Paducah is a city that has played a pivotal role in American history, from the Civil War to civil rights, and beyond. To celebrate Black History Month, Betty Dobson, a Western Kentucky native and a passionate advocate for African American history, has curated an itinerary that takes you on a journey through Paducah’s rich African American heritage, where each stop tells a story of resilience, creativity and cultural significance.


Visit The Hotel Metropolitan
Betty suggests beginning your journey by taking a step back in time at the Hotel Metropolitan. This landmark, preserved for future generations by Betty herself and a board of volunteers, stands as a testament to Paducah’s African American history. The restored 1908 historic hotel, a former member of the "Chitlin’ Circuit" and later listed in the Green Book, served as a sanctuary for African Americans seeking comfortable quarters during times of segregation. Grace the halls that once hosted legends like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and B.B King. Tours are available by appointment on Fridays and Saturdays, offering a firsthand experience of the African American history encapsulated within these walls.


The Hotel Metropolitan
Hotel Metropolitan is a piece of living history in Paducah.

Experience the African American Heritage Tour
In addition to visiting the Hotel Metropolitan, Betty recommends extending your exploration to the remaining 25 stops on the African American Heritage Tour. This self-guided driving tour allows visitors and locals alike to gain a comprehensive understanding of the people, places and events that played a significant role in the advancement of equality. Some of its stops include Burks Chapel A.M.E church, the MLK Jr. monument and the slave plots at Oak Grove cemetery. Each of the 26 stops on the tour displays yet another important piece of history that shaped Paducah into the city it is today. Tours can be planned using the interactive online map, and then taken on the road using the printable version.


Wall-to-Wall Floodwall Murals depict Paducah's history, including the annual Eighth of August Emancipation Celebration.

View the National Quilt Museum’s Exhibitions

Continue your journey by immersing yourself in the captivating world of quilt and fiber art at The National Quilt Museum. With 30,000 square feet of contemporary gallery space, it stands as the largest of its kind globally. As part of Betty Dobson's curated itinerary, explore the Black Renaissance Exhibition, showcasing the works of African American Mother-Daughter quilt artists Lola Jenkins and Precious Carroll. Lola's expressive use of fabric and Precious's application of her mother’s quilting techniques to her own work create a powerful narrative. The exhibition, running until March 5, 2024, provides a unique opportunity to support and appreciate these talented African American artists throughout Black History Month and beyond. Check back at the National Quilt Museum for future exhibits highlighting African American creators.


black renaissance quilt
"Remedy" by Precious Carol, on display at the National Quilt Museum through March 5, 2024

Visit Black Owned Businesses in Paducah

To conclude your itinerary, Betty suggests visiting the many vibrant Black-owned businesses in Paducah. Try Big Ed’s, a buffet serving Southern cuisine near Downtown Paducah. Betty highly recommends indulging in their award-winning ribs, but with a diverse menu featuring everything from fresh seafood to soulful classics, there's something for everyone to savor. For a mid-day pick-me-up, grab a macchiato or specialty sandwich from The House of Ross Coffee Bar. Owned by George E. Ross Jr., this cozy spot is intended to connect Southern charm to cultural responsiveness, described as a “utopic spot where history lives.” And of course, no visit to Paducah is complete without exploring its unique, locally owned boutiques and shops. Self-E Beautique and Creative Fitz are women’s clothing stores packed with trendy and stylish statement pieces, while Paducah’s Black-owned barbershops offer a refreshing experience for men.


house of ross coffee
Enjoy fine coffees and other treats at The House of Ross Coffee Bar

For more information about Betty and her work at Hotel Metropolitan, read Betty Dobson and Ms. Maggie's Memories on the Blog. In Betty's words:

"Being a woman of color, I wanted to know more about the contributions of local African Americans to the world. So for the past twenty years, I have researched Paducah's African-American history which is amazing and shared it with visitors through the Hotel Metropolitan."