Integration’s Effects on the Neighborhood

Deweese and the east end of Third Street are important in the memories of Lexington’s African American community. The East End Lexington Oral History Project, an initiative of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries and the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County, is working to gather these stories. See the short video created by the Louie B. Nunn Oral History Center at the University of Kentucky and posted on YouTube:

Exterior view of Lyric Theater, Third and DeWeese streets at night. December 1949

Exterior view of Lyric Theater, Third and DeWeese Streets at night. December 1949. (This image is from the John C. Wyatt Lexington Herald-Leader photographs collection, 1936-1990.)

As integration began to finally take effect within Lexington, some businesses in this neighborhood started to move to different areas or close down.  The funeral homes and beauty shops continued to thrive in this period. Funeral homes and beauty shops continued to be businesses, which not cross the lines of racial integration.  There were three insurance companies, before integration, all located on Deweese Street.  After the implementation of integration, these companies were bought out by larger corporations who insured both African American and white families.  Insurance companies, like these three, were brought about because historically white owned companies would not insure African American families.

Before 1956, African Americans were not allowed in the main theaters of Lexington. These theaters were for whites only. The Lyric was a thriving theater for African Americans. It hosted many big names over the years of being in business. It was originally opened as a movie theater for black patrons, but soon after became a live performance theater. Some of its biggest name performers were Ray Charles and B.B. King. The Lyric closed in 1963; African American families were finally allowed to go to any theater in Lexington, Kentucky they wanted. After years of being closed and much controversy (see for example, See God’s Center Foundation, Inc. v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, 2002 Ky. App. LEXIS 2315, Nov. 8, 2002), the Lyric re-opened in December of 2010, once again becoming a community center for performing arts.

Our research has just begun, we would like to invite the community to become involved in this project in hopes to continue the discussion on the effects of integration in this neighborhood. Become a member of the website (click on “create an account” at right) and use our group forum to add your comments!

Pages in this Project Site:
Insurance Companies on Deweese Street
O.L. Hughes & Sons
Smith and Smith

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