University of Louisville Honors Its First Black Educator

Parrish HOH bannerCharles H. Parrish Jr. was born in Fayette County, Kentucky in 1899. He attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Columbia University in New York. Dr. Parrish earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Parrish taught a Simmons College, a historically Black educational institution in Louisville, before joining the faculty at Louisville Municipal College, a racially segregated affiliate of the University of Louisville. In 1951, when the University of Louisville enrolled its first Black students, Louisville Municipal College was absorbed into the larger university. Dr. Parrish was the only faculty member of Louisville Municipal College who was retained. Professor Parrish died in 1989. Transcripts and audio recordings of oral history interviews with Dr. Parrish from 1976 and 1977 may be accessed here.

Now the University of Louisville has renamed its Freedom Park to honor Dr. Parrish. The Charles H. Parrish, Jr. Freedom Park tells the story of African Americans in Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky through a series of 10 information obelisks, each focusing on an era or topic specific to Louisville, and 10 glass panels detailing the contributions of some of the giants of Louisville’s civil rights struggle.


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  1. My father, Ray Lee Birdwhistell was responsible for the recruitment of Dr. Parrish, who was still on the faculty when I went back as a U of L student for my first two years of college attendance. His place in history, seems generally to be lost, and it should not be–nor should the fact that U of L was the first school in the south to integrate its faculty then student body.

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