Charles H. Parrish, Jr. (1899-1989)

Historical Marker #2008 notes contributions made to the University of Louisville by Charles H. Parrish, Jr., the institution's first African American professor.

Parrish's father was born into slavery in Fayette County, Kentucky, in 1859. He attended a freedman's school in Lexington and graduated from Louisville Normal and Theological Institute (later Simmons University) in 1886. His father worked tirelessly during the Jim Crow era to make advancements for African Americans. He became president of a teacher’s college and later founded the Kentucky Home Society for Colored Children. His life was full of service to his fellow man.

Charles must have felt some obligation to his father to also accomplish great things in education. Born in Louisville in 1899, Charles was educated at Central High School and then Howard University. Parrish then taught at Simmons University, where his father was president, and later received his master's degree in sociology from Columbia University. He returned to Louisville to teach at Louisville Municipal College for Negroes and then earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1944.

In 1951, when the University of Louisville (U of L) integrated, the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes merged with the university. This was three years ahead of the "Brown v. the Board of Education" decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Parrish was the only African American faculty member retained from Municipal College and thus became the first black professor at U of L. Parrish was also active in the Louisville community. He served on the Mayor's Committee on Human Rights, and was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Jefferson County Juvenile Court. Dr. Parrish was awarded the Lincoln Key in 1952 for contributions to African American education in Kentucky.

Parrish became chair of the Sociology Department 1959 and held that position until 1964. He retired from U of L five years later. Dr. Parrish passed away in 1989 at age 90. His father certainly would have been proud of his son's commitment to education and service to others.