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.