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‘Traces’ Tour focuses on the lives of enslaved people who ran Henry Clay Estate

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 4:27 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Many people come to Ashland to visit the grounds and home of Henry Clay. But one of the tours offered puts a spotlight on the people who kept the estate running.

“The Dupuy family that were very close to the Clay family and Charlotte Dupuy was very famous because she sued Henry for her freedom when he was secretary of state,” said Jim Clark, the executive director of the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation.

The Dupuys and more than 100 others are featured. Many of them still have no known name.

“If we can even just give people a glimpse of the lives that were lived here beyond the Clays, I think we’re really doing not only a service to the Black community in Lexington, but we’re doing a service to the history of the United States,” said Brenna Pye, manager of education at the Ashland – Henry Clay Estate.

The tour is centered around just one photograph and one drawing.

“There are traces of individuals, a lot of these people did not leave behind primary sources,” Pye said.

Historians used newspaper articles, listening sessions and other artifacts to tell the stories of some of the Black Americans that were overlooked for years.

“Lewis Richardson. He was enslaved here, he worked with the farm animals, he escaped through the Underground Railroad and we have a speech that he made after he escaped,” Pye said.

Clark says “Traces” provides a complete narrative of Clay and his estate.

“Clay is known for his three great compromises. All of which dealt with the growth of the nation as well as him trying to slow down the growth of slavery so that it was balanced in this country between the north and south,” Clark said.

He says Clay, like other historical figures, benefited from the slavery, while pushing for it to gradually end.

Now, a walking tour honors the resilience and resistance of those who walked the grounds years ago.

“They had families, they went to church, they loved each other, had children and had meals together,” Pye said.

Historians say the tour is designed to focus on who the slaves were as people, and not just their labor.

Starting next week, the Traces tour will be offered Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 1:00 p.m. You can reserve your tickets here on the estate’s website.

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