Piecing Together History: Dr. T.T. Wendell and Lexington’s African-American Community
Please join us for a free knowledge-sharing event Friday, June 14, 3-6 p.m. at the Pilgrim Baptist Church, 541 Jefferson St. in Lexington. Help is needed to identify the people, places and events found in the photographs of the Thomas T. Wendell Collection.
At the close of the Civil War, the previously enslaved members of the community had a wealth of new opportunities before them. In the Lexington area, this community grew prosperous under the dedicated guidance of its new leaders. One such prominent leader was Dr. Thomas Tyler Wendell.
From the turn of the 20th century through the 1950s, Wendell became well known for his compassion and dedication to the patients he served, as well as for his strides in mental health treatment for African-American patients. While maintaining his general practice, Wendell was appointed to the physician staff of Eastern State Hospital in 1928, and by 1953, the hospital erected a new building in his name.
As Wendell remained an integral part of Lexington’s educational, religious and civic organizations throughout his lifetime, he made sure to keep extensive photographic records of the activities and events that shaped these early years of community development.
Now, historians, neighbors, genealogists and other community members are needed to help expand the knowledge base surrounding this collection, to better document the people, places and events represented in the T.T. Wendell Collection.
“We need the help of those who can identify the who, what, when, where and most importantly, the why. By gathering in one place and sharing our knowledge, one collection at a time, perhaps we can build greater connections and honor those who secured the foundations of our present communities,” said Cheri Daniels, KHS senior librarian and reference specialist.
The collection includes photographs of theater performances from the World War I era, school groups (Constitution School, St. Andrews and Dunbar High School), church groups, fraternal organizations, picnics and banquets, the military and the medical profession. It also contains certificates and meeting minutes from the Colored Agricultural and Mechanical Association, original correspondence from the Wendell family, scrapbooks and the only known existing photograph of Lucy Murphy, wife of jockey Isaac Burns Murphy.
A preview of the collection can be seen online in the KHS Digital Collections at www.history.ky.gov. Specific questions about the Thomas T. Wendell Collection can be directed to the KHS Reference Desk at 502-564-1792, ext. 4460 or KHSrefdesk@ky.gov.