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Beyond the Book

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, 1 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

ISBN  978-1-4696-0708-5
Published: August 2013

From Brown to Meredith

The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky, 1954-2007

By Tracy E. K'Meyer

Awards & Distinctions

2014 Samuel W. Thomas Book Award, Louisville Historical Society

2014 Award of Merit, American Association for State and Local History

When the Supreme Court overturned Louisville's local desegregation plan in 2007, the people of Jefferson County, Kentucky, faced the question of whether and how to maintain racial diversity in their schools. This debate came at a time when scholars, pundits, and much of the public had declared school integration a failed experiment rightfully abandoned. Using oral history narratives, newspaper accounts, and other documents, Tracy E. K'Meyer exposes the disappointments of desegregation, draws attention to those who struggled for over five decades to bring about equality and diversity, and highlights the many benefits of school integration.

K'Meyer chronicles the local response to Brown v. Board of Education in 1956 and describes the start of countywide busing in 1975 as well as the crisis sparked by violent opposition to it. She reveals the forgotten story of the defense of integration and busing reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, culminating in the response to the 2007 Supreme Court decision known as Meredith. This long and multifaceted struggle for school desegregation, K'Meyer shows, informs the ongoing movement for social justice in Louisville and beyond.

About the Author

Tracy E. K’Meyer is professor of history and co-director of the Oral History Center at the University of Louisville.


“An important case study in history and oral history because of its extensive use of interviews.”
--Oral History Review

“The richness of these primary sources does recommend the work as a supplementary text for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in modern American history.”
--Journal of American History

“An important contribution to the study of school desegregation. . . .From Brown to Meredith expands our understanding of the “long” civil rights movement by examining how school integration has fared in recent decades.”
--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"[A] valuable and accessible community study."
--Journal of Southern History

"K'Meyer brings scholarly sophistication and a breadth of knowledge to this straightforward, articulate, important contribution to the history of the Civil Rights Movement."
--Doug Boyd, Director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky

"From Brown to Meredith is an intervention: it takes on current (mis)understandings about the history of school desegregation, especially the tendency to see it as over and done with and, consequently, a failure. Here is an alternate history--grounded in oral history--of biracial efforts to support successful desegregation, especially through busing, that most maligned of means to achieve integration. We glimpse here what it would have taken, and what Louisville partially achieved, to make the promise of Brown a reality."
--Kathy Nasstrom, University of San Francisco

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