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Researching African American Slavery in Kentucky: Archives and Newspapers

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

ARCHIVAL COLLECTIONS will be found in academic, public and private libraries, and historical organizations. If at all possible, start searching online to get an idea of what types of materials are held at the various locations. If there is not an online presence, then contact the library or historical organization for assistance. A list of Kentucky archival locations is at the very bottom of this column.

Pullams Slave Jail at 149 Broadway in Lexington, KY

Creator: E. B. Foley    Date unknown

Lexington, Kentucky Photograph Albums

University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center

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Catharine Esten Cooke Hopson bible

 One page includes a list of 19 slaves emancipated in 1865

Hopson Family Collection

University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.

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Newspaper Archives

Local, national, and international newspapers - search for newspaper articles about slave owners and enslaved persons, as well as their family members and personal histories. Search also for runaway ads and reward notices.

EXAMPLE 1:

  • NAME: Abraham
  • SLAVE OWNER: Jacob Foley
  • LOCATION: Lexington, Kentucky
  • SOURCE: "Taken Up," Daily Commonwealth (Frankfort, KY), 01/17/1856

 

  • SOURCE: Jacob Foley with 4 slaves enumerated in the 1860 Slave Schedule

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EXAMPLE 2:

  • NAME: Dr. Robert Maxwell Johnson, 1826-1871 
  • BIRTH LOCATION: Lexington, Kentucky
  • SLAVE OWNERS: Dorothea and the Rev. Dr. Honorable James Fishback
  • SPOUSE: Mary Atkinson from Sheffield, Yorkshire, England
  • DEATH LOCATION: Chatham, Ontario, Canada
  • SOURCE: "Lecture on American Slavery," The Dundee Courier, (Scotland, UK), 10/20/1858, p.2.

 

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Find Newspaper Archives

Obituaries and Death Notices, and Colored Notes

Use the obituaries and death notices in newspapers to learn more about the names and lives of those who had been enslaved. These notices will sometimes be found in African American newspapers and in the "Colored Notes" section of other newspapers. "Colored Notes" was a segregated column or section of the newspaper that was reserved for news about African Americans. Learn more about the Colored Notes in Kentucky newspapers at the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. 

NOTE: In newspaper death notices, be aware that the formerly enslaved person's age may be grossly exaggerated with the claim of more than 100 years. The notice may also present the person as the most perfect soul who ever walked upon the earth. See the list to the left for newspaper archive sources.

EXAMPLES:

 

Title: An Aged Colored Citizen Gone.

Pub: The Frankfort Roundabout

Date: 07/25/1891

Page: 4

 

Title: Faithful Unto Death, He Sleeps Beside 'Old Marse"

Pub: The Lexington Herald

Date: April 4, 1914

Page: 5

 

Title: Negro, Born a Slave, Taken by Death

Pub: The Park City Daily News (Bowling Green, KY)

Date: 01/19/1941

Page: front page

 

Title: Man Born a Slave is Fatally Burned

Pub: Louisville Courier-Journal

Date: December 5, 1954

Page: 20