African Americans in Appalachia
Coal miner waiting to go underground, Pennsylvania, 1942. (Library of Congress.)
Appalachia has always possessed significant and influential populations of color. Black Appalachians—like all Appalachians—have lived in rural settings as well as urban settings, and current residents may have come from families that settled in the mountains hundreds of years ago, while others are first generation migrants into the region. Appalachia has proven to be a region of diverse possibilities for African Americans seeking educational opportunities, jobs in mining, or careers in urban centers.
The coal industry, in particular, has shaped the lives of many African Americans. Among those whose legacies have become inextricably intertwined with coal are the memoirist Robert Armstead, the labor organizers Richard L. Davis and Levi Daniel, and the sculptor C. Edgar Patience.