Historical society nets grant

March 14, 2008


By Scott McDaniel/Sentinel-News Staff Writer

Three separate historical projects now have grant funding to help them follow through with their plans to remember local history.

The Kentucky African American Heritage Commission Lincoln Preservation Grants total $20,000 and will go toward funding three projects that draw attention to African American heritage from the times of President Abraham Lincoln and the civil war.

"The African American experience in the time of Abraham Lincoln is a complex and fascinating chapter in Kentucky and United States history, and we are pleased that these grants can help tell a small part of the larger story," Dr. J. Blaine Hudson, chair of the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission and dean of the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences said in a press release.

One of the projects and accompanying grant goes to the Shelby County Historical Society. It is receiving $5,000 to use ground-penetrating radar technology to identify, recover and preserve the site of the "Simpsonville Slaughter."

According to a story printed in The Shelby Record on Friday, Feb. 21, 1913, nearly fifty years after the massacre, the slaughter occurred as Company "E" of the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry drove government cattle through snow on their way to Louisville on January 25, 1865. Without warning, a group of Confederate guerrillas cut them off near Simpsonville and started shooting, murdering the surprised men in cold blood.

The dead were reportedly buried in an open grave near the massacre site.

The project aims to discover more about the site, memorialize it and eventually nominate the location to the National Register of Historic Places.

Another project that will use the grant money belongs to the University of Louisville African American Theatre Program. The program is receiving $10,000 to create and produce a play that focuses on Abraham Lincoln's emancipation proclamation. The play is currently under the working title of "Abraham Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House" and will be written by Carlyle Brown for the 2008-2009 U of L theatre season.

The production will center around the impact of Lincoln's historic proclamation that freed slaves:

"That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."

Another project, belonging to Historic Russellville, Inc. is receiving $5,000. Plans are in place for a museum exhibit in the West Kentucky African American Heritage Center in Russelville. The exhibit will focus on a controversial figure in the civil war from Logan County -- General Stephen Burbridge.

Burbridge commanded Kentucky's military during the civil war and was known as "the Butcher of Kentucky" due to the fact that he oversaw many executions during the war. However, Burbridge is also remembered for being a firm supporter of Abraham Lincoln and for forming the U.S. Colored Cavalry with newly freed slaves, even leading them into battle in 1864.