University of Kentucky photo collections yield exhibit on lives of blacks

lblackford@herald-leader.comFebruary 17, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    Kentucky: Roots, Times and Generations

    Where: UK Libraries Special Collections, first floor, Margaret I. King Library, 179 Funkhouser Dr.

    Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. through Feb. 28

The black and white photographs span time and community: A line of white-turbanned women who await baptism in Clifton Pond. A group of girls explores Mount Brilliant Farm with their Brownie troop in 1947. The 1934 Dunbar High School boys' and girls' basketball teams hoist their trophies. Children smile outside the Burdine Colored School in Letcher County.

Kentucky: Roots, Times and Generations at the University of Kentucky's Margaret I. King Library was set up for Black History Month, featuring photographs from UK's various collections that depict the lives of blacks around the state from the 1890s to the 1970s.

The free exhibit is on display through Feb. 28.

Reinette Jones, a librarian in the UK Oral History department who co-curated the show, said the department wanted to do the show for two reasons: to get help in identifying some of the people in the pictures, and to spread the word that UK has a large trove of black scholarship available.

"There's this myth that UK doesn't have much in this area," said Jones, who worked with Deirdre Scaggs, associate dean of special collections. "We don't brag enough about what we have here."

The pictures were chosen from various collections at UK, such as the Sallie Price Family Papers and the Collection on African Americans in Kentucky. Many of the pictures come from the John C. Wyatt Lexington Herald-Leader Collection, 1.8 million photographic negatives from 1939 to 1990. The Herald-Leader donated the collection to UK in 2005.

The photographs feature group shots of many Lexington children whom Jones would love to identify. For example, there are photos of Dunbar basketball players, and group shots from the Joyland amusement park of children standing near a pool.

There are important pieces of Kentucky history. Jones said that after black coal miners came to Letcher County around 1911, the county set up a segregated school system, with all-black schools in Dunham, Burdine and Jenkins.

The show also features an old photograph of Main Street Baptist Church, which was bought in 1862 by a former slave, the Rev. Frederick Braxton, from Mary Todd Lincoln, whose house is next door. Her husband, President Abraham Lincoln, signed off on the property transfer in 1863.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.

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