From 2017-19, the Community-Driven Archives (CDA) grant team and University Libraries at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Historical Collection collaborated with Dr. Karida Brown while she was a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, along with many Appalachian families on the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP). EKAAMP, one of our CDA project pilot partners, documents Black peoples’ lives in eastern Kentucky and their tale of migration into and out of the communities there. Published in September 2018, Brown’s book, Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia, shares the stories of this diasporic Black coal mining community.
According to the publisher, UNC Press:
Karida L. Brown’s Gone Home offers a much-needed corrective to the current whitewashing of Appalachia. In telling the stories of African Americans living and working in Appalachian coal towns, Brown offers a sweeping look at race, identity, changes in politics and policy, and black migration in the region and beyond.
In addition to informing the book, the wonderful stories shared by EKAAMP members, endlessly generous people who grew up in these small towns, inspired the creation of Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia–an exhibition hosted by Wilson Special Collections Library that launched in 2020 as a traveling exhibition. The exhibit explores this often forgotten part of American history. It shares part of the story of the Great Migration of African Americans out of the Deep South and into coal mines of Appalachia. After the mining industry collapsed, the people who grew up there left again. Finally, it explores what home means to a community that sometimes spent only one generation in Appalachian America.
For more on EKAAMP, check out its website.