Kentucky Historical Society
New Collection of Letters at KHS Offers Glimpse into Slavery, Freedom and Families’ Lives
FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 30, 2012) — The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) recently acquired a collection of 19th century letters that depict the lives of both free and enslaved Kentucky families, in Lexington and Hopkinsville. Referred to as the Watson and Robinson letters, these handwritten documents contain detailed family history information and offer a glimpse into the African-American communities in those two Kentucky cities.
The collection contains a total of 27 letters, with the earliest dated 1841. Locations mentioned in the letters include Hopkinsville; Lexington; Paducah; Mississippi City, Miss.; Brandon, Miss.; and Williamson County, Ill.
“These letters are really a treasure trove of family history information,” said Louise Jones, director of KHS Library and Special Collections. “They offer a rare glimpse into the lives of both free and enslaved African-Americans in Kentucky.”
The Watson family letters – penned mostly by Isabel Watson – originate in Mississippi and include news of a family’s health, activities, church and religion, births and deaths; and describe slavery in Hopkinsville. The Robinson letters originate in Lexington and describe important family matters such as a wife’s death, the children’s health, a remarriage, the farm and freedom.
The Watson and Robinson Families Letters collection was purchased by the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation, a private nonprofit organization that exists to support the mission of KHS. The letters have been cataloged and digitized and are now available for researchers. To view them, visit www.history.ky.gov and click “Search our Collections.” Choose the KHS Collections Catalog and search for “Watson and Robinson.”
An agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Kentucky Historical Society, established in 1836, is committed to helping people understand, cherish and share Kentucky's history. The KHS history campus includes the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Old State Capitol and the Kentucky Military History Museum at the State Arsenal. For more information about the Kentucky Historical Society and its programs, visit www.history.ky.gov.