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Researching African American Slavery in Kentucky: Publications and Government Sources

Using primary sources and documents to discovery more on the history of those enslaved in Kentucky


In the newspapers are more biographies of formerly enslaved African Americans than has been published in books and academic publications.

Within the newspaper articles are the names of family members, slave owners, land locations, purchase/sold prices, freedom details, and much more.

Use the details found in the biographies to continue the research using public documents, census records, and other sources.

Within the U.S. Census publications are the data on the number of free persons and the enslaved in each county in the state of Kentucky.

Freedmen's Bureau Records (Family Search)

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, was a Reconstruction agency that assisted the newly freed African Americans in the south. The bureau was a government agency established on March 3, 1865, and it operated from 1865 to 1872. The agency acted as a social services agency that oversaw the relief efforts for African Americans after the U.S. Civil War. Registration is required to freely access the Freedmen Bureau Records at FamilySearch. 

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Selected Census and Government Publications

Research in Newspapers

Newspapers are another source for reviewing the published research on slavery in Kentucky. The snippet below is the first paragraph of the full page article by A. C. Quisenberry in 1910. [See the archives tab for a list of newspaper sources.]

Title: Slavery in Kentucky

By: A. C. Quisenberry

Pub: The Lexington Herald

Date: July 10, 1910

Pages: 1-2

African American Biographies in Newspapers

Biographies of formerly enslaved African Americans are available in African American newspapers and mainstream newspapers. The articles contain information about the person, family members, and slave owners. Below are snippets from newspaper articles. [See the archives tab at the top of this page for newspaper archive sources.]

Title: One Hundred Years Old

Pub: Plaindealer (Topeka, Kansas)

Date: March 1, 1901

Page: 4 


Title: They Came from the Ranks

Pub: The Indianapolis Journal

Date: September 15, 1889

Page: 6


Title: C. C. Martin, at 107, May Be State's Oldest

Pub: The Courier-Journal []

Date: December 19, 1954

Page: 43, section 3

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Selected Books and Journal Articles