West End Community Council Records, 1963-1970


The West End Community Council (WECC) organized an array of political, social, and cultural activities in Louisville, Kentucky from 1963 through 1970. The Council worked primarily in Louisville's West End, a 1000-block area whose racially-mixed and poor population of 100,000 formed approximately 20 per cent of the city's total. The WECC, through its own committees or numerous other groups which it helped to establish and coordinate, dealt with many social issues of concern to the West End community, including desegregation of housing and schools, urban renewal, welfare rights, problems of youth and environmental questions.

In 1963, the WECC was organized by persons anxious to forestall the movement of white residents from the West End. The Council was directed by an executive committee, which held monthly meetings, and by a board of directors. The board consisted of the Council's four elected officers (chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary and treasurer), plus the chairpersons of the WECC's eleven standing committees, and representatives from each of seven districts within the West End. The actual directors of Council activities were the standing and ad hoc committees and their chairpersons.

The desire of Council founders to maintain the desegregated communities of the West End was reflected in the organization's early activities. As part of their attempts to persuade white home owners to remain in the community, pamphlets were distributed and Council members made visits to many homes. Also, a survey was taken in 1964, to measure the degree of racial prejudice among West End residents. Until 1965, the Council's work was done entirely by volunteers; its meager resources were provided by small donations; from local businesses, or by the $1.00 membership fees.

New sources of funding in 1965 enabled the WECC to expand its activities. The Council received a grant from the United Church of Christ, and, through the Louisville Youth Commission, won additional funds from the Federal Head Start program, to organize social activities in West End schools. In the summer of 1965, the Council held the first of four annual Arts and Talent Festivals, featuring performances of music, drama, and dance by local citizens, as well as displays of art. In subsequent years, literary talents of West Enders were displayed in digests of prose and poetry published by the Festival organizers.

Provided with additional funding by the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church, the WECC undertook “Project West End” in June 1966. At that time, the Council hired its first full-time director, Hulbert James, and a secretary. As presented in the Council's grant proposals, the project intended to organize block clubs; promote voter registration; bring pressure on the city government for improved street maintenance, tighter zoning and housing laws; improve the quality of education; and establish programs for community youth. During this period, WECC members helped organize several other groups, including Community Action on Metropolitan Problems, which sought improved police protection, the Public Housing Tenant Association, and the West Louisville Cooperative Ministry, an interdenominational organization of clergy and church members. To house its growing operations, the Council purchased a building, where a coffee house was opened later in 1966.

In another important development during 1966, the WECC became a contracting agency for the Louisville Community Action Commission, which disbursed Federal anti-poverty funds to local groups. The Council, which employed four community organizers and several resident organizers, administered numerous CAC programs. However, the CAC limited the Council's use of Federal money to only one section of the West End, the DuValle Junior High School district. This conflict between the original intention of the WECC, to represent the entire West End, and the constraints on the scope of its activities imposed by the CAC led eventually to the decision by the Council in 1967 to drop its connection with the CAC. The WECC also resisted efforts by the CAC to centralize community organizations in Louisville.

Having relinquished its financial support from the Community Action Commission, the West End Community Council thereafter relied on grants from the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian and the Episcopal Churches. The WECC continued its labors in defense of the rights of welfare recipients. Previously, it had organized a demonstration for welfare benefits in Louisville, in conjunction with the national welfare rights campaign of July 1966. In February 1967, the Council was represented at the National Welfare Rights Conference in Washington, D.C. Shortly after that, a Louisville Welfare Rights Organization branch was established under WECC auspices, and a march of welfare mothers to Frankfort, Kentucky was organized in 1969.

Beginning in the fall of 1966, WECC members were aided by VISTA volunteers, who numbered fifteen by 1968. Reverend Charles Tachau became the Council's new executive director in 1967. During his tenure, the Council sent six busloads of mourners to the funeral of Martin Luther King in Atlanta.

Beset by dwindling sources of funds and declining membership, the WECC was dissolved on 22 March 1970. Its grants from the three church groups had expired in 1969, and its membership, once over 400, had declined to only 40 in 1970. The Council disbanded after seeing that its community work had been taken over by other groups, particularly the Black Workers Coalition.