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African American Miners and Migrants: the Eastern Kentucky Social Club
By T. E. Wagner and P. J. Obermiller - African American coal miners in Eastern Kentucky. For more see African American miners and migrants: the Eastern Kentucky Social Club is available at the University of Kentucky Libraries.
Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Kentucky (Eastern Kentucky)

Banks, Charles Anthony, Sr. [Kentucky Trojans Basketball Team]
Birth Year : 1919
Death Year : 2004
The Kentucky Trojans were a semi-pro basketball team in Lynch, KY, coached by Charles A. Banks, Sr. in the mid to late 1940s. The trainer was George "Piggy" Smith. Little is known about African American semi-pro basketball teams in Kentucky prior to the 1960s. Charles A. Banks, Sr. was born in Greenville, GA, the son of Flora Martin and Frank Banks. By 1930, the family had moved to Lynch, KY, they lived on Fifth Street, and Frank Banks was a coal loader in the coal mines, according to the U.S. Federal Census. Charles Banks attended school in Lynch and was the valedictorian of his 1937 high school graduating class. He would become a coal miner with U.S. Steel. Charles A. Banks moved to Youngstown, OH, in 1951. He was a foreman with U.S. Steel for 32 years. For more see "Charles Anthony Banks, Sr., 84," The Vindicator, 10/23/2004, p.9; and see the photo image of the Kentucky Trojans basketball team at the Kentucky Historical Society Digital Collections.

Subjects: Basketball, Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Greenville, Georgia / Lynch, Harlan County, Kentucky / Youngstown, Ohio

Blackmon, George Z.
Birth Year : 1854
Death Year : 1936
George Blackmon was born in Fulton County, KY. He can be found in the census records from 1910-1930, living in Clayton, Custer County. Blackmon is remembered as a pioneer miner in Idaho where several areas are named for him: Washington Basin, Washington Creek, Washington Peak, and Blackman Peak. Blackmon, said to have been a slave at one time, came to Idaho in the mid to late 1870s with a group of miners. Gold and silver had been discovered in Idaho in the 1860s, and the prospect of riches drew many miners to the state. George W. Blackmon worked claims in the Fourth of July Creek and basin areas using a pickax and a mule. He was still mining in the 1930s. The correct spelling of George Z. Blackmon's name, and his birth and death dates, and birth location were provided by James Ridenour, a researcher in Washington state. According to Ridenour's article "The Man Who Became a Mountain," Blackmon was educated and articulate; he had been educated by a white family in Iowa. He also played the fiddle. Blackmon is buried in Clayton Cemetery. For more about Blackmon's life see J. Ridenour's article in Idaho Magazine, vol.7, issue 12, September 2008, pp.51-56; Southern Idaho Ghost Towns, by W. C. Sparling; Sawtooth Tales, by D. D'Easum; and Idaho Place Names, by L. P. Boone.
Subjects: Migration West, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, 1st African American Families in Town
Geographic Region: Fulton County, Kentucky / Clayton, Custer County, Idaho

Calloway, Ernest Abner
Birth Year : 1909
Death Year : 1989
Calloway was a writer, a union organizer and advocate, a civil rights activist, a politician, and an educator. He was born in Herberton, WV, and came to Letcher County, KY, with his family in 1913. They were one of the first African American families in the coal mining community in Letcher County. His father helped organize the first Local United Mine Workers Union. In 1925, Calloway ran away to Harlem [New York City]. Within a few years he returned to Kentucky and worked in the coal mines. Beginning In 1930, Calloway was a drifter for three years, traveling throughout the U.S. and Mexico before returning to Kentucky to work in the coal mines again. It would be Calloway's writing that would help him leave Kentucky for good. He had written an article on the use of marijuana and submitted it to Opportunity magazine. The article was rejected, but Calloway was asked to write an article on the working conditions of Negro coal miners in Kentucky. The article was published in March 1934, resulting in Calloway being offered a scholarship to Brookwood Labor College [info] in New York. He would go on to help establish and influence many union organizations. Early in his career, he developed the Virginia Workers' Alliance; organized the Chicago Redcaps [railroad station porters] and the United Transport Employee Union; and assisted in the writing of the resolution for the development of the Committee Against Discrimination in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Calloway was the first African American to refuse military service because of racial discrimination. In 1955, he was president of the St. Louis, MO, NAACP Branch. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1968 and was a part time lecturer at St. Louis University in 1969. For a more detailed account of Calloway's career, see the "Ernest Abner Calloway" entry in the Dictionary of Missouri Biography, by L. O. Christensen; and the Ernest Calloway Papers, 1937-1983 in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Migration East, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Union Organizations, 1st African American Families in Town
Geographic Region: Herberton, West Virginia / Letcher County, Kentucky / New York / Chicago, Illinois / Saint Louis, Missouri

Campbell, William Joseph
Birth Year : 1863
Death Year : 1912
William [W. J.] Campbell was a politician, a member and organizer of the Knights of Labor, a delegate and leader of the United Mine Workers of America, and a civil rights leader. The Knights of Labor, a labor organization, was founded as a secret society in Philadelphia, PA, in 1869. According to the organization's website, as of 1881, the Knights of Labor were no longer secret, and by 1886 the membership included 50,000 African American workers and 10,000 women workers. W. J. Campbell fought for improved race relations in coal towns and for interracial unions. He would become the representative of the Kentucky District of the United Mine Workers of America. W. J. Campbell was born in Morgan County, AL, the son of William Campbell and Bethiah Jones Campbell [source: W. J. Campbell's KY death certificate]. His family was poor; his father died when he was a boy. W. J. Campbell was hired out to a man who allowed him to attend and finish school in Huntsville, AL. Campbell became a teacher at the school he had attended. In 1880, he moved to Birmingham, AL, where he studied barbering and would become a barber. In 1881, he left barbering for the coal mines in Pratt City, AL. He became an advocate for the rights of African American miners, and in 1881 was secretary of the newly organized Knights of Labor in Pratt City. A year later, he was organizer-at-large, and established the first Knights of Labor in Birmingham and Montgomery. He established the beginnings of the United Mine Workers and the Federation of Mine Laborers, Division 10, in Chattanooga, TN. The division included Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. W. J. Campbell was also a politician; he was the elected secretary of the Republican Committee of Jefferson County, AL, in 1882 and was also an elected delegate to the Republican State Convention. In 1892, he was an elected delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention for Alabama. W. J. Campbell got married in 1889 and left Alabama in 1894 to settle in Central City, KY. Campbell was a miner and a barber, and his wife was a teacher at the Colored common school. Campbell organized Republican national league clubs for African Americans and whites. He was a delegate to the National Republican League Convention, and in 1901 was a member of the Republican State Campaign Committee. In 1898, Campbell drafted the Miners' Pay Bill of Kentucky that was passed by the Kentucky Legislature; it replaced the two weeks pay bill that had failed. In 1900, Campbell was a delegate to the National United Mine Workers of America [UMWA]. The UMWA was founded in Columbus, OH, in 1890, resulting from the merger of the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135 and the National Progressive Union of Miners and Mine Laborers. The constitution of the UMWA barred discrimination based on race, religion, and national origin. In 1901, Campbell became the secretary-treasurer of UMWA District 23 and is said to be the first African American at the post within the UMWA. He came to Lexington, KY in July of 1901 to settle a matter with W. D. Johnson, editor of The Standard newspaper. In 1904, Campbell was a member of the executive office of the UMWA, serving as a cabinet officer of John Mitchell. He was also president of Afro American National Protective Union, which sought to organize a National Labor Union. In 1912, Campbell would serve as president of the National Negroes' Industrial and Protective Union of America. William J. Campbell was the husband of Sallie L. Waddleton of South Carolina; the couple last lived in Drakesboro, KY. Campbell was a Mason, a member of the Odd Fellows, and a member of the A.M.E.Z. Church. He died November 28, 1912, and is buried in Smith Chapel Cemetery in Drakesboro, KY [source: Kentucky Death Certificate]. For more see the Knights of Labor website; the Brief History of the United Mine Workers of America website; The Challenge of Interracial Unionism, by D. Letwin; "W. J. Campbell...," Freeman, 01/24/1903, p. 4; "Birmingham: Victory won by the Warrior [AL] miners," Huntsville Gazette, 09/13/1884, p. 3; "Mr. W. J. Campbell," Huntsville Gazette, 02/13/1886, p. 2; "Mr. W. J. Campbell" in the Personals column of the Freeman, 01/20/1900, p. 8; "W. J. Campbell of Central City, Ky...," Freeman, 07/20/1901, p. 4; "W. J. Campbell," Freeman, 02/08/1902, p. 8; picture of W. J. Campbell on p. 1, biography on p. 4 of the Freeman, 03/01/1902; "Important Points great events in the suburban districts," Freeman, 03/01/1902, p. 4; "Mr. W. J. Campbell, miner," Freeman, 04/23/1904, p. 4; and "National Negroes' Industrial and Protective Union of America," Freeman, 01/27/1912, p. 6.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Barbers, Education and Educators, Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Fraternal Organizations, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Morgan County, Alabama / Central City and Drakesboro, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky

Davis, Samuel
Birth Year : 1895
Death Year : 1920
Twenty-five year old Samuel Davis drowned while attempting to save 16 year old Estelle Garnand and her friend, Mary Etta Martin, from the "sunk holes" in the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River, July 12, 1920. He was able to save Martin, but both Davis and Garnand drowned. Davis was a coal miner from Aflex, KY. He was African American, and Garnand and Martin were white. Davis was awarded a Carnegie bronze medal [posthumously], and his wife received a pension of $50 per month and an additional $5 for their daughter, all from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Davis was one of 23 persons to be recognized by the commission in 1921 and one of two to receive a bronze medal. For more see the 1922 Negro Year Book, by M. N. Work; "Samuel Davis," The Crisis, vol. 22, issue 2 (June 1921), p. 87 [available online at Google Book Search]; "Carnegie medals to 23 for heroism," The New York Times, 04/30/1921, p. 16; Samuel Davis at the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission website; and "Miss Estelle Garnand" on page 3 of The Kingsport Times, 07/20/1920.
Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Swimmers, Swimming, Swimming Facilities
Geographic Region: Aflex, Pike County, Kentucky

Frison, King D.
Birth Year : 1911
Death Year : 1981
Born in Alabama, Frison was a coal miner. He was the first African American member of the Benham (KY) City Council, elected in 1975 and re-elected in 1977. For more see "Mayor, 45 councilmen are black city officials," in 1978 Kentucky Directory of Black Elected Officials, Fifth Report by the Commission on Human Rights, p. 15.
Subjects: Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections
Geographic Region: Benham, Harlan County, Kentucky

Graves, George L.
Birth Year : 1879
August 1912, George L. Graves was among the six mine employees returning to the United States aboard the ship Seguranca from Veracruz, Mexico [source: List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival, August 2, 1912, p.14]. The ship docked at New York, New York. The men had been working on one of the oil wells in the Veracruz area, and may have returned to the U.S. due to the rebellion against President Francisco I. Madero during the Mexican Revolution. George L. Graves was 33 years old and single, he was born in Harrodsburg, KY. He was one of many Americans who lived in Mexico and were employed by the American-owned oilfield companies. This was prior to the Tampico Affair in 1914 and the invasion of Veracruz by American troops. For more about the American presence in Mexico and the oil industry see The Ecology of Oil by M. I. Santiago; Oil, Banks, and Politics by L. B. Hall; and A. Kahn, "The dynamics of color : mestizaje, racism, and blackness in Veracruz, Mexico" in Shades of Difference by E. N. Glenn.
Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada
Geographic Region: Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky / Mexico

Griffey, Wolford
Birth Year : 1916
Death Year : 1982
Griffey, the son of an Irishman, came to Kentucky from Pennsylvania seeking work in the coal mines. International Harvesters hired him and his two brothers because they could play baseball; all the major coal companies had baseball teams. In 1945, Griffey became the first and only African American foreman in the coal camps around Benham, KY. In 2005, his wife, Lacey Griffey, still lived in the camp-house the couple had purchased from International Harvesters when the mines were closed. For more see the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet press release, "Wolford and Jackie: A tale of two African-American Pioneers: Griffey Was First and Only Black Foreman in Benham Mines," by S. Ramsey, Kentucky Coal Council; and W. Tompkins, "Deep in our soul: coal," Courier-Journal (Louisville), 12/31/1999, Extra section, p. O8M.
Subjects: Baseball, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Migration South
Geographic Region: Pennsylvania / Benham, Harlan County, Kentucky

Hutton, Henry T. "Hut"
Birth Year : 1915
Death Year : 1994
In 1985, Henry Hutton almost became the fourth African American mayor in Kentucky and the first in eastern Kentucky. Hutton was temporarily named mayor of Fleming-Neon after a court decision in his favor. Hutton had run against Mayor James Seals, who won the primary as a Democrat, he won by 37 votes. Letcher Circuit Judge F. Byrd Hogg voided the win because Seals had filed improperly for the office as an Independent but ran on the ballot as a Democrat. An appeal was filed and the ruling was overturned. The mayor's race was only one of the many noted achievements of Henry T. Hutton, who was born in Stonega, VA. He is listed in the 1940 U.S. Census as the son of Annie Saxton and the stepson of Dane Saxton, who was a coal miner. Henry Hutton came to Letcher County, KY, in 1946 to work in the coal mines. In 1985, Hutton was a retired coal miner and a politician. He had served as a constable, city councilman, and mayor pro tem. He had been the owner of Red Bud Coal Company, an underground mine that hired five African Americans and 16 Whites. Hutton was the first African American coal mine owner in the Letcher County area. He later worked for the Beth-Elkhorn Coal Corp. and retired from the company in 1974. He and his wife Elsie Hutton also owned Hut's Barbeque Restaurant on Back Street in Fleming. Henry Hutton also served as Sargent-At-Arms for the Kentucky General Assembly. He served as an aid to Senator Kelsey Friend, Sr. from Pikeville, KY. He was president of the Letcher County NAACP and a member of the Board of Directors of the Kentucky River Area Development District. Hutton was Grand Chancellor Commander of the Kentucky Knights of Pythias, Chancellor Commander of Hannibal Lodge No.93 Knights of Pythias in Jenkins, KY, and Treasurer of David Temple Lodge No. 110 Free and Accepted Masons in Jenkins. In 1988, he received the Carter G. Woodson Award from Berea College and was also inducted into the Letcher County Mountain Heritage Hall of Fame. Henry Hutton Road in Fleming is named in his honor. For more see "Eastern Kentucky town to get first black mayor," Daily News (Bowling Green, KY), 10/03/1985, p. 7-A; and "Fleming-Neon area leader dies at 76," {from March 16, 1994 issue}, Issue: 1994 in Review, News-Press (Cromona, KY), 12/28/1994, section A, p. 5.
Subjects: Businesses, Migration West, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Fraternal Organizations, Mayors
Geographic Region: Stonega, Virginia / Fleming-Neon, Letcher County, Kentucky

Importing Negro Miners/Strikebreakers from Kentucky
Start Year : 1874
End Year : 1899
Negro strikebreakers were first employed in 1855 by the steamship company Morgan Line. In the late 1800s, when white coal miners would go on strike, there were several instances when mine owners imported non-union Negro miners from Kentucky and other southern states as replacements. According to authors Greene and Woodson, importing Negro strikebreakers had increased the number of Negro mine workers; there was a demand for experienced miners, this was especially true during the 1922 coal strike, and Negro miners were drawn to the higher wages. In spite of the labor demand and the promise of higher wages, the arrival of Negro miners/strikebreakers many times led to confrontations with striking miners and union leaders. Below are a few instances of Negro miners from Kentucky being imported to other states during the late 1800s.

  • Hocking Valley, OH - 1874 - when the regions white miners went on strike due to lower wages and unfair company policies, mine owners could not break the strike and Negro miners were brought in from the South. It was the first time that a large number of Negro miners had been used to break a strike. The 400-500 men came from the mining districts of Memphis, Louisville, and Richmond. For mine operator John Martin, bringing in the Negro miners was the "great triumph over Trades-Unions." When news of the Negro miners circulated through Nelsonville, New Straitsville, and other nearby communities, the Negro miners were confronted by the striking miners and their families. More than 100 Negro miners crossed the picket line to join the striking miners, and once funding was provided, they left Nelsonville. Those who remained were resented, as were the mine operators. Some of the white miners went back to work, and there were fights between the white miners and the Negro miners, and as a result, more Negro miners left the area. For more see H. G. Gutman, "Reconstruction in Ohio: Negroes in the Hocking Valley Coal Mines in 1873 and 1874," Labor History, vol 3, issue 3, pp.243-264, quote on page 256.
  • Chicago, IL - June 1877 - Wilmington & Vermillion Coal Company at Braidwood - Alanson Sweet, champion wage cutter, cut the wages of Braidwood miners twice in 1876, and announced another cut for spring of 1877, followed by a cut in the winter of 1877. Fifteen hundred miners struck for higher wages. The coal company hired armed guards, and Sweet announced that the striking miners would not be paid for their last month of work. June of 1877, Sweet imported Negro miners from Kentucky and West Virginia. "With the mines filled with colored men, it is believed that the Company will not be burdened with the expense of another strike for many years." In retaliation, the strikers ran 400 Negro miners and their families out of town. Two Illinois militia regiments escorted them back into town. By November, several hundred striking miners returned to work and accepted the cut in wages. Most of the Negro miners returned home, while a few continued working in the Braidwood mine. See 1877: Year of Violence by R. V. Bruce, quote on page 384.
Negro miners from Kentucky who were still in Braidwood in 1880, from the U.S. Federal Census:
  1. Nilson Clark (b.1859)
  2. George Collins (b.1855)
  3. Benjamin Cox (b.1840)
  4. Hanson Edwards (b.1855)
  5. George Ewbanks (b.1858)
  6. James Harris (b.1835)
  7. George Hulbart (b.1857)
  8. William Jones (b.1849)
  9. Amos Rogers (b.1850)
  10. Charles Smith (b.1857)

  • Terre Haute, IN - December 1897 - Cabel Mining Company - the Indiana state labor commissioners criticized the company for declining the proposal from their striking miners and importing 100 Negro miners from Kentucky (75 from Hopkins County), and for posting armed guards at the mine. In spite of the condemnation, the Cabel Mining Company imported even more Negro miners from Kentucky to take the place of the striking miners. See p.18 in First Biennial Report of the Indiana Labor Commission, 1897-98 [available at Google Book Search]; "Indiana labor commissioners severely critici[s]e importers of Colored miners," Alton Telegraph, 12/09/1897, p.5; and "More Negro miners," The Indiana State Journal, 12/08/1897, p.2.
  • Arkansas and the Indian Nation Territory - March 1899 - the miners went on strike for better wages and working conditions, and when the mine managers could not convince them to return to work, the coal companies came together and organized a group of agents who were dispatched to Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama to gather both white and Negro strikebreakers. The coal companies were the Choctaw Coal and Railroad Company, Southwestern Coal and Improvement Company, Kansas and Texas Coal Company, Central Coal and Improvement Company, and Western Coal and Mining Company. For more see A History of the Coal Miners of the United States by A. Roy.
  • Mansfield, AR - April 1899 - federal court Judge Rogers issued an injunction that prevented striking miners at Huntington, AR, from interfering with the Negro miners imported from Kentucky for work in the mines owned by the Kansas and Texas Coal Company. The governor of Arkansas had instructed the sheriff of Huntington to stop all future transports of Negro miners from being unloaded within the state. Judge Rogers had the U.S. Marshals serve the sheriff with an injunction. See "Clash over Negroes," Hutchinson News, 04/25/1899, p.2.
  • Evansville, IN - June 1899 -Sunnyside Mine - 30 Negro miners were approaching the mine when they were ambushed by armed striking miners. Armed guards returned fire. Two Negro miners were expected to die from their wounds, while the rest were sent back to Kentucky the following day. See "Strikes Elsewhere," The Independent (NY), June 29, 1899, vol.51, issue 2639; and "Battle at a mining camp," New York Times, 06/22/1899, p.2.
For more see 1917 photo of African American strikebreakers from Kentucky and a second photo, both at Ball State University Digital Media Repository [online]; The Negro Wage Earner by L. J. Greene and Carter G. Woodson, quote on p.293; W. C. Whatley, "African-American strikebreaking from the Civil War to the New Deal," Social Science History, vol.17, issue 4 (Winter, 1993), pp.525-558; Black Coal Miners in the United States by P. Nyden; and E. Arnesen, "Specter of the Black strikebreaker: race, employment, and labor activism in the industrial era," Labor History, vol.44, issue 3 (August 2003), pp.319-335.

Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Alabama / Arkansas / Illinois / Indiana / Indian Nation Territory / Ohio / Tennessee/ Virginia / West Virginia

Johnson, William H.
Birth Year : 1895
William H. Johnson was an African American Baptist preacher and miner who lived in Middlesboro, KY. In 1946, he began mailing letters to persons of German descent in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, claiming that he was Hitler, had escaped from the Russian army and was now living in Kentucky. The impostor said that he needed money. Johnson was arrested in 1956 by postal inspector W. W. Lewis. Johnson had received between $10,000 and $15,000 over the 10-year period. Johnson was sentenced to three years in prison. For more see More Offbeat Kentuckians, by K. McQueen; "Negro admits swindling Adolf Hitler followers," Florence Morning News, 08/15/1956, p.1; "Hitler trial continued; 15 from area given terms," Middlesboro Daily News, 11/15/1956, p.1; and "Hitler poser to face prison term," Atchison Daily Globe, 04/12/1957, p.2.
Subjects: Hoaxes, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Religion & Church Work
Geographic Region: Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky / Virginia / Tennessee

Kimbley, George P.
Birth Year : 1896
Death Year : 1996
Born in Frankfort, KY, Kimbley was the son of Ella and Luther Kimbley. He grew up across the street from the white family that had owned his parents during slavery. Kimbley was a World War I veteran, returning home from the war to become the oldest of a group of miners who helped form a union in District 31, the Calumet Region in Gary, Indiana. He was first to sign a Steelworkers Organizing Committee card in 1936. Kimbley was also the first African American to serve as chair of the grievance committee in basic steel. For more see Black Freedom Fighters in Steel, by R. Needleman; and George Kimbley in "Obituaries" in the Lexington Herald-Leader, 07/04/1996, p.C2.
Subjects: Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky / Gary, Indiana

The McDonald and Elvira Porter Family [Moving North]
At the end of World War I, when the United States was experiencing economic tension due to inflation and many union strikes were taking place throughout the country, the Porter Family moved from Kentucky to the "Magic City," Gary, Indiana. Like many African Americans, they were in search of better economic opportunities. The family had been tenant farmers, but after moving to Gary, the men of the family were employed in steel mills and industrial plants. Employment opportunities had been created for African Americans from the South when restrictions were put into place during World War I, which ended the mass employment of immigrants from eastern and southern European countries. For the Porter Family, the availability of employment was reason to pull up their deep roots in Kentucky and move north. The family was led by McDonald Porter, who had been born into slavery in October 1858 in Butler County, KY. His father, Reason Porter (1831-1864), and his mother, Ellen or Julia Borah, had also been slaves. Reason was born in Ohio County, KY. He served during the Civil War with the Colored Troops 115th Infantry Regiment, Company B. The Borah sisters were from Butler County. Ellen Borah had been dead for 20 years when McDonald Porter married Elvira Bracken in 1879. Elvira was from Ohio County; her family had been slaves of the Brackin family that migrated to Kentucky from Sumner County, TN, in the early 1840s. Elvira and McDonald were the parents of five children, all born in Butler County. The family later moved to the Lowertown District in Daviess County, KY, where McDonald was again a tenant farmer. When the children grew up and had their own families, they too became tenant farming families. Elvira and two of her daughters-in-law owned farmland in Daviess County. The agricultural history of African American women [single and married] as farm owners in Kentucky has not been researched, but it is thought that there were very few. The land owned by Elvira and her daughters-in-law was sold prior to the family moving to Gary, IN. The entire family moved: McDonald, Elvira, and all of their children. They all arrived in Gary in early 1919. All of the information about the Porter Family was provided by Denyce Peyton and Renetta DuBose. For more about African Americans in Gary, see A History of the Growth of the Negro Population of Gary, Indiana, by J. F. Potts; and Yesterday in Gary, by D. H. Millender. For more information on women farm owners, see Effland, Rogers, and Grim, "Women as agricultural landowners: what do we know about them?," Agricultural History, vol. 67, issue 2, pp. 235-261. See also the NKAA entry for William E. Porter, grandson of McDonald and Elvira Porter.
Subjects: Migration North, Military & Veterans, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Kentucky : Butler County, Ohio County, Daviess County / Sumner, Tennessee / Gary, Indiana

Parker, Titus
Birth Year : 1833
Death Year : 1913
Titus Parker was one of the first African American coal miners in Earlington, Kentucky [source: "Uncle Titus Parker dead," The Bee, 05/09/1913, p.4]. Parker worked for the St. Bernard Coal Company. His exact age was not known, but he is listed in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census with a birth year of 1833. He is listed as a farmer in Seminary, KY, the husband of Sarah Parker, and the father of five children. In the 1880 Census, Titus Parker and his family were living in Hecla, KY, where Titus was a coal miner. His new wife was Charlotte Prather; the couple had married in November of 1878 [source: Kentucky Marriages Index]. In the 1900 Census, Tittus Paker had retired from the coal mines and was bottoming chairs. His third wife was Meta Parker; the couple was married in 1883 and lived in Earlington. Titus Parker was a former slave born in Todd County, KY [source: J. Phillips, "Locomotive Blasts," The Bee, 04/11/1895, p.2]. His name appears in documents during the Civil War. Titus Parker fought for the Confederacy. His enlistment date was October 1, 1861 in Hopkinsville, KY, and his service started on October 17, 1861, found on p.532 within the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky, Confederate Kentucky Volunteers, War 1861-1865. Parker was a private in Company K, Kentucky First Cavalry Regiment. He mustered out October 17, 1862 [source: U.S. Civil War Soldier Records]. 
Subjects: Military & Veterans, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Todd County, Kentucky / Earlington, Hecla, and Seminary, Hopkins County, Kentucky

Proposed American Negro Colony in New Granada
Start Year : 1861
End Year : 1864
àIn 1861, President Lincoln, an admirer of the late Kentuckian Henry Clay, asked that Congress approve a plan for the colonization of all Negroes. A warm climate or tropical location was preferred: Texas, Florida, Mexico, Haiti, Liberia, or the lands [coal fields] in New Granada claimed by the Chiriqui Improvement Company [in present day countries within Central and South America]. In preparation for the emigration, slaves were to be gradually emancipated, beginning with the Border States [including Kentucky]. But that idea was dropped because it did not appeal to the members of Congress from the Border States. Still, the Chiriqui lands in New Granada were seen as the ideal locations for a loyal and U. S.-controlled colony of Negroes. In 1862, a group of freemen, the first ever to be invited to the White House, arrived to hear Lincoln’s request for their help in promoting the colony among other freemen. There was great opposition to the colony from Central American governments, especially in Costa Rica. The Bogotá [Colombia] government, led by Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, was in favor of the colony. The official Bogotá representative, Pedro A. Herrán, son-in-law of Mosquera, was in Washington. In Colombia, the U.S. Minister was Garrard County, KY, native Allan A. Burton. Several of the prior ministers had also been from Kentucky, beginning with former Congressman Richard Clough Anderson, Jr. from Louisville, who served in Colombia from 1823 until his death in 1826. Though the idea of a Negro Colony was welcomed by the Bogotá government, it was not a viable plan and was therefore suspended in 1862. The colonization fund was abolished in 1864. Haiti was no longer an option after the failure of the Ile à Vache Colony experiment in 1863. Liberia was eliminated when Lincoln issued the final Proclamation of Emancipation on January 1, 1863. For more see P. J. Scheips, “Lincoln and the Chiriqui Colonization Project,” The Journal of Negro History, vol.37, issue 4 (Oct., 1952), pp. 418-453; M. Vorenberg, “Abraham Lincoln and the Black politics of colonization,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association [available online], vol. 14, issue 2 (Summer 1993); Biographical Annals of the Civil Government of the United States: during its first century, by C. Lanman, p. 593 [full view at Google Book Search]; and W. D. Boyd, “James Redpath and American Negro Colonization in Haiti, 1860-1862,” The Americas, vol.12, issue 2 (Oct., 1955), pp. 169-182. See Central and South American Immigration Association and Equal Rights League of the Western Continent. For information on earlier Haitian colony see Freeman Community on Samana Bay (Dominican Republic).

*New Granada included present day Colombia, Ecaudor, Panama, and Venezuela.

See map of Viceroyalty of New Granada at Wikipedia website.
Subjects: Freedom, Liberia, Liberian Presidents & Diplomats, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Colonies, Colonization
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Texas / Florida / Mexico / Ile a Vache, Haiti / Liberia / Costa Rica, Central America / Bogota, Colombia, South America

Short, Rodman J. and Myrtle Render
Born in Rockport, KY, Rodman Short (1883-1936) was the son of Kate E. and John Waltrip Short, the owner of a bit of farmland in Muhlenberg County, KY. Rodman, who left Kentucky for Danville, IL, was a brother of Nancy Short, who settled in Detroit, and John Will Short, who remained in Kentucky after his siblings left, and two younger brothers. Rodman was a coal miner in Danville, IL, and he later returned to Lynch, KY, without his family to find work in the mines during the Depression. He became ill from the mine work and died in Kentucky. His wife, Myrtle Render Short (1888-1971), also a Kentucky native, took his body to Danville, IL, to be buried. Myrtle and Rodman were the parents of cabaret singer and pianist Robert Waltrip "Bobby" Short (1924-2005), the ninth of their ten children. For more see the Bobby Short entry in Current Biography; Music legend Bobby Short's jazzy legacy, an NPR.org website; and Black and White Baby, by B. Short.
Subjects: Fathers, Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Mothers, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Grandparents
Geographic Region: Rockport, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky / Danville, Illinois / Lynch, Harlan County, Kentucky

Spicer, Jack, Sr.
Birth Year : 1875
Death Year : 1925
In 1918, Jack Spicer, Sr. was sworn in as the coroner of Lee County, KY, which made him the first African American to hold an office in the county [source: "Negro official in Lee County," The Clay City Times, 01/17/1918, p.1].  Jack Spicer is listed as coal miner in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. He was born March 31, 1875, according to the WWI Registration Card, and worked for the Beattyville Fuel Company.  He was the husband of Margaret Spicer. According to his death certificate [Registered No. 787], Jack Spicer was born in Jackson, KY, the son of Patsy Strong.  He was a minister at the time of his death in Lexington, KY, October 19, 1925.
Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries
Geographic Region: Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky / Beattyville, Lee County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Spring Valley, Illinois
Start Year : 1884
Located in northern Illinois, the town was built by the Spring Valley Coal Company and the Spring Valley Townsite Company in 1884. Men from Europe, northern Africa, and the United States were employed to work the mines, including a small group of African Americans from Kentucky. Homes for all African Americans were located two miles outside of town due to a local ordinance forbidding them within the city limits. The Spring Valley Coal Company was the state's largest coal producer. Lockouts and strikes were common occurrences at the mines, and in 1895 racial tension escalated when Italian miners attacked African American miners and their families, forcing them to abandon their homes. As news of the rioting spread to Chicago, African Americans put out a call to arms. Illinois Governor Altgeld and Spring Valley Mayor Delmargo intervened and restored calm. The African American miners from the south and their women were blamed for the trouble. By 1910, there were 32 nationalities in Spring Valley; the population included 230 African Americans, two-thirds of whom were Kentucky natives, according to author Paul Debono. When the mines closed, many took work at the resorts where hotel employees played baseball as entertainment for the resort guests; Spring Valley has been noted as playing a contributing role in the development of Negro League baseball. For more see The Indianapolis ABCs: history of a premier team in the Negro Leagues, by P. Debono; Black Coal Miners in America: race, class, and community conflict, 1780-1980, by R. L. Lewis; and the following articles in the New York Times: "A Race riot in Illinois: Italians attack the Negroes at Spring Valley," 04/05/1895, p. 8; "Rioters hold full sway," 08/06/1895, p. 3; "All Negroes driven out," 08/07/1895; "Chicago Negroes call to arms," 08/07/1895; "Spring Valley Negro war ended," 08/08/1895; "Negroes may return to Spring Valley," 08/09/1895; "Arrested for shooting Negro laborers," 08/17/1895; "Negroes arming for Spring Valley," 08/19/1895; and "Cause of the Spring Valley riots: Negroes said to have been responsible for the trouble," 08/26/1895. See also chapter 5, "Making the Italian other," in Are Italians White?, by J. Guglielmo and S. Salerno.
Subjects: Baseball, Communities, Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Riots and Protests Outside Kentucky
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Spring Valley, Illinois / Chicago, Illinois

Tri-City Messengers
Start Year : 1999
Tri-City Messengers is a six part a capella gospel group from the Benham-Lynch, KY, coal mining area. All but one of the men are retired coal miners. The members are Roy Wilson, Alfonson Sims, George Massey, Bennie Massie, Sanford Baskin, and Willis Bates. For more about the group see the DVD, A Beautiful Sound, by Pigeon Pie Films; and the group's performances on Rhythm of My Soul, a PBS Home Video, and More Than Music, by the Kentucky Historical Society.

Access Interview Listen to the Tri-City Messengers perform during the Berea Celebration of Traditional Music in 2002, a Berea Digital Content website. 
Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Religion & Church Work, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Benham and Lynch , Harlan County, Kentucky

Wallace, Bonnie Goddard and Theodore "Cal" Sr.
Activist Theodore Calvin Wallace, Sr. (1914-1987) was a pioneer in radio and television in Lexington, Kentucky. He was born in Patton, AL, the son of Eula Wallace Williams (b.1898 in AL) and the stepson of Allen "Baby Bush" Williams (b.1883 in MS). According to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Allen Williams was a coal miner in Parrish, AL. The family of four lived on Jasper Road. Theodore Calvin Wallace was known as Cal. He grew up in Parrish, AL, and later came to Kentucky to work in the coal mines in Harlan. While in Harlan, he met his future wife, Bonnie J. Goddard (1920-2002), the daughter of Lee D. (b.1875 in KY) and Edward Goddard (b.1864 in TN). Ed Goddard was a circuit-ridding preacher of the Christian Church/Church of Christ. Bonnie Goddard was born in Harlan, KY. She and her husband left Kentucky for West Virginia and Virginia, where Cal Wallace worked in the coal mines. He eventually left the coal mines and moved his family to Cincinnati, OH, where he had various jobs and also worked for a radio station. He was sometimes on the air at WZIP in Covington, KY, and was one of the first two African American disc jockeys (DJs) in the state. [The other was Ernie Waits.] Cal Wallace moved his family to Lexington, KY in 1954, and they all lived in the home purchased on Whitney Avenue in the Forest Hill area. The school-age children attended Booker T. Washington School. Cal Wallace had come to Lexington the year before his family arrived; he was employed as a DJ with WLEX Radio (AM). He was a DJ at night and sold accounts [air time] during the day. The radio station had another African American employee named Nancy Webb, she had a half-hour program called "Webb Presents." When WLEX expanded to television, Cal Wallace had a weekend program, he was on the air live and showed films. He was the first African American to have a program on television in Lexington, KY. Cal Wallace was also in accounts at WLAP Radio (AM), and it was there that he came up with the idea of developing the commercial station WLAP FM. He then went to a local store named Barney Miller's and ordered a truck load of FM radios, and gave them to people in the community, because most of his potential audience members had only AM radios. WLAP FM, with Cal Wallace as general manager, proved to be a hit. Several of Cal Wallace's sons and his wife were on the air. Bonnie Wallace had a popular program called "The Sweet Chariot." The station also had a DJ contest for teenagers, and two of the winners were Sam Jones and Raymond Ross, both of whom would become successful broadcasters. Cal Wallace was the first African American to manage a radio station in Lexington. He also established The Lexington Chronicle newspaper in the 1960s, and the entire family helped to publish each issue. The newspaper was a free publication made available to the African American community. The newspaper was published for about five years. In 1978, Cal Wallace's sons, Edgar and Bernard, resurrected the newspaper with the new title Bluegrass Chronicle. In 1963, Cal Wallace ran unsuccessfully for the Kentucky House of Representatives. His son Edgar Wallace would become a Lexington City Council Member, and his son, Theodore (Ted) Calvin Wallace, Jr. was a House Member of the Michigan Legislature for four terms and he also served as judge of the 36th District Court for seven years. The leadership role of their father extended into the community; Cal Wallace served as director of the Lexington Community Action organization, and he worked with Micro City Government. Cal Wallace was also a minister, he was pastor at Prall Street Church of Christ in Lexington. The church was founded by Cal and Bonnie Wallace, and began as a Bible class in their living room. Today, the church is located on Russell Cave Road. Cal Wallace would become a bishop and overseer in the Church of Christ, he was over seven churches that were located in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Cincinnati, OH, and Lexington and Harlan, KY. Cal Wallace's communication skills had been well groomed when he was a high school student in Alabama where he also competed in oratorical contests. He attended Lincoln Normal School for Colored Students [today Alabama State University], then returned to his high school as a teacher and he coached the football team. For additional information listen to the Edgar Wallace interview [info.], and the Thomas C. Wallace interview [info.]; see "Fayette radio pioneer 'Cal' Wallace dies," Lexington Herald-Leader, 01/04/1987, p.C7; and "Bonnie G. Wallace, ex-DJ at WLAP, 81" Lexington Herald-Leader, 03/23/2002, p.C4. See also the NKAA entries for Thomas C. Wallace, Ted Wallace, and Leula Wallace Hall.

Access Interview Read about the Theodore Calvin Wallace, Sr. oral history interviews available in the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, item records are in the SPOKE Database.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Kentucky African American Churches, Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Radio, Religion & Church Work, Television
Geographic Region: Patton, Alabama / Harlan, Harlan County, Kentucky / West Virginia / Virginia / Cincinnati, Ohio / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Watts, Richard, Sr.
Birth Year : 1927
Death Year : 2000
Watts was born in Maben, AL, and moved to Wheelwright, KY, in the 1940s to play baseball on a mine team and to get a job. Prior to coming to Kentucky, Watts had served in the Army and played baseball with the Birmingham Black Barons. In Kentucky, he became a state mine inspector and the Martin District Supervisor of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals, retiring in 1995. Watts was also a cook known for his meals at picnics and dinners. For more see "Ex-mine inspector, ballplayer dies," Lexington Herald-Leader, 08/25/2000, Obituaries section, p. B2.
Subjects: Baseball, Bakers, Cooks and Chefs, Migration North, Military & Veterans, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Maben and Birmingham, Alabama / Wheelwright, Floyd County, Kentucky

Wheelwright, KY - Colored Section
Start Year : 1918
The Wheelwright Company Housing Project included housing for African Americans, known as the Colored Section. African Americans had first come to the town to work on the railroad at the close of World War I. The railroad was being constructed by the B&O (Baltimore and Ohio Railroad), one of the oldest railroads in the United States, and was later purchased by the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio Railway). When the railroad was completed, the African American men were kept on to work in the mines. Some of the men lived at the boarding house owned by Hilton Garrett (1895-1991), an African American from Birmingham, AL. Garrett had come to Kentucky on his own, and after saving enough money, he was able to bring his wife, brother, and another man to Wheelwright. The town of Wheelwright had been established in 1916 by the Elkhorn Coal Company, and was named after the president of Consolidated Coal Company, Jere H. Wheelwright. The miners were of all races and nationalities, and African Americans were recruited from the North and the South. In the mines, the men were integrated, but they were segregated outside the mines. A black deputy was hired for the Colored section of town known as Hall Hollow. Wheelwright was not listed as a separate town in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census. In the 1930 census, of the 226 African Americans listed as living in Wheelwright, more than 100 were men from Alabama. Wives and children were also listed in the census. Segregation was the norm between African Americans and Whites. Among the African Americans who lived in the Colored section, there was distinction and confrontations between those from the North and those form the South. There was not a school building for African American children, so grade school was held in the Colored church. A high school, Dunbar High, was built in 1936. Mrs. Mannie N. Wilson was a high school teacher before the building was completed, and in 1935, she was listed in the Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal. When Inland Steel owned the city of Wheelwright, the homes were upgraded, the streets were paved, and recreation facilities were built. All was segregated. Library services were provided to African Americans around 1943 via the library for whites. Photographs, such as a 1946 photo, show the street in the Colored section of the housing project. There is also a photo of the shift change at a mine. These and other photo images are available in the Kentucky Digital Library - Images. For more see the Wheelwright Collection and other collections at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections; Black Coal Miners in America, by R. L. Lewis; the Kentucky Coal Education website Wheelwright Kentucky, Floyd County; and Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky, by R. F. Jones. Also contact the Floyd County Public Library.

 
Subjects: Librarians, Library Collections, Libraries, Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Migration South, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Railroad, Railway, Trains, Housing, Fair Housing, Open Housing, Housing Agencies
Geographic Region: Birmingham, Alabama / Wheelwright, Floyd County, Kentucky

Williams, Charley "Banjo Dick"
Birth Year : 1849
Born in Kentucky, Charley Williams moved to Arizona in 1871 as a cook and housekeeper for the L. A. Smith family, according to author Alton Hornsby in Black America: a state-by-state historical encyclopedia, v.1, p.41. Charley Williams was known as Banjo Dick, and in the 1880s, he had a mining company named the Banjo Dick Mine, located near Tucson, AZ. According to author Hornsby, the mine was thought to the be first African American owned and operated mining operation in Arizona. The mine lasted but a few years, then Charley Williams moved to Nogales, AZ, where he shined shoes and played the banjo for extra money. "His biggest engagement was that of playing at La Vennis Park, the exclusive rendezvous of the Tucson aristocrats." For more see In Steps of Esteban: Tucson's African American Heritage at the University of Arizona Library.

See photo image of Charley Williams at the University of Arizona website.
Subjects: Businesses, Bakers, Cooks and Chefs, Migration West, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Shoes: Finishers, Makers, Repairers, Shiners, Stores
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Tucson, Arizona

Williams, Worthy "Butt Cutt"
Birth Year : 1922
Death Year : 1989
Born in Redfox, KY, Williams was the first African American elected to public office in Knott County, and as of 2009, he is the only one. Williams was first elected as constable in 1969 and re-elected in 1973 and 1977. Williams was a coal miner until he developed black lung and was no longer able to work in the mines. He was the husband of Wilma Dean Gipson Williams (deceased), from Manchester, KY. Williams was the father of Janet (deceased), Linda, Lorena, Sophia, Wendell, and Worthy Dewayne Williams. For more see "Eleven blacks hold county level posts," in Kentucky Directory of Black Elected Officials [1978], Fifth Report, by the Commission on Human Rights, p. 13. Corrections, birth, and death date information for this entry was provided by his daughter Linda Williams via Dr. Andrew Baskin at Berea College.
Subjects: First City Employees & Officials (1960s Civil Rights Campaign), Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills
Geographic Region: Redfox, Knott County, Kentucky

 

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