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    A Bit Deeper

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    In February, the Louisville Urban League released its first ever “State of Black Louisville” report. The collection of essays and data from academics, community leaders and activists constructs an honest glimpse into a harsh reality. For instance: 35 percent of African-Americans in Louisville live in poverty compared with 15 percent of whites. Black unemployment (11 percent) is double that of white unemployment. In her introduction, Sadiqa Reynolds, the president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, states that “being black in America...being black in aspiration crushing.”

    At more than 150 pages long, the report is dense, touching on systemic racism in everything from banking institutions to public schools. Packed with detailed suggestions on how to improve the plight of black Louisvillians, here are a few highlights from each of the five focus areas.

    Jobs and Economic Opportunity

    Nikki Jackson, senior vice president of the Louisville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, writes about the wealth gap: “Between 1992 and 2013, college-educated whites saw their wealth soar by 86 percent, while college-educated blacks saw theirs plummet by 55 percent. Both black and white college graduates enjoyed wealth gains between 2013 and 2016, but the median black college graduate’s wealth in 2016 remained below its 1992 level.”

    Jackson says research shows that black college grads are more likely to have needed more student loans than their white counterparts. She suggests financing higher education with less debt, and that more grants and scholarships could help, as could a program of “baby bonds” or endowments at birth for lower-wealth households that are earmarked for lifelong asset accumulation.


    The advocacy group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth writes that black Louisville could greatly benefit from more political power: “After the Louisville Board of Aldermen gave way to the Louisville Metro Council following city/county merger in 2003, black representation within this citywide elected body fell from 33 percent to 23 percent. And following the 2016 election, only five of 26 Metro Council members were black.”

    Education and Youth Development

    John Marshall, chief equity officer with Jefferson County Public Schools, writes that while black students make up 37 percent of the student population, only about 9 percent are enrolled in Gifted and Talented programming. Marshall highlights policy he believes can help raise black student achievement, including:

    “Require all staff and teachers to receive mandatory cultural-competence training from experts on a yearly basis.”

    “Mandate that staffs reflect the demographics of the city.” (While black people make up approximately 22 percent of the Metro Louisville population, African-Americans make up only 3.5 percent of teachers in the county.)

    “K-12 curriculum…should be sociopolitical, culturally relevant and historically inclusive.”


    According to the report, in the mainly African-American West End, life expectancy (genders combined) is approximately 67 years. In the eastern half of Jefferson County, which is more than 70 percent white, life expectancy is 82 years old.


    Joshua Poe, an independent researcher and activist, writes: “While Louisville Metro deserves a great deal of credit and recognition for championing the release of the historic redlining maps, they have largely failed to address the structural issues around poverty, housing and crime in the recent budget.

    “The city allocated $18 million in new spending for the police department in the 2018 fiscal year budget, but less than $2 million for the rehabilitation of vacant properties through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”

    To learn more about "State of Black Louisville," visit

    This originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine. Every story in our March issue is about west Louisville, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Click here to read more from part four of our series on the West End.

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