Monday, August 21, 2000

Park to share stories of forgotten history

Blacks, Indians remembered

By Kimberly Hefling
The Associated Press

        MIDDLESBORO, Ky. — Slaves accompanied Daniel Boone as he blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap in 1775, but their story is not as well known as that of the Kentucky frontiersman.

        “A lot of people who live in Kentucky, their ancestors came through the Gap and they don't even know it,” said Pam Moore, a ranger at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

        Also often left out of the popular history of Cumber land Gap, where thousands of settlers followed Boone's path into Kentucky, are the American Indians who lived and hunted in the region before the settlers arrived, Ms. Moore said.

        A historical celebration at the park Sept. 29-Oct.1, however, called “Within the Shadows of the Cumberland Gap,” will include the stories of both African-Americans and American Indians. Officials hope that by having re-enactments featuring American Indians, longhunters, slaves, trades people such as blacksmiths and indentured servants, Gap visitors will get a feel for what it was like in the time period for all population groups, Ms. Moore said.

        “A lot of the lesser known stories are what we want to bring out at the event,” Ms. Moore said.

        In recent years, African-Americans and American Indians in increasing numbers have sought information about their heritage at places such as the Gap, said Nicole Harris, program coordinator for the African-American and Native American Heritage Commission of the Kentucky Heritage Council.

        The Gap area, where the borders of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee meet, is one place mentioned in a state-produced book called Tapestry — A Visitor's Guide to African-American Heritage.

        Ms. Harris, who is black, said she understands the drive by minorities to better understand their history. When she visits historic places, she said she likes to look beyond the information presented.

        “I also think about us and wonder, "What were we doing?'” Ms. Harris said.

        All the groups that played a part in Cumberland Gap's history can be found in primary documents such as diaries and letters, said Blaine Hudson, chairman of the Department of Pan-African Studies and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Louisville.

        It's only when people went back to write history

        that these groups became left out of the picture, Mr. Hudson said.

        “It's in the records. If it exists in the records at all it's in the primary-source material, the original stuff, so the popular accounts have tended to sort of bypass that,” Mr. Hudson said.

        Part of the problem also was that these groups were not able to write their stories.

        “What you have to do to find out about them is you've got to sort of read between the lines in the works of people who do write about their lives,” said Marion B. Lucas, author of History of blacks in Kentucky, Volume one: From slavery to segregation.

        In the post-Revolutionary War era, Kentucky was considered the promised land with fertile soil, a place to start fresh and, for the common person in Virginia and the Carolinas, a place to become a property owner. By Kentucky's statehood in 1792, more than 60,000 people had followed Boone's trail because the only other main route into the state from the East was on the Ohio River.

        The Rev. Lewis Craig, a Baptist preacher, told his Virginia flock that “Heaven is a Kentucky of a Place” before moving them to the state.

        Many of the wealthier settlers brought their slaves with them to do chores such as cooking, hunting and settling the homestead. Other African-Americans served as guides. In 1775, slaves accompanied Boone on the famous trail-marking trip, including a slave woman who helped Boone's daughter Susannah with the cooking.

        On an earlier, less fruitful trip in 1773, two slaves, Adam and Charles, were part of a traveling party camping near the Gap that included Daniel Boone's son James. The party was raided by Indians and some including Adam escaped, but James and others were killed.

        Charles was taken captive, but his body was later found 40 miles away. He died from a blow to the head, according to the Kentucky Historical Society.

        It's also thought that an unknown number of freed slaves went through the Gap to come into Kentucky looking for a new life, Ms. Lucas said.

        Mr. Hudson praised Cumberland Gap National Historical Park for trying to include forgotten chapters of the Cumberland Gap's story in its upcoming 18th century celebration.

        “That's a very exciting period,” Mr. Hudson said. “(You just) want to make sure the full cast of characters is represented.”


               Cumberland Gap National Historical Park:


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