Freetowns of Kentucky

Across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, men and women who survived the institution of slavery came together to build communities that often came to be known as "freetowns." In conjunction with the exhibit "Photographing Freetowns: African American Kentucky Through the Lens of Helen Balfour Morrison," on display in the Keeneland Gallery of the Kentucky Historical Society during 2018, this tour provides just a partial glimpse of the diverse communities and institutions that the formerly enslaved and their descendants built in the Bluegrass state.

Jonesville

Historical marker #2052 celebrates the community of Jonesville in Warren County. For nearly a century following Emancipation, from the 1860s through the 1950s, Jonesville was home to a vibrant black community. Founded by formerly enslaved men and…

Shake Rag

Historical Marker #2158 in Warren County remembers Shake Rag, an African American community founded in the 1800s. Shake Rag was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 2000, becoming Bowling Green’s first National Register…

Freetown Church

Historical Marker #1347 commemorates Freetown Church, which is located near Gamaliel, Kentucky, in Monroe County. The church was built in the late 1840s by three former slaves who had been freed by their owner, William Howard. Howard had migrated to…

"Little Africa"

Historical marker #2074 in Jefferson County commemorates the history of the orignal African American section of Parkland. The boundaries of the community known as “Little Africa” in Jefferson County vary depending on the source and the era being…

Smoketown

Historical marker #1985 notes the history of the Smoketown community of Jefferson County. What became known as "Smoketown" in Louisville got its start in the immediate post-Civil War era as thousands of black Kentuckians moved to Louisville in search…

Forest Home Cemetery

Historical Marker #2094 in Jefferson County notes the location of Forest Home Cemetery, one of the oldest African American cemeteries in Kentucky. Forrest Home Cemetery would not exist were it not for one of the individuals buried there: Eliza Curtis…

Petersburg

Historical marker #1988 celebrated the communities of Petersburg and Newburg in Jefferson County. Unfortuantely, the marker is no longer standing.  Before this area became Petersburg or Newburg, it was known as Wet Woods due to the swampy prevailing…

Griffytown

Griffytown’s history stretches back to the late nineteenth century when Dan Griffith, a freedman, moved a log cabin to Old Harrod's Creek Road.  According to local oral tradition, the formerly-enslaved Daniel Griffith purchased a wooden home from…

Berrytown

Marker #1982 celebrates the history of the Berrytown community in Jefferson County. What became known as Berrytown started when the formerly enslaved Alfred Berry purchased five acres in eastern Jefferson County from Samuel L. Nock in 1874. Nock was…

Berrytown Cemetery

Marker #2032 recounts some of the history of the Berrytown Cemetery in Jefferson County. The cemetery functioned as a central cultural institution for the Berrytown community after it was established in the late nineteenth century. The United…

Lincoln Institute Campus

Historical Marker #1930 in Shelby County notes the location of the Lincoln Institute, which was founded to educate African American students. In the wake of the Supreme Court Decision of the 1904 Kentucky Day Law, which legally segregated public and…

Boneyville

Historical Marker #2268 in Lincoln County notes the location of Boneyville, an "emancipation" or "free town" formed in the years immediately following the Civil War. Numerous small, rural, African American communities sprang up…

Second Christian Church

Historical marker #2189 celebrates the Second Christian Church of Midway. This is believed to be the oldest black Disciples of Christ congregation in Kentucky and started in 1832. Prior to taking the name the Second Christian Church of Midway, it was…

Midway Colored School

Historical marker #2348 commemorates the long and varied history of the structure at 215 Walnut Street in Midway. Constructed in 1872, the building originally served as the home of the Colored Baptist Church, which later changed to Pilgrim Baptist…

Zion Hill / Zion Hill School

Historical marker #2267 celebrates the history of the Zion Hill community and Zion Hill School in Scott County. The village of Zion Hill dates back to the antebellum era, prior to Emancipation and the end of slavery in Kentucky. The community was…

African American Cemetery #2

Historical Marker #2110 in Lexington notes the location of African American Cemetery #2, which was established in 1869. After the Civil War, Kentucky African Americans looked to make good on the social, political, and economic changes produced by…

Maddoxtown

Historical Marker #2238 in Fayette County notes the origins of Maddoxtown, a rural freedman’s community that developed during Reconstruction. For its first seventy plus years slavery was the dominant labor system of Kentucky. And while the Civil War…

New Zion

Historical marker #1938 commemorates the New Zion community in Scott County. The roots of the African American community of New Zion stretch back to 1872 when two formerly enslaved men bought land on which to make their homes. Ultimately, the 23…

Stonetown

Historical Marker #2375 in Scott County notes the location of Stonetown, one of a number of Kentucky African American rural communities that formed in the years following the Civil War. When the Civil War ended, many of Kentucky’s freed slaves…