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

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

McCracken County is located in southwestern Kentucky in the Jackson Purchase region. Formed from a portion of Hickman County in 1825, it is bordered by the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers and four Kentucky counties.

McCracken County was named for Virgil McCracken, 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 enslaved. Below are the number of slave holders, enslaved, 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 61 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. See the "U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865" and other military service records in Ancestry for names and additonal information.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about McCracken County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Paducah, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“McCracken County (KY) Enslaved, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 23, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-06-21 19:31:40