A Bowling Green community lost in time has been resurrected in the form of art at
the Kentucky Museum on WKU’s main campus. Jonesville was a once-thriving
African American community on the hill. It was demolished in the 1960s to allow the
expansion of WKU. We’ve covered Jonesville in past Throwback Thursday segments,
but this new exhibit at the Kentucky Museum inspired us to retell the story.
Founded just after the Civil War in the 1860s by freed slaves, Jonesville was a large
African American community in the heart of Bowling Green. It was bordered by
Dogwood Drive, Russellville Road, and the railroad tracks—notably where Diddle
Arena, Downing Student Union, and Bates Runner Hall are on today’s WKU campus.
Jonesville grew to include over 700 residents, with its own elementary school, a
couple of churches, and locally-owned and operated Black businesses. The residents
were very tight-knit, heavily focused on school, church, and family. But the fate of
Jonesville was lost to urban renewal, as the state acquired the land in the late 1960s
and relocated residents to other areas of Bowling Green.
Local artist Alice Gatewood Waddell and WKU professor and artist Mike Nichols
have created a beautiful Jonesville mural on display in the lobby at Kentucky
Museum. The buon fresco was supported thru grant funding from the E. Rhodes and
Leona B. Carpenter foundation, giving three student interns the chance to work with
the artists to bring the mural to life.
Many stories of Jonesville’s past have been told throughout the years, including
more information at the African American Museum in Bowling Green. A visit to the
Kentucky Museum website will take you to Jonesville projects from the WKU Honors
College and History department, WKU Folklife archives, the WKU Library Special
Collections, and more.