Over the course of his life, Henry Clay bought as many as sixty enslaved people of African descent and held many more in bondage. The men, women, and children enslaved at Ashland were more than tools to build wealth for the Clay family. They were human beings.
Historical records about the people enslaved here are often limited to documents relating to their labor or evidence of individuals being bought or sold. There are some written accounts, however, that give us a glimpse into the lives of people enslaved at Ashland.
Ashland was an approximately 600-acre estate where the people who were enslaved labored long hours either inside the home or on the farm. Every facet of life at Ashland was made possible with their labor–from the growing, harvesting, and breaking of hemp, to raising livestock, to cooking and cleaning for the Clays. Families who were enslaved were always under threat of being separated by assignments to work on different parts of the farm or by being sold apart.