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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans in Appalachia

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Scotts Run

Storefront, coal mining camp, Scotts Run, West Virginia, 1938. (Library of Congress.)

The coal fields of Central Appalachia were a major destination of African Americans leaving the Deep South during the Great Migration, and between 1870 and 1930 the African American population in Central Appalachia increased dramatically. While not all miners lived in coal camps, a significant number did reside in the company towns built by the coal company. These towns usually included a company-owned store where miners could buy goods.

Coal towns, though no longer owned by mining companies, number in the hundreds and are scattered throughout Appalachia. Some coal towns, such as Madison, West Virginia, have seen their populations grow in recent years. Other coal camps, such as San Toy, Ohio, were abandoned many years ago and have become ghost towns. Scotts Run, West Virginia, pictured above, has essentially disappeared from the landscape since it was abandoned in the 1940s.

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