Slavery

Somerset Community College

A discovery during a sunrise service in the Somerset City Cemetery has led to the creation of a memorial for slaves buried in unmarked graves. 

Charles Leveridge is president of the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Association. He said a section of the city cemetery that was thought to be unused is actually an unmarked burial site for area slaves. He said the original plan was to place a marker in that one cemetery, but the group is now focused on a bigger mission.

“The more we researched the issue, the more we found that there were numerous cemeteries throughout Pulaski County, and surrounding counties around Lake Cumberland, that have slaves interred that have no markers,” said Leveridge.

The group now has a design for a memorial sculpture designed by an Atlanta artist that will be located at Somerset Community College. The artist will be a guest at a unity breakfast at the college on Jan. 13, in advance of Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 16. 

Ky Commission on Human Rights

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights’ governing board wants to see a change to a section of the state constitution that allows slavery as criminal punishment.

Section 25 of the Kentucky Constitution's Bill of Rights reads, “Slavery and involuntary servitude in this State are forbidden, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The text was ratified in August 1891.

The commission unanimously passed a resolution Thursday urging Kentuckians to get rid of the provision and issued a statement saying its removal would be another step toward expunging “all vestiges of the cruel and immoral institution of slavery" following this summer's racially-motivated church killings in Charleston, S.C.

Commission executive director John J. Johnson says he was recently surprised to learn of the provision’s presence in the state constitution.

“Someone called it to my attention a few months ago and I almost thought surely slavery is not still referenced in the Kentucky constitution and we looked it up and, sure enough, it was,” Johnson said.

“Why not remove it? There’s no need for it to be suggested that slavery is even legal as a punishment for a crime," Johnson said.