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A history question


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I know African Americans were significant workers in the KY horse racing industry, but were they historically kept out of the distilleries? Or, were the bourbon distillers somewhat ahead of their time regarding the hiring of black people?

Contributions to the horse industry documented here:


Is there any record of a black run distillery or master distiller etc?

Or, has it remained a white developed and run industry?

I imagine today, the workforce is is much more integrated than 50-75 years ago.

I was thinking of Fred and his father at BT.

Today, there is DB Bourbon Candy company:


DB Bourbon Candy, LLC [Robyn C. Stuart and Johnnye Smallwood Cunningham]

Start Year : 2005

DB Bourbon Candy, LLC is a successful home business located in Frankfort, KY. While there are many candy companies and makers of bourbon balls in Kentucky, DB Bourbon Candy is the only African American owned company of its kind in the state. The owner is Robyn C. Stuart, daughter of the late Johnnye Smallwood Cunningham. The company's original candy recipe belonged to Johnnye Cunningham who would make bourbon balls during the holidays for family and friends. The bourbon balls were rolled in powered sugar. Cunningham passed away in 2002, and her daughter, Robyn Stuart, began making the bourbon balls, dipped in chocolate, for family and friends. In tribute to her mother, Stuart expanded the treats into a candy business with 38 different flavors besides bourbon. Also available are chocolate covered grapes, pineapples, and strawberries. DB Bourbon Candy clients include the Kentucky NFL Hall of Fame and Barnstable-Brown Derby Gala. The business is about giving back to children; in memory of Johnnye Smallwood Cunningham, DB Bourbon Candy,LLC gives toward school supplies for children in need. Johnnye S. Cunningham was born in Lexington in 1937, about a year after bourbon balls were created in Kentucky. Both the candy and the bourbon are unique to Kentucky, approximately 95% of the bourbon in the United States is distilled in Kentucky. For more about the DB Bourbon Candy, LLC business, see the first half of "Sweet Treats" program #441 on Connections With Renee Shaw, a Kentucky Educational Television Production [available online]; and visit the website DB Bourbon Candy, LLC. For more about the history of Kentucky bourbon balls see Kentucky Bluegrass Country by R. G. Alvey.

Subjects: Alcohol, Businesses, Bakers, Cooks and Chefs

Geographic Region: Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky

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There were definitely slaves making whiskey in Kentucky before the Civil War. The Filson has a distillery ledger where the distiller is renting out his slave. In Tennessee, Jack Daniel tells of learning to make whiskey for a black man - I don't recall if he was slave or not, but it was Civil War era Tennessee so if he was not slave, it was probably because the war freed him.

After prohibition the industry was like most other Kentucky industries when it came to hiring African-Americans - it depended upon the company. Schenley was very progressive and dare I say "liberal". They supported Unions and hired women and minorities for many positions closed to them by other distilleries.

Mike Veach

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