In 1926, historian and author Carter G. Woodson announced plans for a Black History Week, celebrating the achievements of people of color, and coinciding with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14).
Lincoln’s birthdate is documented, but Douglass, a noted abolitionist, orator and newspaper publisher, was born a slave and did not know his actual birthdate. After gaining his freedom, he chose St. Valentine’s feast day as his birthday.
Fast forward to the turbulent 1960s when black faculty and black students at Kent State University in Ohio met and determined that a week wasn’t enough, and that the entire month of February should serve as a celebration of African American heritage and culture. In 1970, Black History Month as we know it today was born.
Bardstown, like cities across America, celebrates the contributions of African Americans throughout the month.
The African American Heritage Museum would be a good place to start learning more about these contributions. Located in the historic Union Church (circa 1812), the museum, which opened in June of 2021, chronicles the people of color who have added their threads to the tapestry of Bardstown history.
First floor exhibits focus on the history of Union Church and its alleged ties to the Underground Railroad. Displayed throughout the exhibition area are artifacts, including news clippings and photographs, telling the stories of Bardstown’s black citizens through their involvement in education, athletics, business, the military, politics and social causes.
On the second floor, visitors will find the church’s sanctuary, which has been left intact.
Although the Heritage Museum, like others on Bardstown’s Museum Row, is still observing its winter hours (by appointment only) until the first of March, program director Bill Sheckles says they have had an ambitious schedule during Black History Month.
“We are doing free individual and group tours which we can customize to the age and interests of the participants,” he says. “For adults, the tours usually last two hours, while we shorten the tours for elementary and middle school children to about an hour.”
The tours will continue throughout the month.
After learning about Bardstown’s African American history, pay a visit to one of the five black-owned businesses in the city. You can satisfy your hunger, take care of your own and your car’s health, and get taken for a ride at these establishments.
Uncle Spoony’s Sports Bar, Kitchen, Catering and Venue
If that seems like a mouthful, it’s because Greg “Uncle Spoony” Rogers, who co-owns the restaurant with his son Rodney Downs, has continued to adapt his business model. When he opened in 2020 during the pandemic, 90 percent of his business was outside catering.
Today, while he still caters special events, diners can also head to his recently renovated restaurant at 109 Guthrie Drive for a helping of local flavor, whether it be perfectly fried catfish, pulled pork or the “Hot Off the Grill” pork chop. The main dishes are accompanied by generous sides – mashed potatoes and gravy, mac ‘n cheese and melt-in-your-mouth hush puppies just like your mother made.
If you love wings, Uncle Spoony’s has you covered – from boneless to bones-in to “knuckle lickin’” whole wings for dipping in a choice of flavorful sauces, from smoked Buffalo to honey or sweet teriyaki.
Nostalgia lovers may recall that Rogers’ father, Colonel Louis Hawks Rogers, ran Colonel Hawk’s Restaurant on Payne Avenue during the days of segregated dining establishments.
Hawks, who had once overseen the White House kitchen during Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure as president, was a black owner of a business that catered to a white clientele.
That meant that the segregation laws of the time made it illegal for him or his family to eat in their own restaurant.
Sexy Plates Smoked Meat
Once you have sampled the offerings at Uncle Spoony’s, check out this sexy (and soulful) spot at 984 Chambers Blvd. As you might expect from its name, this is the place to go for smoked meats and owner Jackie Simmons delivers.
Pork and ribs are the specialties, and you can have your meats with side dishes not often seen on restaurant menus such as sauerkraut, collard greens and cornbread dressing.
And then there are the desserts – pecan pie and blackberry cobbler which will have you thinking you’re back in your grandmother’s kitchen.
As Jackie says, there’s something for everyone at Sexy Plates. It’s tacos on Tuesday and wings on Wednesday. The chef offers a special on Thursday, and seafood lovers have their day on Friday. Sexy Plates wraps up the week with Soul Food Saturday.
Upscale Energy & Nutrition
After the gastronomic goodies at Uncle Spoony’s and Sexy Plates, you will probably need some nutritional advice and maybe some supplements to boost your energy. You’ll find both at Upscale Energy and Nutrition at 997 Frost Avenue.
Owner Lashonda Fentress will help you discover your best self with her selection of protein powders, supplements, sugar-free teas and iced coffees, along with 30 flavors of healthy and delicious protein shakes.
If your body needs a tune-up on a regular basis, so does your car’s. Greg Woodson, who opened the business in 2020, and his staff are committed to making sure your prized possession runs smoothly and purrs like a cat.
For what many customers swear are the best prices in the business, the Oil Guys will change your car’s oil, rotate the tires, lubricate the brakes, and keep the wiper blades and air filters in good working condition. After a visit with the Oil Guys, your car or truck is ready for the open road.
Cutlass Royal Limos & Transportation
Even with your car in tip-top shape, there are times when you want to park it in the garage and leave the driving to someone else. Luckily, Roger Smith, owner of Cutlass Limo & Transportation, has been that someone else for 10 years at his 800 Pennebaker Avenue location.
With his 4-vehicle fleet of SUVs and limos, Smith can transport you across town or across the commonwealth. Whether you’re looking for an airport pick-up, plush transportation for your prom or wedding, or a stylish (and guilt-free) way of navigating the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Cutlass Limo & Transportation will give you the ride of your life.
We salute the Heritage Museum Staff and volunteers, and these black-owned establishments which have had a major role in making Bardstown the special community it is.