The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

I Scream America: The History of Enslaved People at Oxmoor Plantation

The state of Kentucky and its people have a complex relationship with enslavement and the disenfranchisement of Black and Indigenous peoples. The institution of slavery touched every aspect of American life before, during, and after the Civil Warand we still see the scars of bondage on our state today. 

The title "I Scream America" comes from the art of Red Biddix, whose work from the Filson collection is featured in this digital exhibit. In this work, Biddix presents her view of how America was founded on anti-Blackness and white supremacy, and her belief that these inequalities continue to be baked in our education systems, prisons, police workforces, and more.  

This digital exhibit highlights the families of those who were enslaved by the Bullitt family at the Oxmoor and Cottonwood plantations in Kentucky from the founding of the state to the late 1870s. After a brief history of the two plantations, this exhibit discusses the roles that gender, marriages, hemp house burnings, and self-emancipation played in subverting the institution of slavery. This exhibit reworks the Bullitt Family Papers-Oxmoor Collection, one of the Filson's largest manuscript collections, to speak from the perspective of those in bondage, and to highlight their agency within enslavement. 

One of these families is the Sanders family, headed by Eliza Sanders and her husband, Jim Sanders. While not all people enslaved by the Bullitt family were tied by blood to the Sanders family, the use of the Sanders name in the project and the digitization and exhibition of these sources aims to recognize all of the people and families enslaved by the Bullitt family and bring academic attention to the complex community they fostered among each other while in bondage.


Johansen, Emma. Work on this exhibit won a 2022 Kentucky History Award from the Kentucky Historical Society for Johansen as intern project of the year.