LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Lexington has a dark past. For nearly 80 years, the city was the site of one of the largest slave markets in the country. However, it hasn’t always been easy to access the historical records of those bought and sold here, until now.

There are more than 60,000 pages detailing the city’s darkest chapter, where African Americans were objectified. They were auctioned off, just like a horse, or inherited, like a house. Every deed and will prove this, from the late 1700s through 1865, can be read at the Fayette County Clerk’s Office, and soon from anywhere.

The University of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Institute of Black Studies, the Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative, and the county clerk’s office are proud to present the Digital Access Project (DAP).

“Books fade and deteriorate,” said Deputy County Clerk, Shea Brown. “These records will last forever.”

The team has made great strides since the spring, in digitizing these historical documents. They have less than 30 books left to scan and should be done by the summer. After that, they’ll polish the pages so they’re better for online viewing.

Once complete, the project will allow future generations to find their ancestors and see how they’re connected to Kentucky’s history, something Yvonne Gilies has been doing for decades.

“1800 is when I found that my enslaved family came into the state with their enslavers,” said Giles. “When I found their names, I screamed. I probably scared everybody in here.”


Since tracing her roots to the Bluegrass, Giles says she feels closer to her family and encourages others to do the same. She also hopes the DAP educates the community about concerns associated with racial injustice and equality.

“It kind of validates the importance of learning more outside the history book, outside the classroom,” said Giles.

Brown agrees with Giles, and as more people read these records, he hopes it helps to right the wrongs of the past as well.

“We can explore effective conversations to have racial reconciliation,” said Brown. “So, exposing the history of Kentucky to explore conversations on how we can all come together in unity.”