For my Introduction to Oral History course this semester, we are working on the first phase of a project intended to shed some light on the experiences and memories of West End residents–particularly in regards to the events of May 1968 in the Parkland neighborhood. Civil unrest was building, and on May 29, at the corner of 28th and Greenwood, a rally protesting the reinstatement of a white police officer who had needlessly beaten a black man, Mr. Manfred Reid, burst into a riot.
The first phase of the project is to record the memories of men and women who had grown up in the neighborhood, and who were there that day. In order to assemble an accurate and balanced history of the day’s events for the historical record, we are conducting interviews with Parkland residents, most of whom have never been asked to contribute to the story of that day.
My first interview for the project was with Mrs. Beverly Jones, who grew up South of the Parkland neighborhood in an area which was then commonly referred to as “Little Africa”. Her husband Donald sat close by and intermittently contributed his perspective. As this wasn’t my first rodeo, I expected some improvement in my interview style from the ones I conducted during my internship at the Science Center. However, the old nerves turned jittery and jangly as I waited on the Jones’ doormat, and I struggled to speak clearly and calmly. Fearing that I would miss some vital piece of information, I began the recording almost immediately upon being seated at the Jones’ kitchen counter. Luckily, my narrators were obliging and understanding, and were thankfully disposed to enlightening this hobbledehoy historian who grew up in some of the whitest places in America. Mrs. Jones was a delight, and had a lot of wisdom and strong feelings to impart. She expressed a sense of helplessness though, and felt that the positive efforts going on in Louisville’s West End weren’t reaching the right people. I assured her that by contributing to our project, along with her simple everyday influence, she was helping the eventual revitalization of the neighborhood. I only hope that my small part was done well enough to someday be helpful, too.