From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Migration from Kentucky to Florida

In 1910, Florida was one of six states to have the greatest gain from Negro migration, receiving a greater number of migrants than any northern state. (The other five states were Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, New York, and Illinois).

Kentucky was not a major contributing state; there were very few African Americans who migrated from Kentucky to Florida prior to the mid-20th century. Looking at the Florida State Census (1867-1945), the U.S. Federal Census (1850-1930), and the World War I and World War II draft registrations, there are little more than 1,000 African Americans listed as born in Kentucky and residing in Florida.

For those who did move, they were not concentrated in one particular region of Florida or employed in one particular industry. One of the first Kentucky natives listed in the Census is Oather Bell, who in 1850 was a carpenter in Jacksonville, FL. In 1870, Eli Adams was a farm laborer in Leon County, FL; in 1885, Robert Adams was a laborer in Pensacola, FL; in 1900, David Straws was a farmer in Jefferson County, FL; in 1910, Lannie Jake was a sewer ditch digger in Quincy, FL. During 1917-18, at least 23 African Americans born in KY registered for the Army Draft in Florida during World War I.

In 1920, Ruthanne Adams ran a lodging house in Winter Haven, FL; in 1935, Hallie O'Brien was a laundress in Dade County, FL; in 1945, Victor C. St. Clair was a caretaker in Orange County, FL; and at least 46 African Americans born in Kentucky enlisted in the army in Florida during World War II from 1938-1946.

More recently, the 2004 Louisville Urban Studies Institute Research Report noted that Florida ranked as one of the top destinations for persons who moved from Kentucky (not defined by race).

For more see Negro Migration During the War, by E. J. Scott. For more recent migration trends, see the University of Louisville Urban Studies Institute, Kentucky Population Research, and Kentucky State Data Center - Research Report by Price, Scobee, and Sawyer, Kentucky Migration: consequences for state population and labor force, February 2004; and Migration by Race and Hispanic Origin: 1995-2000, Census 2000 Special Reports, issued October 2003 [available online in .pdf format].

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Negro migration during the war
NKAA Source: Kentucky migration: consequences for state population and labor force

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Migration from Kentucky to Florida,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 15, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-05-24 17:31:40