Located just south of downtown Lexington, near the University of Kentucky campus, sits a small residential neighborhood known as Pralltown. The area is an important part of the city’s history.
“Pralltown is the oldest subdivision, black or white, in Fayette County,” says lifelong Pralltown resident William D. Bingham. “We often refer to it as the cradle of the black community. It was created in 1865 at the end of slavery, and the man that it’s named for is John Prall. When slavery ended, he made his property available for freed slaves to buy.”
Lillie Smith grew up in Pralltown. She remembers how the community was like a big family.
“We didn’t have much,” she says. “But we shared what we had with each other. And everybody had plenty because they shared. We didn’t know we didn’t have anything.”
Betty Boyd, president of the Pralltown Neighborhood Association, shares a similar sentiment about growing up in the area.
“I know you’ve heard it a million times, that it takes a village to raise a child,” says Boyd. “And believe you, they did help raise us.
“I could have lived anywhere I wanted to,” she adds. “I chose to stay and live in Pralltown, and of course I still live there, so that should tell you right there that there’s something unique about it.”
The neighborhood is bordered on one side by railroad tracks, and proximity to the trains passing through Lexington had an influence on Pralltown. Bingham says that men in the area used to collect coal and other goods from trains.
“This is how people had to survive,” he explains. “Black people had to find a way to survive during [World War II] because things were not equal.”
But it wasn’t just freight from trains that came into Pralltown.
“Southern Depot was the only place people coming up from the south that rode the trains were dropped off, and that’s when Pralltown was maybe a hundred yards away,” says Bingham. “That’s where people landed, and a lot of them stay and grew families there.”
Among Pralltown’s most famous sons is baseball player Lou Johnson. He’s remembered for hitting the winning home run in the World Series when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s.
Blues musician Tee Dee Young is another famous product of Pralltown.
“Tee Dee practiced every Friday night at his auntie’s house, and he lived next door to me,” says Boyd. “I knew all of his family; all of them were pretty much talented.”
For a small neighborhood with humble roots, Pralltown holds a big place in many Lexintonians’ hearts. Lillie Smith put it succinctly:
“My most happy days are Pralltown days.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2501, which originally aired on October 5, 2019. Watch the full episode.