I have always liked Russellville. It’s in Logan County. The northern section of the county is hilly, bordering, Muhlenberg County. As you go south, the land gets more level, becoming rich farmland.
Russellville seemed genteel. The people were (and still are) gracious. The historic architecture is good and of interest. It was always a comfortable town to be in. I spent time there in the 70’s on the original Kentucky Documentary Photographic Project, and subsequently visited while doing commercial work, and on another occasion while riding a bicycle cross Kentucky. I like Russellville.
Russellville has a town square. In the square is a large monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers, a smaller granite monument commemorating the Sovereignty Convention held in Russellville in 1861. At that convention, representatives of 68 counties met and “BY THE ANCIENT RIGHT OF SELF DETERMINATION AND REVOLUTION, SET UP A NEWLY CONSTITUTED STATED OF KENTUCKY . . . UNDER THIS NEW REGIME THE SOVEREIGNTY OF OUR PEOPLE FOUND A MEDIUM OF EXPRESSION FOR SYMPATHY WITH THE SOUTHERN CAUSE IN WHICH THERE COULD BE NO STIGMA OF TREASON.” So reads the monument. There is also a Kentucky State historical plaque commemorating that event.
The town square is bisected by a paved walkway. On the other side of the walkway from the Confederate memorials is another state historical plaque commemorating Alice Allison Dunnigan, the first African-American woman to gain press credentials for both houses of Congress and the White House. Alice was also a civil rights activist and served on presidential commissions during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Ms. Dunigan is memorialized with a bronze statue at the Struggles for Emancipation and Equality in Kentucky museum sited on a former plantation homesite 6 blocks from the town square monuments.
Logan county had the second highest number of lynchings in of any county in Kentucky. John Rhodes, a lawyer who defended a black man charged with murder in 1908, stated, “It was as easy to raise a (lynch) mob in Logan County in those days as to drop a hat . . .” Rhodes client was spirited away from the mob, so the mob lynched four other black men instead.
Kentucky is a land of contrasts. On one hand we have a town square honoring the town’s confederate history, and six blocks away there is an emerging museum honoring African-American contributions to our culture.