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Archives & Special Collections (ASC)

Uncovering Racial Logics: Louisville's History of Racial Oppression and Activism



Like cities across the nation, Louisville has long experienced institutional and structural racism in its policing. In her recent book, America on Fire, and the 2021 Anne Braden Memorial Lecture, Dr. Elizabeth Hinton examines systemic oppression of people of color, embedded racial logics, and the outcomes associated with discriminatory treatment in the context of policing. Even a cursory review of statistics on policing, whether in Louisville or in other U.S. areas, reveals differential treatment and racially biased police behavior. Fatal shootings by police vary by race. For example, between 2015 and October 2021, the rate of fatal police shootings of Black Americans was more than double that of White Americans (i.e., 37 vs. 15 per million of the population). Many articles, reports, news stories, and archival documents chronicle past and present racial logics in Louisville policing. Scrolling through the sections below provides examples of policing’s racial logics in Louisville Defender headlines and stories and in the papers of Frank L. Stanley, Sr., owner and publisher of the Defender.

Frank L. Stanley, Sr. Papers

Frank L. Stanley was general manager, editor, and president of the Louisville Defender, from 1936-1974. The Defender is Louisville’s longest running newspaper focusing on issues facing the Black community. Due to his role, Stanley was regularly involved when significant historical events occurred. His regular editorial column in the Defender was an insightful summary and critique of the week’s most important news. Stanley occupied different roles throughout his career with the Defender. He was founder and president of the National Newspaper Publishers’ Association, served on the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, and in the 1960s was invited by the US Department of State to conduct journalism seminars in Africa. The Frank Stanley Papers is a fairly large collection of documents. Researchers will find material pertaining to the business side of the Defender, as well as newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, and other materials. Find more information about the Frank L Stanley papers by visiting the catalog record. Frank L. Stanley’s son, Kenneth Stanley, who became the editor of the Defender after his father, has an oral history interview in the Oral History Center. In addition, there is an oral history interview with Vivian Clark Stanley, Frank L. Stanley’s wife. The following documents are from the Frank Stanley papers and, while not written by Stanley himself, are an example of the ways he was in touch with community members and kept in the loop on important issues.


The Louisville Defender, a local Black newspaper founded in 1933, is an excellent resource for researching Black life in Louisville. The following short video combines clippings from the Louisville Defender with select excerpts from oral histories by Bill Allison and Adlene Abstain housed in Archives and Special Collection's Oral History Center.

Oral Histories on policing