Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
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Early Black Protests

In the 30 years following the Civil War, black Kentuckians organized a number of protest actions against the segregation of public transportation facilities. The issues and strategies highlighted in these early protest movements were identical to those of the civil rights movement of the 20th century, with black leaders using passive resistance, test cases, court orders, and petitions to the legislature to attempt to advance their cause. Two examples:

  • The Louisville Streetcar Sit-In of 1871, which used demonstrations and passive resistance, succeeded in gaining desegregated seating.
  • The statewide Anti-Separate Coach Movement was organized in 1892 to protest a proposed state law requiring racial segregation of travelers on interstate railroads. The bill still passed the General Assembly, but a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the new law was unconstitutional. The victory was short-lived, though: That ruling was nullified less than two years later by the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws requiring segregated railroad cars were constitutional as long as the facilities provided for blacks and whites were equal.

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