Just across the Ohio River from Indiana, Louisville is Kentucky’s most populous city and shares a mix of Southern and Midwestern identity. Like many areas in the South, Louisville has a long history of racial segregation and inequity. As the home of boxer and activist Muhammad Ali and celebrated, mid-century monk and author Thomas Merton, Louisville also has a great legacy of peace, racial tolerance and social equality.
The Louisville metro area is a growing and diversifying region. While it remains a majority white area (78 percent), it is attracting more and more people of color, with the Latino community being its fastest growing. Like many cities in the South, the unemployment rate for black workers (13.9 percent) is more than twice the rate for whites (5.7 percent), while the median wage gap between whites and blacks & Latinos is 33 percent. Racial segregation persists in Louisville with different races and ethnicities largely concentrated together. In Louisville, we held discussions with residents and focus groups and roundtable discussions with community leaders and local civic organizations. We visited with Interfaith Paths to Peace to learn about their work promoting peace, human rights and justice through enhancing interfaith dialogue. At Backside Learning Center, we talked about the contributions of the immigrant community at Churchill Downs and learned about its adult education programming and after-school and summer services for youth. We visited the Muhammad Ali Center. At AMPED, we heard directly from young students on the west side about the challenges they face. We joined Mayor Greg Fischer and Rev. Dr. Alton B. Pollard III, president of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, to discuss the history of racism that has shaped our society and the ways our country can reckon with its past. The conversation was a part of Mayor Fischer’s initiative Lean Into Louisville, a metro-wide equity building program. Finally, we conducted three focus groups with college-educated black and white residents and non-college-educated white Millennials. Learn more by reading the full report.