Season One | Episode 3

Episode Three: Recovering History
Hosted by Dan Gediman. With
Vanessa HoldenRicky JonesPatrick Lewis, Shirley Harmon, Elizabeth Stites, Chenoweth Stites Allen, Lisa Bowlds-Williams, Kate Stites, Russ Bowlds, and Brigitt Johnson, and featuring Louis Robert Thompson, Jacqui Blue, Keith McGill, Mark Forman, and Alec Volz.  

Due to prohibitions against enslaved people learning to read and write, there are only a few written records left behind by formerly enslaved Kentuckians. But thankfully, over 100 people were interviewed during the 1930s about their experiences while enslaved. These narratives, combined with letters and diaries kept by white enslavers, help us better understand the true nature of slavery in Kentucky.  Episode Transcript 


Dr. Vanessa M. Holden

Vanessa M. Holden is an assistant professor of History and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky.

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Vanessa M. Holden is an assistant professor of History and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Holden’s current book project, tentatively titled, Surviving Southampton: Gender, Community, Resistance and Survival During the Southampton Rebellion of 1831(University of Illinois Press), explores the contributions that African American women and children, free and enslaved, made to the Southampton Rebellion of 1831, also called Nat Turner’s Rebellion.

Dr. Holden’s work and writing has been published in Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, Perspectives on History, Process: A Blog for American History, and The Rumpus. She also blogs for Black Perspectives and The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History.

In addition to her work on enslaved women and slave rebellion, Dr. Holden also co-organizes the Queering Slavery Working Group (#QSWG) with Jessica Marie Johnson (Johns Hopkins University). Her second project, Forming Intimacies: Queer Kinship and Resistance in the Antebellum American Atlantic, will focus on same gender loving individuals and American slavery.

Dr. Holden also serves as a faculty adviser or consultant on a number of public history and digital humanities projects including: Freedom on the Move (a digital archive of runaway slave adds); Black Horsemen of the Kentucky Turf (an exhibit chronicling the intersecting histories of African Americans and the horse industry in Kentucky), and a grant project aimed at bringing a driving tour and museum to Southampton County, Virginia, that interprets the Southampton Rebellion.

Find her on Twitter @drvholden.

Dr. Ricky L. Jones

Dr. Ricky L. Jones is Professor and Chair of the University of Louisville’s Department of Pan-African Studies.

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Dr. Ricky L. Jones is Professor and Chair of the University of Louisville's Department of Pan-African Studies.  A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Jones was educated as an undergraduate at the U.S. Naval Academy, Morehouse College (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s alma mater). He was only the second African-American to receive a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Kentucky where he specialized in Political Philosophy and Comparative Politics. His books include: two editions of “Black Haze: Violence, Sacrifice, and Manhood in Black Greek-Letter Fraternities” and “What’s Wrong with Obamamania?: Black America, Black Leadership, and the Death of Political Imagination.”

He is currently co-authoring a new book with attorney and award-winning cartoonist Marc Murphy titled, “Kaepernick, Confederates, and Con-Artists.” He has written hundreds of scholarly and magazine articles, book chapters and opinion columns. 

Dr. Jones has served as a local, national, and international social and political analyst across various media including appearances on HBO, CNN, Fox News, ESPN, the Travel Channel, a variety of NPR and PBS programs, the BBC, E! Entertainment, the Katie (Couric) Show, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, and many others. He is the host of the “Erasing History’ Podcast and the “Ricky Jones Show” from iHeart Media. The “Ricky Jones Show” was named Best of Louisville’s 2017 “Best Radio Show.”

He is a contributing opinion columnist for the Courier-Journal and USA Today Network for which he was named 2018 “best editorial/opinion columnist” by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Among many other honors, Jones has been named one of Louisville’s 25 Future Leaders by Louisville Magazine and was also recognized as one of DIVERSE Issues in Higher Education's “25 to Watch in Academia.”  He is a life-member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Visit him at:

Follow on Twitter: @DrRickyLJones

Dr. Patrick Lewis

Patrick Lewis is Scholar in Residence at the Filson Historical Society and is co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Ohio Valley History.

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Patrick Lewis is Scholar in Residence at the Filson Historical Society and is co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Ohio Valley History. A Trigg County, Kentucky, native, Lewis graduated from Transylvania University and holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Kentucky. He has worked for the National Park Service and the Kentucky Historical Society, and has won digital history grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Lewis is author of For Slavery and Union: Benjamin Buckner and Kentucky Loyalties in the Civil War (2015). He tweets about public history at @KyPLewis.

Episode Bibliography

Learn more about slavery and its lasting effects in America by exploring the source materials referenced in The Reckoning. Our bibliography contains many items that are available to read or download for free. If you choose to purchase any of the books through the links provided, as an Amazon Associate, our non-profit organization Reckoning, Inc. earns commissions from qualifying purchases.

Bruner, Peter. (paid link) A Slave’s Adventures Toward Freedom: Not Fiction, but the True Story of a Struggle. Oxford, Ohio: 1918. Read for free.


Bullitt, Thomas W. (paid link) My Life at Oxmoor; Life on a Farm in Kentucky Before the War. Louisville: Filson, 1911. Read Free at Internet Archive


Fedric, Francis. (paid link) Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky; by Francis Fedric, an Escaped Slave. London: Wertheim, Macintosh and Hunt, 1863.  Read Free at DocSouth


Jones, Ricky L. (paid link) Black Haze: Violence, Sacrifice, and Manhood in Black Greek-Letter Fraternities. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015.


Marrs, Elijah P.  (paid link) Life and History of the Rev. Elijah P. Marrs, First Pastor of Beargrass Baptist Church, and Author. Louisville, Kentucky: The Bradley and Gilbert Company, 1885. Read for free


Lewis, Patrick. (paid link) For Slavery and Union: Benjamin Buckner and Kentucky Loyalties in the Civil War. University Press of Kentucky, Mar 9, 2015


Smith, Harry. (paid link) Fifty Years of Slavery in the United States of America. Grand Rapids, Michigan: West Michigan Print. Co., 1891.
Read for free.


Yetman, Norman R. “The Background of the Slave Narrative Collection.” American Quarterly 19, no. 3 (1967): 534–53. Read for free at


Yagyu, Tomoku. 2006. “Slave Traders and Planters In the Expanding South: Entrepreneurial Strategies, Business Networks, and Western Migration In the Atlantic World, 1787-1859”. Read free at UNC


Young, Amy L. and Young, J. Blaine Hundson. “Slave Life at Oxmoor”, Filson Club History Quarterly, Summer 2000, Vol. 74, NO. 3. Read Free at Filson

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