The Short Louisville Ghetto Story:
Live Look into the Louisville Streets
With reputable neighborhoods in the heart of the Louisville ghetto, from the Southwick Projects to Market Street, Louisville has for long reign throughout the streets and urban neighborhoods in the state of Kentucky.
West of South 9th Street, lies Louisville’s West End in which expands from the Portland neighborhood, north of Market Street, to the Park Duvalle community, the former location of the infamous Southwick Projects in Louisville Kentucky.
Across town, is a section known as the East End or the East Side which is mainly two separate areas, Smoketown and Shelby Park as well a few housing complexes, Clarksdale Projects and Shepard Square Projects, both now demolished and rebuilt into smaller apartment complexes, and the Jackson Woods complex located in Shelby Park.
While the East Side and the West End are the main sides of town, with the West End being the largest, there are other ‘hoods of Louisville like the former Iroquois Homes on the South Side in the Hazelwood neighborhood along Taylor Boulevard or the large area of Newburg, just east of Louisville’s International Airport.
Before the ‘hoods of the Louisville ghetto became well established and created reputations for themselves, before the gangs like the Victory Park Crips, and before the decline of Louisville’s many urban communities there were successful and thriving black neighborhoods across the region.
Look Into the Past
At the end of the Civil War, African-Americans that have just been freed from slavery relocated into a region of Kentucky that became to be known as Louisville, which would later develop into having some of the Mid-South’s most successful black communities.
On the city’s East Side, one of those successful black communities was Smoketown, which is the only original black community that is still in existence, even though the fate and future of the neighborhood is based on the outcome of gentrification.
Smoketown thrived until the 1960s and the 1970s as the small section of the East End began to decline with hundreds of people leaving the area, while opportunities and resources became scarce and limited to the remaining citizens of Smoketown.
Also, to build the neighborhood’s housing project of Shepard Square parts of the neighborhood, in an attempt at slum clearance, were demolished for the creation of the small housing project that was located between Clay and Preston, just north of Lampton Street.
North of Smoketown was the Clarksdale housing complex, which was built during the 1940s strictly for white families during the days of segregation, but as the times change so did the small neighborhood’s demographics and racial makeup.
Across town on the West Side is where most Louisville’s original black communities were located, the city’s West End section, in areas of today’s Russell and Parkland neighborhoods.
The Russell neighborhood slowly became the heart of Louisville’s black population with the thriving black business and entertainment district along Walnut Street, later renamed Muhammad Ali Boulevard, as African-Americans have occupied the area since the 1800s, but the community did not hit its peak until the early and mid-1900s.
South of the Russell neighborhood is the Parkland and California areas, which was once an area of white and black families that lived in their own separate sections of the Parkland and California community.
While white families lived around 32nd Street, Parkland’s black residents lived in surrounding areas with one area known as Little African that would later become the home to the notorious Cotter Homes and Southwick neighborhood.
Like other Louisville neighborhoods, African-Americans have lived in the area of Parkland since the 1800s, but during their time in the area of Little Africa the community allegedly began to decline and become rundown, this led to the demolishing of the Little Africa neighborhood, or Southwick, and replacing the entire section with the Cotter Homes.
Outside of the East End and West Side, there other sections of Louisville that had an African-American presence since the 1800s and early 1900s like Berrytown or small African-American sections that were once near Newburg and in the Old Louisville community.
Starting in the 1960s, the days of Louisville’s thriving black communities slowly began to come to an end as urban renewal replaced many businesses and homes with housing projects and other developments that forcefully removed people and a steady economy from the areas.
Look Into the Present
On the East End, gentrification has almost totally transformed the community with the demolishing of the two major housing projects of Clarksdale and Shepard Square, along with the constant rebuilding and renovations of the surrounding areas where the housing projects once stood.
The housing projects of the East End held a fierce reputation in Kentucky, along with the Jackson Woods neighborhood of Shelby Park which is just south of Smoketown and became populated as Smoketown’s community expanded into the neighboring area.
The current East End is much smaller than previous years, but the small section just a short distance from Louisville’s downtown is on a rise with the rebuilding and rejuvenation of the area, even though the original residents will more than likely must relocate from the neighborhoods they grew up in.
While the once Cotter – Lang Homes of Southwick have been completely rebuilt into mixed income housing of Park Duvalle, the West Side is still mostly intact even though there are vacant lots, houses and properties scattered across the area.
Along Market Street or along Broadway or in the projects of Beecher Terrace or 13th Street’s Park Hill, the West End is still the heart of the Louisville ghetto and urban neighborhoods as families have been in this section of the city for generations, even the once home to Muhammad Ali.
Currently, as the black and urban community begun in Louisville’s inner city, in recent years the black population has expanded into places like Fern Creek, Shively, or Okolona as the days of African-American being limited on residency are over with people relocating in neighborhoods throughout the Louisville metropolitan.
*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.