Louisville Launches Black Heritage Tour Collection
Attractions partner to showcase Bourbon City’s African American legacies
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (January 27, 2021) — Louisville Tourism, the marketing agency that promotes the city as a travel destination, is unveiling new programming this spring celebrating impact of the African American contribution to Louisville’s history, heritage and culture.
For several years, the agency has been actively curating the city’s rich, cultural assets that reflect Louisville’s authentic Black Heritage with a dedicated plan to build an ongoing promotional campaign. Designed with immersive experiences in mind, these plans call for new leisure tourism offerings collaborating with local assets to highlight the African American influence in Kentucky with a special focus within the bourbon and horse racing industries and Muhammad Ali Tourism. These visitor experiences are a result of partnerships with several local attractions. The new outreach strategy also includes ongoing partnerships with organizations such as the National Civil Rights Trail, Black Bourbon Society, Kentucky Department of Tourism and the African American Travel Conference, slated to hold their annual conference in Louisville March 30-April 1.
The Unfiltered Truth Collection will allow visitors to journey back in time, look toward the future and explore the stories of some extraordinary people that built the Louisville experience as we know it today. Seven local attractions will share perspectives and histories that most have never heard before. Special preview in this online video.
What: New tours honoring Black Heritage in Louisville
When: Two are open now, all will be open by spring
Times: Tours vary by attraction, some are monthly, others will be offered multiple times each month
Cost: Experiences vary by attraction
Evan Williams: The Ideal Bartender Experience
Step back in time to the final days of Prohibition and into the secret Speakeasy at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Once inside, guests will meet Louisville native and renowned bartender, Tom Bullock – the First Black American to write and publish a cocktail book (in 1917). Sit down and learn about the life, legacy, and love of spirits from the man himself in this 45-minute presentation. Along the way, guests will taste premium whiskeys and even get to enjoy one of Mr. Bullock’s most famous creations.
The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage: Songbird of the South
The first in The Soul of Walnut Street Experience Series, Songbird of the South tells the story of Rhythm and Blues singer Mary Ann Fisher. The performance chronicles Fisher's life from her traumatic childhood in Henderson, Kentucky to the stage at Carnegie Hall. Learn of her destiny-changing win of a 1941 talent contest at the Lyric Theatre on Walnut Street and ascension to popular local, then traveling talent with the legendary Ray Charles band. Before her death in 1959, she would also perform with other greats like Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, James Brown, Hank Crawford, Jackie Wilson, Percy Mayfield, Bobby Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. Her compelling journey in becoming one of the first African American women to have a career as a Rhythm and Blues singer paved the way for future generations.
Frazier History Museum: From Enslaved to Empowered: Kentucky’s African American Experience through Bourbon
As the Official Starting Point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail™, the Frazier History Museum is developing a unique and immersive cultural experience that will inform and entertain patrons by navigating the unheard stories of African Americans who have made one of the State’s greatest products, Bourbon, into America’s Native Spirit. Told from multiple points of view, From Enslaved to Empowered will take you on a journey from right after World War II to the present, giving visitors an idea of what it took for African Americans to come out of the shadows of the history of Bourbon and into today’s headlines.
Locust Grove: Unfolding the Story – The Enslaved at Locust Grove
Experience the other side of Locust Grove as you accompany the Croghan family’s enslaved laundress and enslaved distillery assistant throughout the house and outbuildings as they go about their daily routines. This 90-minute tour will immerse you in the year 1816 as you witness the sights, smells, and sounds of a 19th century farm all while learning about lives and stories of the enslaved individuals at Locust Grove. This program will cover the realities and truths of enslaved life in 19th century Kentucky.
Kentucky Derby Museum: Two African American Experiences
African Americans have played an integral role in the history of Thoroughbred Racing. From slavery, to the Civil War, to the Jim Crow era that pushed them out of the sport and to modern day times. The Kentucky Derby Museum offers two experiences that explore the impact African Americans have made on horse racing.
- Proud of My Calling, An African American Experience in the Kentucky Derby
In a quiet urban cemetery in Kentucky, lie many of the greatest horsemen of the 19th and early 20th century - they were the jockeys, the trainers, the farriers and the grooms that made the Kentucky Derby what it is today. And they were all Black. Their stories are longing to be told - the incredible victories, the crushing defeats, the transcendence that horse racing provided as they struggled for equality, on and off the racetrack. Meet these incredible horsemen through costumed actors, historic paintings and photos, and even authentic artifacts from the past as we bring to life the stories about the African-American Experience in America's greatest horse race - the Kentucky Derby.
- African Americans in Thoroughbred Racing Tour
Take a tour through historic Churchill Downs Racetrack while learning about some of the most important African American figures in horse racing, to some other names that aren’t as well known—but should be. Connect all the historic dots on this tour while making stops at significant places at Churchill Downs that help tell these important stories.
Roots 101 African American Museum – The Sankofa Experience
Roots 101 African American Museum located on historic Main Street in downtown Louisville is striving to open its doors to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions, and experiences of African Americans using exhibits, programs and activities to illustrate Black history, culture and art. Roots 101 will showcase local and national artifacts as a museum dedicated to telling the story of the African American journey from Africa to all ports in between.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory- The Best Black Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of – An Interactive Discovery
Our curator had a mystery on her hands. We acquired two rare and precious photographs of a Black baseball team but what she saw in and on the photos did not match the description given. Who was this team, really? We had to find out. Join us for a hands-on journey of discovery as you search for clues and travel through time. Explore the team’s dominance in the face of racism – their defeated opponents included white teams. After making headlines, why did the memory of this great Black team fade away? Louisville was home to the best Black baseball team you’ve never heard of – help restore their rightful place in baseball’s historic line-up as we rediscover this team together and connect their heritage to today’s game.
To help shape these programs, Louisville Tourism involved the community through a Black Tourism Advisory Council led by Cleo Battle, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Much like a panel that was formed to help guide LGBTQ tourism initiatives, the agency invited members of the community to join the ongoing conversation about intentional inclusivity in the hospitality industry. Representatives from all major hospitality industry sectors participated and helped inform this new programming.
“Although these leisure tourism experiences began two years ago as an effort to curate the rich cultural assets involving Louisville’s Black history and heritage, they are coming to fruition at a very timely moment, on the heels of a national social justice push, further increasing our urgency and sense of purpose,” said Battle.
Said Karen Williams, President & CEO of Louisville Tourism, “Our primary mission remains to grow the economy through tourism, and it is our responsibility to our community to do that inclusively. Travel and tourism has long been a vital tool in helping change perceptions and bring people together across cultures. Our city’s economic health demands that the spirit of hospitality Louisville offers is to and for everyone.