Spring Issue 2023

Operation 2052

By Mariel Gardner

During a visit to Ravenna with the Kentucky Rural Urban Exchange, I left Estill County with one question, “What happened to the Black people who lived here?” Witnessing the current state of being Black in Kentucky–and having experienced the impacts of Jefferson County’s redlining and urban renewal initiatives–I knew the answer wasn’t as simple as “The Great Migration.”

In 1941, my great-grandparents fled Christian County, hopeful their migration would present an opportunity for economic mobility. Perhaps knowing their great-granddaughter would face the same constraint on her land and labor, they left a written history of their experiences in Kentucky.

Operation 2052 continues that history by uncovering the details behind land dispossession, racial violence, and labor extraction of Black folks in Kentucky. Billed as a “creative sci-fi series and ongoing research project,” Operation 2052 “covers historical events from the 1800s to present-day violences such as gentrification.”

What happened to the Black people in Estill County happened to Black people across Kentucky, and it continues to happen to Black people across the world.

Mariel Gardner is a farmer, organizer and artist from Louisville's West End. She is a graduate of the J. Graham Brown School and University of Louisville.