The Enslaved at Ashland

Henry Clay purchased around sixty African Americans, enslaving many more over the course of his life. The men, women, and children who were enslaved at Ashland did more than work to build wealth for the Clay family. They were human beings with hopes, dreams, concerns, struggles, and beliefs.

Historical documentation about the enslaved men, women, and children at Ashland is, unfortunately, often limited to their labor or their purchase. There are some written accounts, however, that give us a glimpse of life for the enslaved people at Ashland.

Ashland was an approximately 600 acre estate. Enslaved people worked long hours either inside the mansion or on the farm. Every facet of life at Ashland was made possible by their labor–from growing, harvesting, and breaking hemp, to raising livestock, cooking, and cleaning for the Clays. Families were always under threat of being separated by assignments to work on different parts of the farm or being sold apart.

Learn more on the Traces: Slavery at Ashland tour made possible by a Local History Trust Fund Grant administered by the Kentucky Historical Society.

If you have an ancestor who lived or worked at Ashland, or if you have artifacts, documents, or photos we would urge you to share them with our Curator, Eric Brooks (ebrooks@henryclay.org or 859-266-8581 x 203). If you are interested in becoming involved as a volunteer, please contact Manager of Tours & Education, Cameron Walpole (cwalpole@henryclay.org or 859-266-8581 x 205).

Henry Clay’s enslaved valet Aaron Dupuy. One of only two known images of the enslaved at Ashland. Courtesy of University of Kentucky Department of Special Collections.
Charles Dupuy, son of Aaron. Followed his father as Henry Clay’s enslaved valet.
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