DANVILLE, Ky. - More than 20 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, black children were being educated by a former slave in a two-story log house in central Kentucky.
The Kentucky Historical Society and Boyle Landmark Trust dedicated a historical marker Monday afternoon outside the Willis Russell House in Danville. Barbara Hulette, chairwoman of Boyle Landmark Trust, hopes the marker will help the public better understand Russell’s story and the house’s significance.
“People here in Danville had seen this log structure, didn’t even know what it was, had no idea what it was about, the history of it. They hadn’t been in it. It’s just been kind of lying dormant for a number of years.”
Willis Russell was owned and educated by Revolutionary War Lieutenant Robert Craddock of Bowling Green. When Craddock died in 1837, he left the Danville property to Russell under the stipulation that he pass on his education to other African Americans.
“Who could believe that right here education was going on in the 1830’s and African American children were allowed to learn?” says Hulette.
Boyle Landmark Trust owns and operates the Willis Russell House. They raised $2,500 in donations to purchase the historical marker.