About the KAAHC
The mission of the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission it to identify and promote awareness of significant African American influences upon the history and culture of Kentucky and to support and encourage the preservation of Kentucky African American heritage and historic sites. The commission has 19 members appointed by the Governor and includes representatives from the state’s major universities, state agencies, community preservation organizations and interested citizens. The commission is administratively attached to the Kentucky Heritage Council, with the council providing staff assistance and program oversight.
Some of the commission’s ongoing programs include:
- - Rosenwald School survey and inventory project
- - Educational forums
[Enabling legislation KRS. 171.800]
||Kentucky African American Heritage
African American history in Kentucky has roots in the Commonwealth’s earliest history, as African Americans accompanied and assisted Daniel Boone upon his arrival to the new frontier in 1769. Later, as a border state during the Civil War, Kentucky’s unique condition did not lessen the cruelty and pain of slavery. However through hard work, strength and perseverance, African Americans prevailed, and today these experiences have left a lasting legacy of places that Kentucky takes pride in preserving.
The Kentucky Heritage Council / State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission are dedicated to preserving buildings and places important to the history of Kentucky African Americans. Kentucky offers an array of sites that tell the story of slavery, the Underground Railroad, Civil War, education and civil rights, and a historically black college is leading research efforts. Many architecturally significant buildings and museums preserve and promote local African American heritage. The Heritage Council has also worked in partnership with organizations across the state to identify remaining Rosenwald Schools in an effort to preserve and rehabilitate them.
African American Heritage Sites around the state include:
St. John AME Church
Lincoln Grant School
Willis Russell House
Kentucky State University
George Mahin House
Georgetown College Underground Railroad Institute, Georgetown
African American Cemetery #2
Cadentown Rosenwald School
Charles Young Park
South Hill Historic District
Uttingertown Union Benevolent Lodge
Chickasaw and Cherokee Parks
Lynch Colored School
Cherokee State Resort Park
National Underground Railroad Museum, Bierbower House
Southgate Street School
Halleck’s Chapel, School and Cemetery
Knights of Pythias Hall
Whitney Young Birthplace and Boyhood Home
Oliver Street School
The Kentucky African American Heritage Commission (KAAHC) was established formally on February 10, 1994 by Executive Order 94-145a to “promote awareness of significant African-American influences within the historical and cultural experiences of Kentucky.” Toward that end, the KAAHC administers an open grants program through which comparatively small awards are made to projects across the Commonwealth that focus on research, interpretation and preservation related to the KAAHC mission.
In August 2001, the KAAHC adopted its first strategic plan and resolved to:
- Assess the current state of scholarly knowledge and public awareness of Kentucky African American history and culture; the role and presence of African American studies in the curricula of Kentucky public schools and colleges; and the current state of efforts to preserve African American historic sites in Kentucky.
- Develop a long-range Kentucky African American history and culture research agenda—in five year increments, with appropriate goals and priorities; a long-range Kentucky African American site preservation and historic marker agenda; and a standard African American studies curriculum model for Kentucky public schools and colleges—emphasizing infusion, concentration and inter-culturalism.
To facilitate the implementation of this agenda, the KAAHC proposed to:
- Convene at least two meetings per year to which the following groups will be invited: all college-level African American faculty in Kentucky (regardless of discipline); all college-level faculty conducting research in “Black Studies” (regardless of race); members of local historical societies and other individuals interested in African American history and culture;
- Carry-out targeted studies using its own resources;
- Expand the publication and distribution of the KAAHC newsletter; and
- Craft an on-going curriculum development and faculty/teacher training program for Kentucky public schools and colleges.
Pursuant to this strategic agenda, through 2003-2004, the KAAHC was able to maintain both a presence and a reasonably effective program. The KAAHC newsletter was re-started and published at least twice each year. Statewide conferences were held that assessed the present state of research and preservation efforts (in 2002) and educational implications and applications related to the KAAHC mission (in 2003). Based on this input and analysis, the KAAHC requested a modest supplement to its statewide grants budget, funds for a “research coordinator” to conduct targeted research and a comparatively small pool of funds to support website development and publications. However, funding and other forms of intangible support became increasingly uncertain after 2004. Not only were no additional funds received, but the KAAHC grant budget was essentially eliminated as both the state economy and the political priorities of state government changed. As a result, the newsletter was suspended—and the grant program was pared down for 2003-2004, and suspended altogether for 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. After repeated requests, a small pool of one-time funds was made available for 2006-2007 and some funding for 2007-2009 was obtained for KAAHC to play a role in the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial.
In essence, the KAAHC implemented as much of its 2001 strategic plan as could be implemented without adequate resources. With a revitalized KAAHC, new leadership at the Kentucky Heritage Council and a new administration Frankfort, it is appropriate to close the 2001 plan and inaugurate a new planning cycle in 2008.
Strategic Directions 2008-2013
The need and rationale for the work of the KAAHC have not changed materially since 2001. If anything, the failure to address so many priority areas has made the need even more urgent. Consequently, the 2008-2013 planning cycle will combine the rather long unfinished agenda from the 2001 plan with several new initiatives outlined below.
Research and Preservation
- Expand the statewide open grants program (ca. $50,000 per year).
- Appoint a “Research Project Coordinator” (at least .75 FTE) to coordinate and/or conduct targeted research projects each year (some may be multi-year efforts) that may include community and regional histories, culture and folklore, oral history and education.
- Sponsor ongoing initiatives to increase the number of documented historic markers regarding African Americans in the Commonwealth.
- Sponsor ongoing research projects to create an African American Heritage tours/trails throughout the Commonwealth.
- Publish research findings as occasional papers and monographs; work to establish a relationship with the University Press of Kentucky (or another publisher) for the publication of book-length studies.
Public History, Research Dissemination and Applications
- Conduct a public information and education campaign to reacquaint the state with and raise the visibility of the KAAHC.
- Hold one statewide conference each year—focusing on themes identified in the “2002 Annual African American Heritage Forum Proceedings and Recommendations.” Ideally, conference proceedings will be published.
- Develop a state-of-the-art KAAHC website. Use the website to publish a KAAHC e-newsletter and e-journal.
- Develop collaborative relationships with Kentucky colleges and universities—particularly with the African American Studies programs based at these institutions.
- Work with Kentucky public schools and colleges to develop curriculum materials and to offer faculty development, and pre- and in-service teacher training.
- Sponsor cultural, public history and other educational programs throughout the Commonwealth.
Underground Railroad Advisory Council
- Request separate funding with which to operationalize fully the mission of the Underground Railroad Advisory Council (an as yet unfunded legislative mandate).
- Sponsor on-going initiatives to increase the number of African American sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
- Sponsor on-going research projects to create an Underground Railroad Freedom Trail in the Commonwealth.
Because this plan expands the role of KAAHC as a Commission, rather than assigning it the functions and responsibilities of an agency, the actual cost of its implementation should be minimal. Some of the key components have no cost, but are simply a matter of KAAHC taking the initiative in certain specific areas. However, additional funds would be needed for a “Research Coordinator”—and discretionary funds to underwrite the cost of meetings/conferences, the website and publications. The KAAHC will seek appropriate supplemental funding from the Kentucky General Assembly and, if possible, through grants and collaborative relationships with higher educational institutions.
Submitted for review:
Dr. J. Blaine Hudson, Chair, KAAHC
November 27, 2007