African American History Suggested Resources

Providing Historic Perspective and Context to Current Events

The Kentucky Historical Society is dedicated to providing historic perspective and context to current events, especially as we look to end racial injustice and systemic racism. The resources offered below cover a wide range of topics and represent the work of programs across our agency.

Publications and Research

The Kentucky Historical Society has published a great deal of scholarship related to the history of Civil Rights and the relationship between Civil War history, African American history, and the Confederacy.  Here are some articles from The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society that can provide greater context related to these complex and interwoven histories.

African American History

In 2011, KHS published “Exploring Kentucky’s African American Past,” a special issue devoted to African American history in Kentucky. Free access to the entire issue is available via Project Muse. Articles include:

  • “Research on Kentucky Blacks, Revisited” by Dr. George C. Wright
  • “Kentucky African Americans: ‘So Much Remains to be Told’” by Dr. Gerald L. Smith
  • “’Upon This Rock’-The Free African American Community of Antebellum Louisville, Kentucky” by Dr. J. Blaine Hudson
  • “Kentucky is More or Less Civilized”: Alfred Carroll, Charles Eubanks, Lyman Johnson, and the Desegregation of Kentucky Higher Education, 1939-1949” by Dr. John A. Hardin
  • “Direct-Action Protests in the Upper South: Kentucky Chapters of the Congress of Racial Equality” by Dr. Gerald L. Smith
  • “’Even I Voted Republican’: African American Voters and Public Accommodations in Louisville, Kentucky, 1960-1961” by Dr. Joshua D. Farrington
  • “’It is Hard to be What You Have not Seen’: Brenda Hughes and the Black and White of the Zebra Shirt—Race and Gender in Kentucky High School Basketball” by Dr. Sallie L. Powell

Also see:

Follow the triumphant story of two former African American slaves who were freed in the 1840s and became prominent business owners in a predominantly white society. Historic records and photos document their journey shared in vivid detail from KHS curator Julie Kemper, in a video produced by Kentucky Tourism.

The Community Memories: A Glimpse of African American Life in Frankfort, Ky. Project provides a glimpse of African American life in Kentucky’s capital city. The community’s families, neighborhoods, and occupations, as well as religious and educational traditions, are revealed in this collection of photographs and oral history interviews shared by local residents in 1995. The collection is shared as part of our online Digital Collection.

Civil Rights

The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Oral History Project was initiated in 1998 as a statewide educational project that used oral history as the foundation for providing content and perspective. The oral history collection is available as one of many collections on the Pass the Word project, and through the KET program website Living the Story. The panel presentation, “Beyond the Color Line,” produced by KET in 2012 in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the documentary, is also available online.

In Blacks in Louisville Oral History Project, African American residents of Louisville discuss their history from 1900 to 1940, especially their participation in education, politics, business, and community development.

These articles from The Register are also available through Project Muse:

K-12 Educator Resources

The Caroline Chronicles

The Caroline Chronicles is a unique, document-driven learning activity. It can be used in an AP U.S. History classroom, undergraduate survey, or topical seminar on race and slavery, gender history, law and civics, the Civil War era, or Southern history. The classroom packet includes 17 rich primary source documents, 3 contextualizing secondary readings, 3 prompts for writing assignments with grading rubrics, and instructions for an in-class courtroom activity.

Discover Caroline’s story.

 

Torn Within and Threatened Without

Explore the difficult decisions Kentuckians faced during the Civil War and how individual choice has a major impact in shaping history. Designed like a graphic novel, in Torn Within and Threatened Without students can choose one of eight characters to follow, face their tough choices and make their own. Featuring the stories of Kentuckians on both sides of the conflict, Torn Within and Threatened Without includes the story of Elijah Marrs, an enslaved man who escaped from his master in 1864 to join the Union Army.

Find videos, lesson plans for students in grades 4-12, and primary source excerpts and images to enhance the learning experience.

Learn more and get started.

 

Kentucky Academic Standards for Social Studies Connections

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) created Kentucky Social Studies Resource Guides to help K-12 teachers address current Kentucky Academic Standards for Social Studies (adopted in July 2019). These guides connect each Kentucky-centric standard to transcribed and digitized primary sources from the KHS collection. While the individual primary sources may not be appropriate for analysis when given to students independently, they do support and complement larger instructional concepts covered in the classroom.

After the guides debuted in 2019, KHS conducted extensive teacher surveys to make this resource more effective and efficient. In 2021, KHS posted updated and expanded versions of the guides on the website; resource guides will continue to be honed as teachers provide feedback.

In these guides, KHS staff strives to feature stories and sources that reflect diverse Kentuckians and multiple perspectives.

Access them now.

Additional Resources

African American Genealogy

On February 18th, 2018, KHS and the African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky (AAGGKY) offered a joint panel session featuring four experts who spoke about research strategies when seeking African American roots in Kentucky. Speakers included: Dr. Alicestyne Turley of Berea College, Reinette Jones of the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, Yvonne Giles – the Lexington “Cemetery Lady”, and Mike Denis of Eastern Kentucky University. Watch the video below, or on our YouTube channel.

 

Civil War Memory

Articles in The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society have also examined Civil War Memory in Kentucky. See:

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition project offers a number of resources and content.