Black History Museum Opening Soon

Amanda Gilmore

For Bernice Henry and her nephew Darrell Smith, opening a black history museum in Ashland, Kentucky, is more than just a dream––it’s a mission.  That mission will be accomplished this spring when the C.B. Nuckolls Community Center and Black History Museum opens to the public.

“We feel like we were chosen to do this,” Henry said. “It’s something that had to be done for our community.”

The museum, located at 901 Kilgore Drive in Ashland, will include black history education, as well as archives and genealogy resources. The community has donated numerous items for display, including photos, dolls, and slave shackles. Numerous monetary donations have also been given for the museum, including through successful fundraising events.

“We can’t say enough about the collaboration, and the people in the community that jumped in,” Henry said. “It’s been overwhelming.”

Plans also include speaking tours and other interactive events. “We don’t want this to be just a place where you stare at things,” Henry explained. “We want it to be a living organism.”

In addition to featuring Ashland’s black history, the museum will showcase general black history. Smith has visited several black history museums across the country to get ideas and resources. “I think this museum will be a big draw,” he said. “It will bring more people to Ashland.”

The museum’s namesake C.B. Nuckolls was the principal of the segregated Booker T. Washington School in Ashland from 1922 to 1962 when the school closed due to desegregation. Part of the museum will be dedicated to the school, which burned in 1975, destroying all its contents. As a child, Henry was bussed into the school, each day from her home in Catlettsburg. “It’s hard for people today to understand why I went there,” she said. “I didn’t have an option.”

Henry said she’s surprised that many young people have no idea about black history. She remembers one year she helped judge a children’s Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest, and some of the participants thought King was a slave and freed the slaves. “I don’t fault the kids. I fault us for never teaching them. It’s not black history, it’s our history. It’s not a separatist thing, it’s a unity thing. You unify by sharing correct knowledge,” Henry said.

Both Smith and Henry are eager to open the doors for people to experience the museum for themselves. Henry shares her hopes for the museum with the help of a quote from Maya Angelou. “Angelou said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,’” Henry said. “That’s what I want people to experience at the museum. They may not be able to verbalize their feelings when they’re there, but I want them to have a good feeling they can carry on in their life and someone else’s.”

More information about the museum and how to help its mission is available at