Civil Rights Struggle, 1954/Wades: Open Housing Pioneers

Historical Marker #2254 in Louisville notes the location of the Wade home, which was bombed in the summer of 1954 after an African American family attempted to live in an all-white neighborhood.

By the early 1950s, Louisville had integrated much of its public places. Unfortunately, however, equal housing opportunities were not as progressive or successful. One case that made national headlines provides an example of how reactionary some white Louisvillians were to racial change.

The family of Andrew Wade, an African American Korean War veteran, benefitted from the friendship and assistance of Anne and Carl Braden when they sought to purchase a home in Louisville. The white Bradens were committed to racial integration and equal opportunity. The idea was for the Bradens to purchase the house since they were white and then transfer the title to the Wades. Finally a home was selected and purchased in a traditionally-white section of the city.

When the Wades moved into the home in May 1954, a neighborhood furor erupted. The home was shot at and a cross was burned in the yard. This incident coincided with the Supreme Court’s decision in the "Brown v. the Board of Education" case. This landmark decision, handed down just two days after the Wades moved in, sought to integrate the nation’s public schools "with all deliberate speed." This decision only added to the racial tension in Louisville.

The situation deteriorated further when, on June 27, the house was bombed. Some thought it was planned by the Bradens as part of communist plot. That theory proved powerful when the Bradens and several others were indicted on criminal conspiracy charges. Carl Braden was tried and convicted under a state sedition law. He served seven months before the state revoked the law he was convicted under. Charges against Braden and the others indicted were dropped in 1956.

The Wades' wish to live where they desired was ignored and they moved to the traditionally black west side of Louisville. Those who bombed the house were never brought to justice. The incident, however, proved to be an important herald for the open housing drive that was embraced by the larger Civil Rights movement. This focus accompanied much of the Civil Rights movement's goals of justice and equality and produced legislation such as the 1968 Fair Housing Act. As a legacy to the Bradens and Wades efforts, the Wade home now sits in a diverse neighborhood.