50 Years Later: Remembering Louisville's 1968 riots -- Part II

Merv Aubespin (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Merv Aubespin (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Ken Clay (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Ken Clay (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Tom Owen (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Tom Owen (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
David James (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
David James (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)

Special to WAVE3.com

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Amplified blight loudly defines places and spaces once known as Louisville's 28th Street shopping district.

"As a child when I was growing up, that was the epicenter of where I lived," said Metro Council President David James, who represents the corridor in the Parkland neighborhood.

James blames the 1968 rioting on restrictive housing patterns.

"I would say redlining had a lot to do with that," James said. "From the early 1900s til the riots that was a way the government, the City of Louisville, federal government and state government segregated and held back African Americans, and so that's why Louisville is the number one segregated city in the country."

Accelerated departures from inner-city neighborhoods followed the alarming headlines. Historian Tom Owen suggests the area still suffers from a population shift that came decades ago.

"No, it was not an African American flight to the suburbs," Owen said, "It was a white flight to the suburbs."

50th Anniversary of Louisville Riots of 1968
50 Years Later: Remembering Louisville's 1968 riots -- Part I

Tony Impellizerri's family got out by 1979. The framed image of his father, Tony Sr., hangs front and center at the well-known pizza restaurant he owns in Charlestown, Indiana. But back in '68 his dad's business, Tony's Meat Market, stood at the corner of 28th and Dumesnil. Today, the site is a community garden.

"The business did real well," Impellizerri reflected. "We raised five kids out there and did real well, and in the mid-seventies, it started to slow down a bit. Never felt uncomfortable in Parkland. You knew the people and the people knew you."

Collateral damage from '68 also meant West Louisville churches eventually closed their doors. That was also the case with prominent places of learning, like Loretto and Flaget High.

Ken Clay, a former 28th Street business owner, was among those in business when the disturbances started.

"They damaged a lot of the buildings around here," Clay said.

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dumped bag of narcotics

Physical scars are one thing, but a half century later a weighty emotional toll remains seen and unseen.

"Well, I think that what happened at 28th and Greenwood 50 years ago, it still impacts our community," James said.

The impact in the 40211 zip code is an unemployment rate of 12 percent and an average median income of barely $26,000 a year.

Decades later many are still asking what will it take to turn it around. Merv Aubespin, a former Courier-Journal reporter, offers this suggestion: "We need to have a cross-section of people there who bring in different ideas."

Suggestions for survival come your way in the final part of this series. You can see it Tuesday at 6 p.m. on WAVE 3 News.

Steve Crump is a Louisville native and reporter for WAVE 3 News' sister station, WBTV, in Charlotte, N.C.

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