Lonnie's Beauty Shop, Dewees Street, December 2010

Exterior view of Lonnie's Beauty Shop, Deweese Street. December 2010. (Photograph by Claire Johns, Creative Commons license pending)

During the time of the Civil Rights Movement, beauty shops were typically run out of the homes of the women who did hair. This was a major source of income for African American women in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

There were over six beauty shops in the neighborhood a few blocks north of Main Street in 1956, and these beauty shops continued to be prosperous throughout the civil rights era. Not only was the business of doing hair a job for women in the community, but also an avenue to educate these women they called neighbors, on things like how to register to vote (see more on this in a research journal at

Although today beauty shops will do the hair of others of all different races, it does generally continue to be a profession within specific ethnic communities. We found this to be the main reason these neighborhood beauty shops stayed in business for so long. Members of the community would go outside of the neighborhood for other things, but not for this particular service.

One of the longest running beauty shops in the neighborhood was Loretta’s Beauty Shop, which opened in 1961 and remained a thriving business until just last year when Loretta, the owner passed away. Loretta’s shop was located on the formerly bustling Deweese Street.

See also…
Oral Histories from University of Kentucky Special Collections
“Blacks in Lexington”
Patricia R. Spencer Laine
Occupation: Former beautician
D.O.B.: 1932, Midway, Kentucky
Mrs. Laine recalls family history, ancestors who were slaves of the Alexander family in Woodford County, and remembers her parents and grandparents. She reminisces about her childhood on Spring Station Road, having to walk to school while school busses passed by, and shares memories of family social activities. She discusses Pilgrim Baptist Church in Midway and examines the role of the African American church within the community. Mrs. Laine talks about the lack of segregation in rural areas as opposed to urban communities, recalls the segregation she encountered in Lexington, especially her experiences with the Hillenmeyer family where she was employed as a maid. She opened a beauty shop in the segregated ward at Eastern State Hospital and also worked at the Federal Narcotics Medical Center on Leestown Road. At both sites she faced covert racism. Mrs. Laine recounts the problems between different social classes and races of prisoners, and the effect of the civil rights movement upon African American education and businesses.
86OH232 KH360 Interview Date: August 6, 1986 Location: Lexington, Kentucky Interviewer: Emily Parker P.T.: 1 hr. 15 mins. Conditions: Good Restricted: No Transcript: No
Sophia Dotson Smith
Occupation: Teacher/beautician
D.O.B.: April 14, 1909, Cave City, Kentucky
Mrs. Smith talks about her family’s relationship with the discovery and early tours of Mammoth Cave National Park, her grandparents’ endurance of slavery, additional family history and recreational activities. She explains how her father taught himself to read and how he attended Kentucky State during the summer. Her father later taught school in Barren and Hart counties. She reviews her mother’s education at the Lincoln Institute in Kentucky, and recalls the family owning and operating a restaurant in Cave City between 1918 and1919 until it burned in a fire. They also ran a slaughterhouse. She discusses her educational background and experiences with both integrated and segregated schools, recalls attending Kentucky State College, the evolution of the African American church and religious community, her participation in politics, and explains how voting practices have changed. She recounts the difficulties encountered in establishing her own business after graduation from beauty school, and talks about returning to teaching after her husband obtained a position in Louisville. Mrs. Smith retired in 1977 and returned to Russellville shortly thereafter.
87OH90 KH421 Interview Date: June 16, 1987 Location: Lexington, Kentucky Interviewer: Emily Parker P.T.: 1 hr. 30 mins. Conditions: Fair Restricted: No Transcript: No
Susie E. White
Occupation: Beautician
D.O.B.: May 30, 1908, Jessamine County, Kentucky
The daughter of self-sufficient sharecroppers, Mrs. White recalls staying with her grandmother to be closer to the schoolhouse, and leaving school in 1922 after her mother’s death to help raise her younger siblings. She remembers her father’s employment at Hillenmeyer’s Nursery, and the skills learned for survival. She talks about her dream of becoming a beautician, her first beauty course in Chicago, and returning home during the Great Depression. Mrs. White discusses her marriage, her first beautician’s job, attending beauty school in Lexington, and raising her nieces, daughter and stepdaughter. She remembers her career, training apprentices, and managing her money and her business. She reminisces about Consolidated Baptist Church and talks about differences in ministerial education, roles and leadership. She recalls her involvement in church-related activities and fund-raisers. Mrs. Smith examines the evolution of the African American community over her lifetime, including the changing behavior of the younger generations, the decreasing emphasis on moral values and teachings, the loss of faith, the increasing influence of television, and higher crime rates. She talks about the importance of education to the African American community and the lack of quality of education since integration, the impact and effects of the civil rights movement, citing both the advantages and disadvantages, and discusses how Lexington has changed while noting what has stayed the same.
87OH96 KH422 Date: June 16, 1987 Location: Lexington, Kentucky Interviewer: Emily Parker P.T.: 1 hr. 30 mins. Conditions: Fair Restricted: No Transcript: No

Integration’s Effects on the MLK Neighborhood
Insurance Companies on Deweese Street
O.L. Hughes & Sons
Smith and Smith

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.