Coming August 2011: ‘Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community’

A small neighborhood in northern Frankfort, Kentucky, Crawfish Bottom was located on fifty acres of swampy land along the Kentucky River. “Craw’s” reputation for vice, violence, moral corruption, and unsanitary conditions made it a target for urban renewal projects that replaced the neighborhood with the city’s Capital Plaza in the mid-1960s.

Douglas A. Boyd’s Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community traces the evolution of the controversial community that ultimately saw four-hundred families displaced. Using oral histories and firsthand memories, Boyd not only provides a record of a vanished neighborhood and its culture but also demonstrates how this type of study enhances the historical record. A former Frankfort police officer describes Craw’s residents as a “rough class of people, who didn’t mind killing or being killed.” In Crawfish Bottom, the former residents of Craw acknowledge the popular misconceptions about their community but offer a richer and more balanced view of the past.

Douglas A. Boyd, director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky, is a coeditor of Community Memories: A Glimpse of African American Life in Frankfort, Kentucky.

“Urban planners seldom listened to the communities they bulldozed, but oral history can recapture the historical memory of what has been lost. Crawfish Bottom provides a vivid and layered history of the colorful community that once existed on the banks of the Kentucky River, in the words of its inhabitants and in a critical analysis of their interviews.”—Donald A. Ritchie, author of Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide

Crawfish Bottom is a fascinating story well told. By combining narrative skills with sound theory and original methodology in his use of oral and archival sources, Boyd revives the memory and narrative of a community that was wiped out in the name of progress.”—Alessandro Portelli, author of They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History

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10 thoughts on “Coming August 2011: ‘Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community’

  1. Pingback: About the Book Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community

  2. John Burger

    Sounds similar so many other well-intentioned “renewal” or “gentrification” projects across the US. The movie “Flag Wars” really opened my eyes to this issue. Thanks for the post!

  3. Mary E. Clay

    If this is just another account from someone who is reporting hearsay and not telling the whole story, I am not impressed. I will not deny that much of the history of this area was bad, but as a former resident of “Craw”, I know there were good, God-fearing residents of Craw, also. There were churches, a school, businesses, teachers, preachers, laborers, maid, cooks, funeral directors, families, etc. in that area. If those stories are not included in this account, the “whole story” has not been told.

    1. Doug Boyd

      Excellent point Mary! Your point is, in many ways, the point of the book. Crawfish Bottom looks at the way that Jim Wallace’s oral history project (archived at the Kentucky Historical Society) began to shift public perception of the neighborhood and acknowledge the neighborhood’s perspective on history.

  4. Mary E. Clay

    Good! I talked to some folks who know you, Doug, and they felt that you would do a good job. I look forward to reading your book.

  5. Rae. Williams dupont

    I think that it is a shame that mr. Boyd has such a narrow concept of how we as black people live in the craw. He obviously has not spoken to any of the african amercans that had such a wonderful experience of what a “community sense” was and the bond , kindred spirit, and the character that was instilled in all of our families to produce and raise successful African american children in one of the most racist cities that I ever luved in.. Frankfort , Ky. Where Mr. Boyd got his facts from are unknown but he obviously did not get them from the children who were raised in the craw in the 60’s. U people, meaning the whites tried to take away our pride which was long instilled in us by our parents and ancestors. You have tried to makeus look as if we were an inferior being. You forgot to mention Mr. Boyd that our neighborhood had our own Black leaders who were very involved in the civil rights movement in the 60’s. You forgot to mention how blacks were lied to about getting government money to help rebuild that community which is what disbursed us in the beginning. You forgot to mention the fact that you all were going to build a damn by Mayo underwood school to prevent flooding. But we know the fact and that was the plan that whites had to move us out and build that plaza that you have there.then put your dam. Please don’t try to patronize us with this pitiful political bullshit. The truth needs to be known and you are not the one to bring it on. After reading this , I see Frankfort has not changed, and with articles written such as yours you need to speak with those people who lived there and not write about something until you get your facts right. This is ridiculous

    1. Doug Boyd

      In fact, a major point of the book is to give voice to the former residents and balance outsiders’ perceptions of this neighborhood with a more community-focused approach to history. Close to thirty oral history interviews were conducted by Jim Wallace and myself with former residents of the neighborhood (mostly African American). We also used interviews from the Community Memories project that I was heavily involved in producing several years ago and definitely explore the negative impact of Urban Renewal on community. Crawfish Bottom (The book) looks at the way oral history can be used to actively overturn a historical reputation mostly held by outsiders. When you read the book, which should be available next week, I think you will find an approach that celebrates this closely knit community and its history. I would be thrilled to talk with you more about this and hear your memories about the neighborhood.

  6. Jim Wallace

    Ms. Dupont:

    I know Dr. Boyd very well and I believe that he will honor and do justice to the reality of Bottom versus the inaccurate, hurtful steriotypes that plagued the neighborhood. The promotional materials regarding this book don’t accurately depict the balanced and objective story it presents. Please read the work because I think it seeks to hold up the true picture of a vibrant place that was loved and cherished by those who lived there.

  7. Mary E. Clay

    I trust that if Jim Wallace has given approval of this project, it will be a true depiction of life in “Craw”. I have also been given assurance by the two co-authors of the book that Mr. Boyd was involved with the Community Memories project and does have a good idea of what life was like in Craw. I look forward to reading the book and will reserve judgement until then.


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