The University of Louisville is a premier, nationally recognized metropolitan research university. The state-supported, research university is located in Louisville, the largest metropolitan area in Kentucky.The university traces its origin to 1798, when eight men declared their idea of establishing a seminary, the Jefferson Seminary.The seminary was established in 1813, and was closed in 1829, after a great struggle.The Louisville Collegiate Institute, in 1844, occupied the land of the seminary. Over the years, the university added many new schools and colleges.The University of Louisville offers graduate, professional, baccalaureate, and associate degrees in over 170 fields.It has 12 schools and colleges, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, School of Education, Graduate School, Kent School of Social Work, Brandeis School of Law, School of Medicine, School of Music, School of Nursing, School of Public Health and Information Sciences, and the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.In addition, the university offers opportunities to continue education through their distance and continuing education programs, and facilities to research and study abroad.The University of Louisville has six libraries and an archives and records center. Its collections include more than 2 million volumes, 16,000 current journal subscriptions, 20,000 full-text electronic journals, various special collections, media, and microforms.The University of Louisville is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate, baccalaureate, master's, specialist, doctoral and first-professional degrees (D.M.D., J.D., M.D.).
Out of the shadows: Why these people are uncovering Louisville's storied LGBTQ historyCLOSE
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Growing up, Greg Bourke never saw someone like himself in history books.
The shadow-like culture of gay men and the genuine fear the LGBTQ community lived in during the early 20th century didn’t leave a paper trail behind.
The library at St. Stephen Martyr Catholic School in Louisville didn’t have biographies on successful gay men and people like him weren’t discussed in his classes. There wasn’t an inspirational story in the text about someone who changed the world and came out of life strong, loved and successful. LGBTQ heroes were left from the pages and mainstream conversations in general.
He had to learn his history in other ways.
And he has. Since then, Bourke, who eventually became part of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling that required states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, has even made some history of his own.
In honor of Pride Month celebrated each June, I took time to talk with some LGBTQ people in Kentucky who both remember that shadow culture and are now leaving their stories behind for the next generation. I wanted to learn how the LGBTQ community interacted with its history and how its presence, or lack thereof, set the tone for the world we live in today.
Greg Bourke, one of the plaintiffs in a Kentucky same-sex marriage case going to the U.S. Supreme Court
Much has changed since Bourke came out to his friends and family during one painful face-to-face conversation after another in 1976. Back then, there wasn’t a button he could hit online and hope that people would rally behind and support him. Truly embracing who he was meant threatening his employment, relationships with people he cared about, and his safety. That same-sex marriage win he was part of was unthinkable in a world where a man could lose his job for loving another man just decades before.
Twenty years ago, Louisville passed a Fairness Ordinance that barred employers from firing people for being gay. Today, the annual Kentuckiana Pride Festival, traditionally held during Pride Month, welcomes thousands of people and a slew of corporate sponsors who gather in support of the LGBTQ community.
Much of that fear that dominated in the early 20th century and that Bourke knew so well in the 1970s has been replaced with celebration and acceptance.But there's still work to do and much to learn. Even an inclusive culture of celebration and acceptance can’t fully unearth the secrets of the past.
Greg Bourke, left, and Michael DeLeon, right, were among the Kentucky plaintiffs in the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. (Photo: By Chris Kenning/Courier Journal)
As I spoke with people, I learned that Bourke wasn’t the only LGBTQ person seeking out historical sources and aching for a role model and an understanding of the people who led the way for today's LGBTQ community in Louisville.
While much progress has been made, there’s still so much to uncover about Kentucky's LGBTQ history.
University of Louisville History : Brief History
On April 3, 1798, eight men declared their intention to establish the Jefferson Seminary in Louisville and called upon their fellow citizens to join them in pledging funds for land, buildings, and teachers. Occurring a few weeks after the Kentucky legislature had chartered this academy and several others in the new state, this event marked the beginning of an advanced level of education for the young people of a frontier settlement barely two decades old. Near the end of the eighteenth century these early Louisvillians took the first steps on a journey that would link them with succeeding generations to the modern University of Louisville in the twenty-first century.
Jefferson Seminary struggled. It did not open until the fall of 1813, and in 1829 it closed. The Louisville Medical Institute (LMI), chartered in 1833, opened in 1837, and the Louisville Collegiate Institute (LCI) was chartered the same year. In 1840 LCI was renamed Louisville College and in 1844 it inherited the portion of the estate of Jefferson Seminary designated for the use of higher education in Louisville. LMI attracted large enrollments and prospered financially, but the college had difficulty remaining open. Proponents of grass roots democracy wanted to divert a portion of the medical school's resources to the college. They won a partial victory in 1846, when the Kentucky legislature created the University of Louisville proper, combining the medical school, the college, and a newly created law school. Although there was now a common board of trustees, each division retained financial autonomy, and the college did not survive.
During the nineteenth century most of the professors in U of L's medical and law schools were drawn from the ranks of local physicians and attorneys who considered teaching a part-time vocation. By the 1880s and 1890s, however, the university felt pressure from educational reformers who not only believed schools should employ full-time instructors but who also advocated well-enforced national standards for academic training. In 1907 this trend contributed to the revival of the liberal arts college, which had been all but forgotten during the second half of the century. A much more vibrant university added new programs--the Graduate School (1915), School of Dentistry (1918), School of Public Health (1919), Speed Scientific School (1925), University College (1928-1982), Louisville Municipal College for Negroes (1931-1951), School of Music (1932), and Kent School of Social Work (1936)--conformity to accreditation guidelines became increasingly important. Expanded academic programs and the adherence to higher educational standards led to the appointment of full-time administrators before America's entry into World War I.
World War II and the postwar era brought major changes to the University of Louisville. Shortly after the war, a movement began to close the all-black Louisville Municipal College and desegregate the university on all levels. This was accomplished in 1950 and 1951. In 1953 the School of Business was created. Perhaps the most dramatic development of the postwar period was the movement of tax-paying citizens from the city to the suburbs. Because the University of Louisville was municipally funded, this caused a damaging drain on the school's revenue. As early as 1965, a governor's task force suggested the possibility of the university's joining the state system of higher education, which it did in 1970.
Since the late 1960s the university has added several new academic units, including the School of Education (1968), the School of Justice Administration (1969), the School of Nursing (1979), and the College of Urban and Public Affairs (1983). In 1992 the latter school was eliminated and its functions distributed to other units. In the same year the School of Justice Administration moved to the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Kent School of Social work joined the Division of Allied Health to form the new College of Health and Social Services. In 1996 the functions of the College of Health and Social Services were realigned resulting in a separate Kent School of Social Work and a School of Allied Health Sciences. By 1998 Allied Health had given way to the School of Public Health and Information Sciences. In 2001 the School of Education became the College of Education and Human Development, and in 2003 the Speed Scientific School was renamed the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.
Currently under the leadership of Interim President Gregory Postel, the University of Louisville has become known especially for teaching, research, and service to its community and the advancement of educational opportunity for all citizens thereof. With an enrollment of 21,000, its academic programs attract students from every state and from all over the world. It is well positioned to fulfill the mission assigned to it by the state legislature: to become "a premier, nationally-recognized metropolitan research university."
For more information, see Dwayne D. Cox and William J. Morison, The University of Louisville (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000).
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Some credit hours from the General Education Requirements may be satisfied by courses defined by the program, in which case additional electives will be required to complete the minimum hours for the degree. See the Degree Requirements tab for specific coursework.
Specific coursework information can be found on the Degree Requirements tab.
Accelerated BA/MA in History Program
History majors who are considering pursuing a master’s degree (MA) in History can speed up the process by applying some of their undergraduate credit hours toward a master's degree. Students accepted into the Accelerated BA-MA take three graduate courses (9 credit hours) as an undergraduate that apply toward both the bachelor’s degree and the eventual master's degree.
Interested students should apply to the program during their Junior year (i.e., when they have accumulated 60-90 hours of credit). Applicants must have a minimum overall GPA of 3.35, a History GPA of 3.35, and meet all other requirements for admission to the History Department's Master of Arts program (including at least 21 hours of history courses).
Students must retain a 3.35 GPA in history during their senior year to remain in the program.
The story of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering is deeply entwined with the history of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It’s the story of American industry, technology, and innovation.
In 1925, Dr. William S. Speed and Mrs. Olive Speed Sackett established an endowment for the J.B. Speed Scientific School in honor of their father, the late James Breckenridge (J.B.) Speed. Funds from the endowment are still used, to this day, to supplement the Speed School’s activities.
Who Was J.B. Speed?
James Breckenridge Speed (1844-1912) was an industrial pioneer in 19th century Louisville, and the scion of an illustrious Kentucky family. He was a major figure in the establishment of Louisville’s street railway system. He developed and operated large coal interests throughout Kentucky, and foresaw the significance of Portland Cement in the future growth of America.
These industries – transportation, energy, and infrastructure – were vital to Louisville’s growth and emergence as a major metropolitan area. They remain vital today, as J.B. Speed’s vision helped shape our city, region, and state. Speed School students carry forth the tradition of forward-thinking, made possible by the Speed family.
Speed Family Contributions
Dr. William S. Speed and Mrs. Olive Speed Sackett contributed generously to our campus facilities, including the James B. Speed Building, Frederic M. Sackett Hall, and William S. Speed Hall. In later years, Mrs. Virginia Speed, wife of Dr. Speed, contributed gifts and financial support prior to her death in 1969.
In 2003, the J.B. Speed Scientific School was officially renamed the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.
“Unearthing” 19th Century (illegal) tricks to support anatomy instruction
The difficulties of obtaining “material” for instruction in gross anatomy forced frustrated medical faculties of the 19th century into illegal activities. From the earliest days of modern medicine, men called resurrectionists provided cadavers for study by medical students and their teachers, but despite an urgent academic need for cadavers to study human anatomy, the only legal manner to obtain a body was through the execution of a convicted criminal. Execution only provided a minimal number of bodies per year – not nearly enough to fill the need of medical schools.
Simon Kracht, a “resurrectionist.”
So how did UofL faculty obtain enough bodies for the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of medical students in Louisville during this period?
Kornhauser Health Sciences Library has in its collection several first-hand accounts documenting how this macabre task was accomplished. One tale is told in the diary of Charles Hentz, a student at UofL from 1846-1848, who assisted Dr. George Wood Bayless, then Demonstrator of Anatomy, on his forays into the cemeteries of Louisville.
UofL medical student Charles Hentz drew this image of his professor, Dr. Bayless, “obtaining materiel.”
There is also the story of Simon Kracht, janitor at the medical school from 1871-1875, whose duties including building maintenance and grave robbing. Kracht and a student were arrested in December 1872 when they were found unloading four bodies from the back of a wagon into the medical school.
Finally, in 1887, David W. Yandell, MD, son of the first Dean of the Medical School, recounted to a reporter his personal recollections of procuring specimens for the dissecting room. You can learn more about this “grave” historical topic by visiting the display case in the library, just across from the service desk.
Please take time to watch this silent short film, “The Real Body Snatchers,” to learn more.
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University of Louisville criticizes alum Mitch McConnell for 1619 slavery comments
The University of Louisville's leadership publicly criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for saying he doesn't see 1619 — often seen as the start of American slavery — as one of U.S. history's most important points.
U of L's interim senior associate vice president for diversity and equity, Dr. V. Faye Jones, sent out a campuswide email Thursday in which she said McConnell's comments "are quite troubling for American descendants of slaves, our allies and those who support us."
"To imply that slavery is not an important part of United States history not only fails to provide a true representation of the facts, but also denies the heritage, culture, resilience and survival of Black people in America," Jones said in the email.
"It also fails to give context to the history of systemic racial discrimination, the United States’ 'original sin' as Sen. McConnell called it, which still plagues us today," she continued.
She was referring to statements McConnell — a U of L alumnus — made Monday during a visit to U of L's ShelbyHurst campus, where he appeared alongside U of L President Neeli Bendapudi.
McConnell quickly drew criticism for his response that day when a reporter asked about a letter he and other Senate Republicans sent to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that criticized a proposed plan to prioritize educational efforts that focus on systemic racism in U.S. history.
“I think this is about American history and the most important dates in American history. And my view — and I think most Americans think — dates like 1776, the Declaration of Independence 1787, the Constitution 1861-1865, the Civil War, are sort of the basic tenets of American history," McConnell said Monday.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks at a press conference after touring the Regional Biocontainment Lab - Center for Predictive Medicine at the University of Louisville on Monday, May 3, 2021. (Photo: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal)
“There are a lot of exotic notions about what are the most important points in American history. I simply disagree with the notion that The New York Times laid out there that the year 1619 was one of those years," he continued.
He was referring to The 1619 Project, a New York Times initiative that emphasized the importance of the year American slavery essentially began as well as slavery’s long-term consequences for the country. It also examined and reframed U.S. history through that lens.
“I think that issue that we all are concerned about — racial discrimination — it was our original sin. We’ve been working for 200-and-some-odd years to get past it,” McConnell also said Monday. “We’re still working on it, and I just simply don’t think that’s part of the core underpinning of what American civic education ought to be about."
Jones' letter Thursday to the U of L community made it clear the university's leadership — including Bendapudi — deeply disagrees with McConnell's statements.
"What we know to be true is that slavery and the date the first enslaved Africans arrived and were sold on U.S. soil are more than an 'exotic notion,' " she wrote. "If the Civil War is a significant part of history, should not the basis for it also be viewed as significant?"
U of L leadership's rebuke of McConnell is notable, in no small part because Kentucky's powerful senator has a long history with the institution.
He graduated from the university in 1964, and in 1991, he founded the McConnell Center, which has provided scholarships to U of L students for many years.
Jones indicated U of L leaders' rejection of McConnell's statements were necessary to uphold the university's publicly stated vision for its future.
She wrote: "Our vision statement affirms that we 'commit ourselves to building an exemplary educational community that offers a nurturing and challenging intellectual climate, a respect for the spectrum of human diversity, and a genuine understanding of the many differences — including race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion, diversity of thought and political ideology — that enrich a vibrant metropolitan research university.'
"To be true to that vision, President Bendapudi, Provost (Lori Stewart) Gonzalez and I reject the idea that the year 1619 is not a critical moment in the history of this country."
Fairness grows in the 2000s, 2010s and into 2020s
Fairness ordinances continue to pass throughout Kentucky. Twenty-two Kentucky municipalities have extended the same LGBTQ protections that Louisville did in 1999.
Communities include Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), and Maysville (2018), Henderson (2019), Dayton (2019), Georgetown (2019), Versailles (2019), Bellevue (2019), Highland Heights (2019), Fort Thomas (2020), Woodford County (2020), Cold Spring (2020), and Newport (2020), Crescent Springs (2021), and Augusta (2021).
Source: Kentucky LGBTQ Historic Context Narrative 2016 prepared by the University of Louisville Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research. Principally authored by Catherine Fosl, with Daniel J. Vivian and Jonathan Coleman, and with additional assistance from Wes Cunningham, David Williams, Jamie Beard, Nia Holt, and Kayla Reddington.
How I Write: John Cumbler– Historian
Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.
This week’s featured write is John Cumbler, a professor of history at the University of Louisville who is also in phased retirement. He has published 6 books on social, economic and environmental history. His seventh book From Abolition to Equal Rights for All is now in press and should be out this fall. John Cumbler has also published a couple dozen articles but says he enjoys writing books more. He enjoys research and writing, although teaching is his real passion.
How I Write: John Cumbler
Location: Gottschalk Hall, University of Louisville
Current project: I just finished my last book project- an environmental history of a fragile eco-system. I have a couple short pieces on which I am working, but I am taking a break before I launch into a new book length project.
Currently reading: Mysteries and Game of Thrones
Watch the video: Quick Clip: The Schneider Hall Fountain in the morning