From Brown to Meredith: The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, KY, 1954-2007

Tracy K’Meyer
Louisville, KY

From Brown to Meredith: The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky, 1954-2007 tells the local history of people struggling to achieve diversity and equity in Louisville and Jefferson County Public Schools. The book covers the initial reaction to the Brown decision, the conflict over the beginning of busing, community debates over how to protect and improve the busing plan, and court challenges that led to the overturning of the system’s efforts for integration.

From Brown to Meredith combines extensive oral history interviews with the contextualization and interpretation of historical documents. Through the use of oral history, the author is able to recover largely forgotten aspects of this history. The stories that were gathered largely focus on the voices of the black and white activists and parents who worked for integration, the experiences of teachers and students inside the schools, and the testimonies by people who lived through the process about its impact on their own lives as well as on the broader community.

The author’s approach in From Brown to Meredith is to make it a truly community narrative, not only telling a local story, but using primarily the words of local people to do so.  The book is organized to balance the author’s voice and those of the participants.  By integrating previous untold stories, this book challenges the more common historical narrative of the massive resistance to mixed schools and the turmoil of busing.

The interviews gathered for the book grew from several community based history projects. It is intended as a resource for historians of the civil rights movement and school desegregation, but also as a conversation starter for a public audience concerned with education policy and the unrealized promise of the Brown decision. The final chapter and epilogue explicitly connect the history of school desegregation to a modern dialogue about the future of the education policy not only in Louisville and Jefferson County, but the nation.