LEXINGTON, Ky. — Independence, African American history and the structures that started it for many will soon light a path to the past in Lexington.
The city is partnering with Black community leaders for “A Sense of place” — a brand new plan that will soon recognize and preserve historically Black hamlets.
A long-time resident of Cadentown, Dr. Alvin Seals, describes the place he has called home as Black-owned and developed.
The community is named after Owen Caden, a white landowner who sold the property to freed slaves and Black soldiers who fought in the Civil War. These locations once held lodges, churches, corner stores, a street system and more growing into a functioning village.
Cadentown also holds one of the last Julius Rosenwald-funded schools in the country that is still standing.
Cadentown had around eight original families and a few families — like Seals and his family — still own original settlements.
“All of the families owned their properties, and most of them had tobacco allotment, and made a little money year after year, growing tobacco, and so forth and so on,” Cadentown Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Leon Slatter explained. He went on to say the hamlets were self-sufficient economically and utilized Kentucky resources.
This year, a steering committee was formed to help highlight 20 different hamlets in Lexington that will inform city leaders and the public about what they represent.
“Properties in that hamlet or what used to be a real hamlet, speaks toward the determination, perseverance of newly freed Black people,“ Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Equity and Implementation Officer Tiffany Brown said. This is why they felt drawn to kick off the project on the national holiday of Juneteenth.
Seals is part of that team and as someone who knows what this neighborhood is about, and said family plays a huge role in its legacy. He also believes that tradition and history are linked to them and should be prioritized.
“Research the families and their names that existed in these towns in the 18 and 1900s.” Seals said. He also hopes that it could help further the preservation of several hamlets, just like Cadentown.
Seals elaborated on how careful research and proper focus can even reach those beyond Kentucky, saying, “Materials, something to be moved by the government, whether local, state and federal, if they were to put money into it, but it would be a concrete move to enhance the Black experience and the Black community in America.”
Plans for Cadentown and many others are underway and will soon host an educational and unique way to take in Kentucky history.