Exhibit Shows that History Is Not Just Black and White

Though the photographs are black and white, the subject matter of the In Black and White exhibit at the Lexington History Museum depicts a vividly colored history which dates from the early days of Lexington and continued through the tenuous events of the Civil Rights Movement. In Black and White, a Photographic Retrospective of African-American Life in the Bluegrass allows visitors to see the experiences of the African-Americans throughout Lexington’s history. Funded by a grant from the Kentucky Humanities Council, the photographs featured in the exhibits are in large part from the family albums of Lexington’s African-American community. Ranging from simple church services to a lynching of an accused rapist, the collection represents the events that occurred in Lexington from the Civil War until the Civil Rights Movement.

Lexington was a very urban area even during the Civil War. As the heart of the Upper-South, Lexington was a crossroads and a commercial center. Cheapside, the open market at the site of Lexington’s courthouse square, was home to the largest slave auction in Kentucky and, for a time, in the United States. Following the Emancipation Proclamation, Lexington saw an influx of rural slaves looking for work and freedom in the city. A separate community formed within Lexington and African-Americans founded churches, schools, fraternal organizations, neighborhoods, and business districts. The city became an educational, social, and religious center for African Americans. The Colored Agricultural and Mechanical Association began sponsoring a black fair in September 1869 in Lexington. Visitors from across the United States were attracted to the fair and it remained a popular social event well into the twentieth century. In Black in White reflects the history of the most intense racial struggle in American history.

A remarkable part of the exhibit is the ability for visitors to comment on the pictures which are included. Post-It Notes line the walls where visitors have added to the commentary of pictures, including naming previously unidentified person in the photographs. The exhibit is a permanent part of the Lexington History Museum’s collection and can be visited Sunday through Friday 12-4 and Saturday 10-4. Access the museum website lexingtonhistorymuseum.org for more info.

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