Potter College News
What Happened to Jonesville? Receives Kentucky History Award
- Tiffany Isselhardt
- Monday, June 5th, 2023
The Kentucky Folklife Program have received a 2023 Kentucky History Award in recognition for their work on the What Happened to Jonesville? exhibition.
Each year, the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) presents the Kentucky History Award for exhibitions in recognition of outstanding achievement for projects that promote the value of Kentucky history through awareness, preservation, and appreciation of state and local history. Receipt of the award demonstrates a project’s significance in four categories (1) Value by making a significant contribution to Kentucky and local history; (2) Rigor in ensuring that content is accurate, balanced, and meets established state and national standards; (3) Relevance by being meaningful, accessible, and of benefit to its audience; and (4) Accessibility by promoting availability, ease of use, and adherence to established industry standards.
Jonesville was a vibrant, prosperous African American community in Bowling Green. The earliest land deed dates to 1881, but the community likely began earlier. At its height, Jonesville had 85 houses and was home to many families who worked, attended school, and worshipped at church, and lived as a community. In 1963, the City of Bowling Green directed a campaign of "urban renewal" that demolished Jonesville and removed its people. The land was sold to WKU. Although the buildings are gone and many residents have passed on, Jonesville's stories live on through former residents and their descendants.
What Happened to Jonesville? is the result of a partnership between the Kentucky Folklife Program, Kentucky Museum, African American Museum of Bowling Green, WKU Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology, and Kentucky Arts Council. The project began in the summer of 2022, when seven Southcentral Kentucky residents explored the history and story of Jonesville through the Community Scholars program, a statewide training program for documenting traditional arts and culture. Guided by the Kentucky Folklife Program and Kentucky Arts Council, this group of researchers explored how to conduct fieldwork research, then applied their training to conduct oral history interviews with former residents of Jonesville and their descendants, creating the interpretive exhibit.
The exhibition appeared in poster format at the Kentucky Museum during WKU’s Homecoming in 2022 and remained on view until early 2023. A traveling pop-up version, a virtual exhibit, and an exhibition catalog have been created to disseminate the exhibition as widely as possible. The virtual exhibition is available online here, and the poster exhibition and catalogs will be on view at the African American Museum of Bowling Green when it reopens in Fall 2023.
Special thanks to our guest curators and Jonesville descendants – Wathetta Buford, Maxine Ray, and Alice Gatewood-Waddell – as well as the Community Scholars and Jonesville residents and descendants who made preservation of this community possible. Additional thanks to the project’s sponsors, notably the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the WKU President’s Office and Jonesville Reconciliation Committee.
For more about the KHS’s 2023 Kentucky History Awards, visit https://history.ky.gov/history-awards
About the Kentucky Museum
The Kentucky Museum celebrates all aspects of southcentral Kentucky’s art, history and culture. “Kentuckians need to know Kentucky” was the Museum’s earliest conceptual framework, which took shape under WKU’s founding President, Dr. Henry Hardin Cherry. Today, the Museum is a steadfast educational campus partner helping to inspire innovation, elevate community and transform the lives of WKU students and the region. To learn more, visit wku.edu/kentuckymuseum/
For more information, contact Tiffany Isselhardt at (270) 745-3369.