned these into successes. The Charles Young Community Center has played a very important role in the community by providing an outlet for various social activities. The Center was used for Socials on Friday evening, other dances for neighborhood and civic groups, special occasion parties, a skating rink, a gym for basketball and talent shows. In the 1940’s the Center was the place that Smoke’s Orchestra would play on a regular basis. The building was used for award ceremonies, for meetings, for tutoring and mentoring programs, for neighborhood meetings, Black History Month events, and a safe place to play for children and families.
The above information can be found at the website of the Charles Young Community Center.
Charles Young Community Center Feasibility Study Report January 2009, LFCUG, EHI Consultants.
Articles recovered from the Lexington Herald Leader discussing the Charles Young Community Center:
3/3/1935 “New Community Center in Charles Young Park to be Dedicated Today” [COMMUNITY CENTERS.] [Leader. p. 9 col. 5-6]
Dedication of Lexington’s new municipal community center of Negroes will take place at specials exercises this afternoon at the $40,000 structure in Charles Young park on east Third street near Race. The new building, a brick structure of colonial lines, is commodious, well appointed and conveniently arranged. It was designed by John V. Moore, Lexington architect, and was constructed by the Smith-Haggard Lumber Company as a federal public works project.
3/4/1935 “New Community Center Opened” [COMMUNITY CENTER.] [Leader. p. 12 col. 7]
Approximately 1,000 men, women and children Sunday afternoon attended the dedicatory exercises in the new $40,000 municipal community center for Negroes in Charles Young park on east Third Street.
During the civil rights movement, the Herald and the Leader had little coverage of events in the era, mainly squeezing bits of info in a column called “Colored Notes”. “That was really all the news we had,” said Audrey Grevious, a former leader in Lexington’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Without that, we wouldn’t have known anything that was going on.”
2/25/1940 “Colored Notes” [COMMUNITY CENTERS.] [Herald-Leader. p. 7 col.1-2]
The business and professional men’s group was organized Wednesday night at Charles Young Center. Prof. Lawrence Sallee was chosen as chairman. . .Charles Young Center: The attendance for the junior and intermediate groups has been large for the past several weeks.
5/5/1940 “Colored Notes” [COMMUNITY CENTERS.] [Herald-Leader. p. 39, col.6]
The finals for the city-wide table tennis tournament were held at Charles Young center Thursday and Friday nights. Fast and thrilling playing between the contestants was witnessed by the spectators. In the senior single finals, A. G. Stone of Charles Young center defeated John Cannon of Douglass park center.
Articles courtesy of the Lexington Public Library, http://local.lexpublib.org/local.php
Additional Resources regarding the poor coverage of this time in Lexington publications:
Associated Press. “Ky. Paper Apologizes for Coverage of an Era.” Boston.com. The New York Times Company, 5 July 2004. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2004/07/05/ky_paper_apologizes_for_coverage_of_an_era/
Blackford, Linda, and Linda Minch. “Kentucky Newspaper Regrets Neglect of Civil Rights Movement.” UCLA Center for Communications & Community. C3, 4 July 2004. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. http://www.c3.ucla.edu/newsstand/media/kentucky-newspaper-regrets-neglect-of-civil-rights-movement/
Return to the home page of Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era.