Biographical / Historical
On February 9, 1931, eighty-three students enrolled in the new Louisville Municipal College for Negroes (LMC). Functioning as “a separate institution under the administration of the board of trustees of the University of Louisville,” it was the only full-fledged Black liberal arts college in Kentucky and the only one in the nation supported by city funds. In 1920, Black Louisvillians had repudiated a $1 million U of L bond issue leading to its defeat at the polls. With assurances of support for black higher education, a similar bond issue passed in 1925 and $100,000 was earmarked to be used for Black higher education. When the university’s president died soon after, the promise went unfulfilled. Black leaders urged U of L in 1926 and 1927 to make good on the promise, to no avail. In the summer of 1929 several exasperated Black leaders implored newly arrived U of L president Raymond A. Kent to act and he did.
The university complied with the “separate but equal” legal doctrine of segregation, but it also paid lip service, at least, to the spirit of the “equal” portion. School officials and Black community leaders were determined that the LMC would offer a sound four-year undergraduate pre-professional liberal arts program. U of L president Kent insisted on a high-quality educational program and in 1936 LMC was accorded full accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. For two decades LMC would remain a segregated undergraduate division of the U of L. Before it closed in 1951, the institution had enrolled 2,649 students, 512 of whom graduated with degrees in a broad array of academic disciplines.
Following World War II, several factors led to the closing of Louisville Municipal College and the integration of all U of L academic units in 1950 and 1951. The high cost of running two separate liberal arts colleges was a factor; legal barriers to integration were being challenged successfully in the courts; and local private colleges were integrating. The trustees approved a schedule for the desegregation of the university in April 1950. LMC would close in the spring of 1951, and the College of Arts and Sciences would enroll its first Black students in September of that year.