Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
Close Window
Role of the Church

African-American churches were important meeting places for civil rights demonstrators. Two that played leading roles in Kentucky were Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Louisville and Pleasant Green Baptist Church in Lexington.

Both black and white ministers, following in the path of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., played leadership roles in the civil rights struggle. Interfaith efforts to improve relations between blacks and whites also existed in some Kentucky communities. In the 1950s, a Louisville group known as the Militant Church Movement supported efforts to integrate schools and hospitals. Other ministers, like the Rev. C. Ewbank Tucker, helped integrate the Louisville bus station in 1953.

A brother of Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. A.D. King was the pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Louisville and a leader of the Kentucky affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He encouraged his brother to visit Kentucky on a number of occasions, including the 1964 Frankfort rally to support a statewide public accommodations bill and a demonstration in support of an open housing ordinance in Louisville. Throughout Kentucky, other religious leaders helped organize grassroots efforts to get their members to attend the 1964 rally.

The Rev. Robert Estill, a white Episcopal priest who served churches in both Lexington and Louisville, was appointed the first chair of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights after the passage of the 1966 Public Accommodations Act.

Close Window