Kentucky State University professors Dr. Erin Gilliam, Dr. Mary Barr, and Dr. F. Erik Brooks recently spoke on a panel at the Ohio Valley History Conference. The Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort hosted the conference.
The Kentucky State professors conceived of the panel—Black Frankfort Histories Matter—because they felt the important histories of black Kentuckians, in Frankfort especially, must be collected, preserved and shared.
During her presentation, Gilliam chronicled Kentucky State University’s remarkable history. She described the role Kentucky State—the only publicly funded Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Kentucky—played during the ever-changing educational landscape of 20th century Kentucky. Gilliam also spoke about the challenges Kentucky State faced internally during desegregation, specifically surrounding self-identity.
Barr described her visits to local museums where she noticed an absence of African American artifacts and the sanitization of difficult histories.
“We face challenges in our local archives and museums,” said Barr. “But we must work to do a better job of telling these stories of black Kentuckians.”
Brooks concluded the panel by discussing the process of creating an African American history museum at Kentucky State. Brooks mentioned adding a museum studies certificate or course sequence to make graduates with history degrees more competitive.