Interview with Joseph E. Smith, November 11, 2021
Project: 1964 Civil Rights March on Frankfort (Kentucky) Oral History Project
Interview SummaryJoseph "Joe" Smith served as an attendant at the 1964 March on Frankfort. Smith worked in poverty prevention programs with the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) in Kentucky, West Virginia, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. Smith also worked in the Kentucky state government in human resources and in the provision of healthcare access for low-income individuals. Smith was born in 1938 in Louisville to a large Catholic family. Smith grew up in a segregated neighborhood and attended all-white Catholic schools. Smith did not interact with Black people on a routine basis until he joined the Navy after high school. After serving in the Navy for three years, Smith attended the University of Louisville and became involved with the civil rights movement, demonstrating in the rapidly-diversifying West End neighborhood. Smith then discusses his work with the OEO in West Virginia. Smith also worked for about a year in voter registration efforts in Mississippi while attending the University of Louisville. At one point, Smith feared for his safety when working in West Virginia and Mississippi, since he was disrupting the status quo in these small communities. Eventually, Smith was asked to leave West Virginia by a congressman due to his work in organizing Black coal miners in Mingo County. Smith was involved in the planning of the March on Frankfort through attending organizational meetings at the Louisville Defender offices, a Black newspaper. Smith had the opportunity to meet Martin Luther King Jr. at one of these meetings. Smith then considers the power of whiteness in American society. Smith evaluates the significance of the Kentucky State Capitol. Smith then describes his efforts at restructuring the state government organizational structure through his work in human resources. Smith then talks of his legacy of public service throughout his career. Smith then provides his opinion of the role of youth in protests during the 1960s and the 2020s. Smith explains how daily life changed after the Kentucky Civil Rights Act of 1966 was passed. Smith articulates the legacy of civil rights and how society has improved since then. Smith describes his experiences of attending the 50th anniversary commemorative March on Frankfort. Additionally, Smith talks of his wife's career in public service. Smith concludes the interview with a discussion of his collaboration with the Kentucky Primary Care Association to expand access to healthcare for marginalized populations living in rural and urban poverty.
Interview KeywordMarch on Frankfort Civil servants Arrests Mississippi University of Louisville Clifton (Louisville, Ky.) White people Appalachia Inequality War on Poverty Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) Public service Kentucky Civil Rights Act of 1966 Desegregation Healthcare Kentucky Primary Care Association Washington (D.C.) Alaska Mingo County (Va.) West Virginia Appalachian Mountains
Interview LC SubjectLouisville (Ky.) Catholics Catholicism Childhood Jefferson County (Ky.) Catholic schools Education United States. Navy Race Segregation Racism Prejudice Discrimination Civil rights Civil rights movement Civil rights demonstrations Black people African Americans Poverty Social classes Coal miners Coal mines and mining United States. Office of Economic Opportunity Kentucky. General Assembly State governments Youth Black Lives Matter movement Protests (Negotiable instruments) Medical care
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Interview UsageInterviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Smith, Joseph E. Interview by Le Datta Denise Grimes. 11 Nov. 2021. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Smith, J.E. (2021, November 11). Interview by L. D. D Grimes. 1964 Civil Rights March on Frankfort (Kentucky) Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Smith, Joseph E., interview by Le Datta Denise Grimes. November 11, 2021, 1964 Civil Rights March on Frankfort (Kentucky) Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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