— Downtown African-American Heritage Trail —
Lexington's Long History with Slavery
A Slave Jail Stood Here
This site was once one of the city's largest slave jails—Megowan's. For more than 20 years, Thomas Megowan held enslaved individuals in his jail until he had enough people to ship to markets in Natchez, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana—the enslaved were literally "sold down the river."
Lexington was one of America's largest slave markets from the 1820s until the Civil War. Thousands of men, women, and children were bought and sold like cattle and horses.
Demand for slaves changed law
To protect their value for slave owners, an 1833 law tried to prevent importing enslaved individuals into Kentucky other than for permanent relocation. With a growing labor demand on Deep South plantations, the law was repealed in 1849.
Driven by Money
Profited from the Area's Enslaved
Slave owners weren't the only ones to profit from the slave trade in Lexington. Bands of men formed patrols that captured runaways and re enslaved free African Americans unlucky enough to cross their paths.
Slave jailers served as middle men for these patrollers and other slave dealers. Their squalid slave jails were used to hold enslaved African Americans
awaiting auction or transportation to Southern markets.
Slave jails were profitable businesses
In addition to Megowan's slave jail on this site, other downtown slave jails such as Robards' and Pullum's were listed in business directories. Newspapers ran their ads for slave auctions and sales.