ASHLAND Darrell Smith had a seed planted within and a vision to preserve sections of Ashland history that were at risk of fading with time.

Smith’s vision came to fruition Saturday afternoon as he cut a silk ribbon, officially declaring the C.B. Nuckolls Community Center and Black History Museum open.

More than a hundred people gathered at the entrance of 901 Kilgore Drive for the grand opening and to hear addresses from Smith, community members and those that worked tirelessly to bring Smith’s dream to reality.

“This has been a lot of work and this has been a dream of mine. I can’t believe this is happening. ... I’ve got my wonderful friends here from all over the country — my parents,” Smith said with a burst of emotion. “I’m speechless over this. Thank you for all your help.”

Before those in attendance were welcomed to enter the center, Rev. Stanley McDonald offered grace that included the importance of Smith’s vision. McDonald drew from Proverbs 29, which states where there is no vision, the people perish.

Because of Smith’s dedication, “Ashland Black history will not perish,” McDonald said.

Following the National Anthem, Presentation of Colors and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the sea of people filtered into the museum for the first glimpses of the artifacts and exhibits offered at the center.

The grand opening program continued indoors, with live music by Ironton High School’s Varsity Singers who performed several renditions.

Stretched across the room were donated artifacts from Jim Crow-era America, relics, patterns and heirlooms depicting African American culture and several pieces from Booker T. Washington High School — the segregated school was open in Ashland from 1922 until its desegregation in 1962.

The museum’s namesake was driven from Professor C.B. Nuckolls, the principal of Booker T. Washington for decades.

A documentary-style video was played showcasing alumni from Booker T. Washington who spoke highly of Nuckolls and the way in which he ran his school — even if occasionally with switches with a rubber band on the end.

The students recounted that although the school received secondhand materials from Ashland Independent Schools, their education did not suffer due to efforts by Nuckolls and their teachers.

One former student of Booker T. Washington recalled the strenuous route to school from 41st Street and Greenup Avenue to the school, which stood on the corner of Central Avenue and 7th Street — as Black students were required to take a city bus or walk; no school buses were allotted to them.

Many believe that because of the present-day museum, stories such as those will be forever preserved for generations to come.

Mayor Matt Perkins, Senior Adviser Rocky Adkins, Bernice Henry and the grandchildren of C.B. Nuckolls also spoke on Saturday.

“We have an opportunity here to do so much. We live in a good place, folks,” Adkins said. “But it’s time for us to band together even stronger and represent who we are and what we’re about. We have the opportunity to unite people (with this museum) A place of community for all people. A place of hope and a place of prosperity.”

Adkins announced he appeared also on behalf of Gov. Andy Beshear.

Bernice Henry, Museum Co-Founder, Chairperson on the Ashland Commission on Human Rights and the first woman of color to serve as an Ashland City Commissioner, thanked her family who visited from as far from Mobile, Alabama, and Cincinnati. “I thank you for taking the time to show your love and support. This is the time to uplift and support,” Henry said.

“Today is a day of celebration,” said Perkins. “The City of Ashland celebrates this day to honor the achievements, contributions and rich cultural heritage of Black citizens in our city and region.

“The City of Ashland values the importance of preserving and promoting Black history and heritage,” Perkins continued.

Perkins also declared April 22 as C.B. Nuckolls Community Center and Black History Museum Day.

“I urge all residents to recognize and honor the significant contributions of African Americans in our history,” Perkins concluded.

Trending Video