A House Servant
The Subscriber wishes to dispose of a NEGRO WOMAN about 23 years of age, and can with confidence recommend her as a good house servant; she has been equally accustomed to cooking, washing, and attending to the dairy. Price $325.
N.B. She will not be sold to go out of the county and a purchaser in Town will have the preference.
Lexington May 14, 1831.
(from the Lexington Observer newspaper)
Twenty-three percent. That’s the percentage of families that owned slaves in Kentucky in 1860. Even when you consider that the percentage ranges from 25% (Tennessee) to 49% (Mississippi) in the deep south, our modern-day selves are horrified by what those statistics represent.
A recent walking tour of Lincoln’s Lexington included sites related to Lexington’s slavery history: Slave trader Lewis Robards’ headquarters, as well as the Cheapside slave auction block, both in the historic downtown area.
Many historic sites showcase antebellum life without any mention of the slaves that made the white elites’ elegant lifestyle possible. Federal Hill at My Old Kentucky State Park in Bardstown is an example of that approach. I prefer historic sites that confront that history, painful as it may be to acknowledge. Ward Hall in Georgetown and Waveland in Lexington do that by opening up areas of their properties to tell that part of their story.
I wrote about encountering the uncomfortable reality of Kentucky’s slave history in Constantly Startled by Southern History last year.
Tom Eblen, a columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, writes in “Lexington Slave Trade Flourished Before Civil War”:
Without the Civil War, who knows when Lexington’s trade in black men, women and children might have ended? Most whites 150 years ago were content to look the other way….