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Meet the Women Writing African American Horse Stories

Post Date: October 21, 2020

Please help us welcome our newest team members! Thanks to an Art Meets Activism grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the museum has hired five writers who are Kentucky-based, African American women. Two have been team members with the Chronicle project before and three are new to this endeavor. They bring unique perspectives and diverse writing backgrounds. 

These women have expressed a sensitivity and profound obligation to respectfully present the lives and times of African Americans in the horse industry. The writers are taking existing research and contributions to create biographical sketches, or profiles, of individuals. They are also researching and writing interpretive stories that delve deeper into the life experiences and cultural influences of equine work throughout the eras. 

Learn a little more about each writer.

Merlene Davis

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Merlene Davis is a native Kentuckian and graduate of the University of Kentucky. She worked in journalism for nearly 34 years, the last 33 at the Lexington Herald-Leader. As a general assignment reporter and later as a columnist, Ms. Davis wrote about local, state and national issues; racism and inequities at all levels; and the need for all of us to unflinchingly look in the mirror. She retired in 2015 and vowed to observe from afar. But the allure of uncovering facts about often-overlooked Black men and women in the horse industry pulled her back into writing again.

Yvonne Giles

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Yvonne Giles passionately shares her research about African Americans in the Central Bluegrass Region. Her interest began with family genealogy and broadened after becoming a board member of African Cemetery No. 2 in 2000. She served as consultant to the museum’s exhibit, Black Horsemen of the Kentucky Turf. Dr. Giles continues as a Research Consultant and Lead Artist with the Chronicle’s Women Writers Project. She has authored “African American Horsemen in Kentucky, 1825-1950”, J.B. Speed Art Museum’s exhibit catalog; “Remembering African Americans of Kentucky Equine Industry”, Kentucky Humanities magazine; “Stilled Voices Yet Speak: A History of African Cemetery No. 2”, Lexington; and “African Americans in the Bluegrass”, Idea Guide, VisitLex. Read more from Dr. Giles in her blogs about uncovering her family’s history and the African Cemetery No. 2.

Kenyarna Harden

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Kenyarna C. Harden obtained a baccalaureate degree in Psychology at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida. She moved to Kentucky in search of a career in library science at Kentucky State University. At the University’s library, she serves as the Circulation Library Technician. Ms. Harden is a graduate student at North Carolina Central University, focusing on digital librarianship and archives. She worked with the Museum as an intern, which exposed her to the untapped world of African Americans within the horse industry. The opportunity to be a narrator of these stories drew her in. It is her pleasure to detail their lives' struggles, strengths, and rewards.

Emily Hudson

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Emily Jones Hudson is a native of Hazard, Kentucky. A local pastor for 17 years, she has also spent 32 years in health information management. But writing has always been her passion. The inspiration for her writing includes nature, cool jazz, and the hunt for "the story". Ms. Hudson has conducted oral history interviews and worked on several oral history projects. She has authored three books and conducted several poetry workshops. Ms. Hudson's love of history and her belief that everyone has a story to tell drew her to the Chronicle project. She is excited about telling the stories of African Americans in the horse industry for future generations to read.

Shauna Morgan

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The author of Fear of Dogs & Other Animals (Central Square Press), Dr. Shauna M. Morgan is a poet-scholar and Associate Professor of creative writing and Africana literature at Howard University in Washington, DC. She has a passion for uncovering truths and learning little-known histories and has published widely on literature and arts of the African Diaspora. A new resident to Lexington, Kentucky, Dr. Morgan works at the University of Kentucky’s Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching. She is excited to research and write about all aspects of African Americans in the horse industry and proudly tends to a hopeful garden at her home in the historic East End.

Over the next several months, this community of writers will support each other through peer review and feedback. They have already contributed to a shared understanding of the significance of this project through insightful conversations. We are grateful for their work, and look forward to sharing their writing with you as profiles and stories on the Chronicle website. To our new writers, welcome aboard!

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

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