Kentucky State Quarter, reverse side: T. James Ferrell, employee of the U.S. Mint, 2001 (image by Dbenbenn, 2005)
My Old Kentucky Home, Stephen Collins Foster, 1853, adopted by Kentucky General Assembly as state song of Kentucky, 19 March 1878: photo of sheet music by Aetzkorn, 20 April 2010
In 1844, the slave ship Kentucky, which had been sold by Americans to Brazilians, sailed to Inhambane and Quelimane, Mozambique, under the American flag. The crew was made up of both Americans and Brazilians. Inhambane and Quelimane, located on the southeast coast of Africa, were off limits to the slave ship by treaty. Nonetheless, once the cargo of 530 adult Africans was shackled aboard the Kentucky, the ship was turned over to the Brazilians, and all or some of the American crew returned to Brazil on another ship. The next day, the Africans attempted an unsuccessful revolt. Those thought to be guilty were tried by the ship captain, and 46 African men and one woman were hanged, then shot in the chest and thrown overboard. In addition, 20 men and six women were severely flogged. When the ship reached Brazil, the entire incident was recounted and recorded at the U.S. Consul in Rio de Janeiro and forwarded to the U.S. Congress. In 1845, Consul Henry A. Wise (Virginia) appealed to President James K. Polk to take a stand against pirate slave ships sailing under the American flag as license for the types of barbarity exhibited on the Kentucky and the slave trade in general. No stand was taken. The Kentucky was eventually found by a British armed vessel; it was tucked away on the Angozha [Angoche] River in Mozambique. With no way to escape by sea, the crew of the Kentucky set the ship on fire and escaped by land.
On March 25, 1871, a letter was sent to the U.S. Congress asking for protection from the Ku Klux Klan for the newly-freed African Americans in Kentucky. The letter was from colored citizens of Frankfort, Franklin County & vicinity, signed by Henry Marrs, a teacher; Henry Lynn, a livery stable keeper; N. N. Trumbo, a grocer; Samuel Damsey; B. Smith, a blacksmith; and B. T. Crampton, a barber. The letter contained a list of 116 incidents of beatings, shootings, hangings, tarring-and-featherings, and other violence that had taken place around the state.
On the evening of August 7, 1871, the election polls had just closed when a race riot developed between African American and white voters in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky, at the market-house precinct. It was the second year of voting for African American men in Kentucky, and tension was high. After a scuffle, whites and African Americans took cover on separate sides of Broadway and began shooting and throwing rocks and boulders at each other across the railroad tracks that ran down the center of the street. Police Captain William Gillmore and Officers Jerry Lee and Dick Leonard rushed to the scene; Gillmore was killed and Lee and Leonard were injured. Other police arrived, but they were driven back. A Mr. Bishop, who was also white, was killed, and several others on both sides were injured. State Troops were ordered into downtown Frankfort to bring the rioting under control. An African American, Henry Washington, who supposedly fired the first shot, was apprehended for the murder of Captain Gillmore. Frankfort Mayor E. H. Taylor, Jr. had appointed the state militia to guard the jailhouse. After the State Troops had gone, the militia dispersed when about 250 armed and masked white men stormed the jailhouse at mid-morning and removed Washington and another African American man, Harry Johnson, who was accused of the rape of a Mrs. Pfeifer. Both men were hanged.
A couple of days before Christmas 1896, white citizens of Mayfield, Kentucky, were preparing for an attack in response to a report that up to 250 armed African Americans were seeking revenge for the lynching of Jim Stone and the "whitecapping" of African American families. The reports had come from Water Valley and Wingo, Kentucky, and other nearby towns. White women and children in Mayfield were ordered off the street by 6:00 p.m. Homes were barricaded. A dispatch was sent to Fulton, Kentucky, asking for a reinforcement of white men, and guards were posted at the railroad station. When a report arrived stating that African Americans were also arming themselves in Paducah, Kentucky, the fire bell was rung in Mayfield and a defense was positioned in the public square to await the attack. The reinforcements from Fulton arrived by train a little after midnight. Will Suett, an 18-year-old African American, was also at the train station and was gunned down. Shots were fired at three other African Americans. Hundreds of shots were fired into buildings and into the trees. Four homes were burnt down. By Christmas Eve, the threat was over. The reinforcements were sent home. A mass meeting was called, and a petition signed by more than 100 African Americans asked for peace between the races. Three people had been killed, one being Will Suett, who had arrived by train from St. Louis; he was returning home to spend Christmas with his family in Mayfield.
Friday, October 16, 1903, Tom Hall's partially nude body was found hung in a tree in Wickliffe, Kentucky. Hall was thought to be a man from Mississippi who had come first to Mayfield, Kentucky, then on to Paducah, to work on the new Cairo division of the Illinois Central Railroad. A disagreement had occurred between two young white men and a group of African Americans at the Paducah-Cairo train depot platform, Sunday night, October 11. There was an exchange of gunfire. One of the white men, Crockett Childress, was shot in the chest, but survived, though rumors circulated that Childress was dead. Tom Hall was shot in the arm. [It was assumed he was a.k.a. Bob Douglas, who was wanted for a shooting in Mississippi.] Hall claimed he was innocent; he said that he was only a bystander who had gotten shot at the train depot. It was decided that there would be less disturbance if Hall were jailed in Wickliffe. On Tuesday, October 12, in response to the shooting, all African Americans were forced to leave Kevil, Kentucky. Friday morning, about 1:15 a.m., a group of about 35 masked white men took Hall from jail and hanged him.
Marie Thompson lived in Shepherdsville, Bullitt County, Kentucky. In 1904, she killed her landlord, John Irvin, after he berated and kicked her son and attacked her with a knife. Thompson was a large woman who got the best of Irvin and cut his throat with his knife. She was arrested and jailed. A lynch mob of a dozen white men made a first attempt to take her from the jail cell. Their efforts were thwarted by a group of armed African American men; a shootout occurred and both parties retreated from the scene. Hours later, a much larger mob of white men succeeded in taking Thompson from the jailhouse; they then attempted to hang her, but while Thompson was swinging in the air, she grabbed a man by the collar and took a knife from him. She cut the length of rope that led to the noose around her neck and landed on the ground. Thompson was fighting her way through the mob when she was gunned down on June 14, 1904. More than 100 shots were fired at her. Marie Thompson died the next day in the Shepherdsville jail.
The first resistance to a lynch mob by local officials and troops in the South took place in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky. In 1920, 10-year old Geneva Hardman, a little white girl, was killed. Will Lockett, an African American World War I veteran, was the suspect. While he was in police custody and without council, Lockett confessed to the murder and other crimes. His trial was set in Lexington for February 9, which was also Court Day, when a large number of people would be in the city. Governor Morrow ordered out all law enforcement officers and state troopers. Several hundred people showed up for the trial. Lockett was sentenced to die in the electric chair. The crowd outside got rowdy, and there was an exchange of gunfire between the crowd and the troopers. Six people were killed and 50 injured. U.S. troops were sent to Lexington. A second surge was building and Brigadier General Francis C. Marshall declared martial law, which remained in force for two weeks. Four hundred troops escorted Lockett to Eddyville Penitentiary, and state guards were detached to nearby Leitchfield, Grayson County, Kentucky, to guard against violence. Lockett died in the electric chair on March 11. Kentucky later became the first state to pass an anti-lynching law.
Sam Jennings was born in Breckinridge County, Kentucky in 1893. In 1930, he was accused of attacking Mabel Downs; the accusation quickly turning into a story that a black man had raped a white woman. Jennings was arrested, and the grand jury indicted him on a charge of rape. He was transferred to Jefferson County Jail for safekeeping: there was fear that a riot might occur and that Jennings might be lynched in Breckinridge County. He was returned to Breckinridge County for his trial, which resulted in his being found guilty. After exhausting his appeals, Sam Jennings was hanged in 1932. Over 6,000 people gathered to watch the event.
Source: Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, University of Kentucky Libraries
Colored School at Anthoston, Henderson County, Kentucky. Census 27, enrollment 12, attendance 7. Teacher expects 19 to be enrolled after work is over. "Tobacco keeps them out and they are short of hands." Ages of those present: 13 years = 1, 10 years = 2, 8 years = 2, 7 years = 1, 5 years = 1: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 13 September 1916 (National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress)
Colored School at Anthoston, Henderson County, Kentucky: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 13 September 1916 (National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress)