The struggle for citizenship, respect, opportunity, and equality by Kentucky's African Americans is as old as the state itself. Long denied chances to prove themselves worthy of citizenship by the institution of slavery, and thus denied the ability to obtain the rights which it entails, black Kentuckians have always found ways to be active agents in seeking freedom and equality.
The current trend in Civil Rights history rightly takes the "long" approach to the subject. Historians widely acknowledge that the accomplishments of the 1950s and 1960s did not come without the efforts of earlier generations. Kentucky's almost 24,000 African American Union soldiers laid the foundation for the right to demand the citizenship their service had bought. Those rights, such as the right to testify in court, the right to vote, and the right to seek economic opportunity were expressed in African American conventions during the Reconstruction years. Although many of those demands were denied by a legally segregated society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Kentucky's African Americans kept demanding and kept advancing. The generations that followed emancipation continued the drive for equality. Unfortunately, the significance of Kentucky’s civil rights struggle is not emphasized, examined, or understood enough today. This tour hopes to remedy that.
By highlighting Kentuckians and Kentucky places that many of the general public have never heard of, much can be learned about and a better appreciation can be developed for those who gave us the chance to have a voice. Without the work of these people at these places our state would not be the democratic place that it is today. In this tour you have the opportunity to find out how these individuals, groups, and places impacted civil rights history. Included, too, are numerous primary source images and documents that help illustrate Kentucky's civil rights story. We hope that you will use this tour to learn about, better understand, and appreciate our state's role in the effort for civil rights.