This digital exhibit captures a pivotal moment in U.S. and Kentucky history that is often neglected in textbooks that cover the mid-20th century cold war and civil rights eras. On May 15, 1954, Andrew and Charlotte Wade and their toddler, Rosemary, moved into a house outside Louisville, Kentucky, USA, in a suburb that is now Shively. They were the only African American family in the neighborhood, and segregationist-minded white neighbors harassed them for six weeks, culminating with the dynamiting of their home on June 27,1954. Anne and Carl Braden, whites who were staunchly committed to labor and civil rights, had purchased the home on behalf of the Wades when no realtor would sell to them on their own. Amid the tense anticommunist cultural climate that pervaded the era, investigators turned to the radical views and associations of Carl and Anne Braden even after neighbors admitted to burning a cross at the Wades’ home. That fall, the Bradens and five other white allies were accused of staging the home purchase and bombing as part of a communist plot to take over the government of Kentucky. In the midst of the resulting “Red Scare” and the beginnings of school desegregation, Carl Braden was convicted of sedition and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Black Freedom, White Allies, and Red Scare: Louisville, 1954 makes available scores of archival photos, documents, and oral histories about the case and connects viewers to a trove of resources to contextualize civil rights movement history in Louisville, in Kentucky, and throughout the USA. Its purpose is to tell not only what happened but why it happened, and how fears of the other (in this case, communism and racial integration) intersected to form a volatile mix that shattered lives and had far-reaching consequences. Finally, virtual visitors will find tools to help them examine present-day housing conditions and institutionalized racism in the United States.