From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

McCracken County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870

McCracken County is located in southwestern Kentucky in the Jackson Purchase region. It was formed from a portion of Hickman County in 1825, and is bordered by the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers and four Kentucky counties. McCracken County was named for Virgil McCracken who was a soldier during the War of 1812. He was wounded in the Battle of the River Raisin and soon after was killed in a raid. Virgil McCracken had been a member of the Kentucky General Assembly, representing Woodford County. The county seat of McCracken County is Paducah, named for the Chickasaw leader Paduke (or Paduoca). There is a statue and historical marker honoring Chief Paduke at the corner of 19th and Jefferson Streets in Paducah. In 1830, the McCracken County population was 205 [heads of households], according to the U.S. Federal Census, and it increased to 8,622 by 1860, excluding the slaves. Below are the number of slave owners, slaves, free Blacks, and free Mulattoes for 1850-1870.

1850 Slave Schedule

  • 212 slave owners
  • 666 Black slaves
  • 135 Mulatto slaves
  • 7 free Blacks
  • 15 free Mulattoes

1860 Slave Schedule

  • 396 slave owners
  • 1,460 Black slaves
  • 288 Mulatto slaves
  • 26 free Blacks
  • 42 free Mulattoes

1870 U.S. Federal Census

  • 2,229 Blacks
  • 998 Mulattoes
  • About 56 U.S. Colored Troops listed McCracken County, KY as their birth location.

For more see McCracken County in The Kentucky Encyclopedia by J. E. Kleber; King to Obama: living the legacy while passing the torch by W. C. Young Community Center; The Light House newspaper; and West Kentucky Vocational School - Minute Book, 1924-1934 Office of Vocational Education. Also listen to the oral history recordings of African Americans from Paducah, KY, at Murray State University.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about McCracken County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Paducah, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Kentucky encyclopedia
NKAA Source: King to Obama : living the legacy while passing the torch
NKAA Source: The Light house (newspaper)
NKAA Source: West Kentucky Vocational School - minute book, 1924-1934 (archival material)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“McCracken County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2021,

Last modified: 2018-01-14 04:16:51