LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — On Tuesday, Lexington city leaders will honor a community they worry is fading away. The event celebrates Fayette County’s rural Black hamlets and invites people to share what they know about them.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Fayette County was home to about 20 Black hamlets, mostly located in the rural parts of Lexington. Hamlets are small communities of religious, educational, and civic life, like churches, schools, and lodge halls. Many African Americans lived and worked there. Record-keeping during that time period was spotty or nonexistent, so the city’s “A Sense of Place” Steering Committee was created to educate Lexington about its rural hamlets, as well as preserve their history and heritage.
City leaders ask the community to join them at Jimtown Baptist Church at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to learn more about the local hamlet. They hope people who once lived in Jimtown, or have family members who did, will visit them with more information, photos, and other memorabilia.
“The gatherings are an opportunity for people who are connected to the hamlets to provide input that will help guide the work of the steering committee,” said Tiffany Brown, Lexington’s Equity Officer and chair of the Hamlets committee, “It is important that we do this work together, and the community’s voice should be our guide.”
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Today’s event is one piece of a much larger project to transform a historic school into a museum highlighting all the Black rural settlements in Fayette County. City leaders are still trying to figure out how much money they need to restore Rosenwald School in Cadentown, which taught African American students before the South was desegregated. They said some funding is available through the city, but the final amount will be announced at an official kick-off event for the fundraising effort on June 19, at Cadentown Baptist Church. The day will also feature tours of the school and food from Black Soil.
In the meantime, the project won’t be possible without community input and shared stories. Jimtown is only the second hamlet city leaders have visited. They hosted a similar event in Cadentown, but hope to soon see others and listen to more stories.
“The feedback we receive from these community gatherings is so important to the success of the hamlet project,” said Councilmember Kathy Plomin, who represents rural Fayette County. “Our plans are to reach out to numerous hamlets as we move forward with the initiative.”