Lexington Colored Fair Association

Historical Marker # 1961 notes the importance of the Lexington Colored Fair Association, which highlighted the achievements of African Americans to society in the years following emancipation.

Most often relegated to second class status by Kentucky's whites—socially, politically, and economically—the state's African American communities sought to exhibit their accomplishments and civic pride. Some communities sponsored an annual Emancipation Day celebration, while others held fairs. One such event was the Lexington Colored Fair.

The Lexington Colored Fair Association was started by a group of African American men who had formed the Lexington Colored Agricultural and Mechanical Association. The first fair was held in September 1869. The next year, the organization received a charter and created a constitution and set of by-laws. The fair proved to be a financial success, and annual profits from the fairs allowed the organization to reinvest the money into other projects.

In an examination of the Lexington Colored Fair, historian William Bruce Strother provided his opinions on why the fair was a success. "One was that the Fair caught the fancy of the Colored People of the vicinity of Lexington, and beyond. It was something new. It gave them a sense of racial accomplishment it provided them with a means of relaxation, entertainment and social intercourse—opportunities which had great social value during the trying days of post-war readjustment. The competitive sports and events both in the ring and the display room gave an incentive for the improvement of livestock and of other agricultural and domestic products." Strother, however, also credited much of the fair's success to the close attention to detail paid by the Association's board members and their efforts to constantly improve the annual fair.

Some profits were returned to the stockholders of the Association, but, in the early 1870s, some funds were allocated to lease or purchase the property where the annual fair was held. In 1907, the Association changed its name to the A & M Realty Company and focused more on buying, selling, and leasing property than in holding an annual fair. The realty company, like the fair, proved to be a success. The fair, though, continued on into the 1930s.

The Lexington Colored Fair Association showed that African Americans, many only a few years removed from slavery, sought occasions to showcase their achievements, display their racial pride, and create financial opportunities.

Images

Thomas T. Wendell

Thomas T. Wendell

Pictured left is Thomas T. Wendell, who was secretary of the A & M Realty Company, an outgrowth of the Agricultural and Mechanical Association. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Fairgrounds

Fairgrounds

Annual fairs were a particularly popular form of entertainment in the 19th and 20th centuries. Shown in this postcard is the Frankfort fairground. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Fair Broadside

Fair Broadside

Fairs were hosted by communities across the state. This undated broadside advertised a fair in Lancaster, Kentucky, probably in the late 19th or early 20th century. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Emancipation Day Parade

Emancipation Day Parade

Emancipation Day celebrations were popular occasions throughout former slave states in the years after the Civil War. The celebration shown in this photograph was held in Richmond, Virginia in 1905. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Emancipation Day Parade

Emancipation Day Parade

This photograph shows an Emancipation Day parade in the southeast Kentucky town of Jenkins. It was likely taken in the early 20th century. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tim Talbott, “Lexington Colored Fair Association,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed June 25, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/304.

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