Note: This original one-on-one interview, part of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Oral History Project, was produced by the Kentucky Oral History Commission and Historical Society.
Mervin Aubespin, a former associate editor for The Louisville Courier-Journal, began his distinguished career at that newspaper in 1967. He started as an artist, creating charts and other graphic illustrations for news stories, and was the first African-American to hold that position at the paper.
In 1968, Aubespin learned that a demonstration was being planned in Louisville’s West End. He suggested that a reporter be assigned to the event. Since the newspaper had no black journalists at the time, the editors sent a white reporter and asked Aubespin to accompany him. The demonstration turned into a riot as anger over police mistreatment of a black citizen and the recent assassination of the Martin Luther King, Jr., boiled into rage. To protect his white colleague from danger, Aubespin sent the journalist back to the newspaper office and then spent the next 48 hours reporting on the disturbances himself. Afterward, the Courier-Journal editors decided Aubespin would be more valuable to the paper as a reporter and asked him to join the newsroom staff.
After that baptism by fire, Aubespin continued his reporting duties and his journalistic education, attending the Minority Journalism Program at Columbia University in 1971. As president of the National Association of Black Journalists, he was involved in numerous international media activities and built a reputation as an expert on racism and the media. Among his many awards, he has been honored for “exemplary leadership in providing minorities employment opportunities in journalism.”
Aubespin was born in 1937 in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is a graduate of Tuskegee University. He credits a visit to Montgomery, Alabama, during college as the inspiration for his life-long involvement in the civil rights movement.
Aubespin is co-editor of the book “Two Centuries of Black Louisville: A Photographic History,” published by Butler Books in 2011.