African American Schools in Harlan County, KY
In 1890, there were two colored schools in Harlan County, KY, with 70 students, according to the thesis of Lottie McCoy, History of Education in Harlan County, Kentucky, p.118. In the 1886 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Harlan County is included in the list of counties that had a colored school [see NKAA entry African American Schools, 1886]. From 1918-1919, there were only three Negro teachers in the county school system, and in Camp No.3, the coal mine superintendent had set aside an old building to be used as a school for the 12 Negro children in the camp [source: see the section "Negro Schools," pp.357-358 in the M. B. Ellis article, "Children of the Kentucky coal fields," The American Child, v.1, May 1919-February 1920].
In Lynch, there was a colored school held in temporary quarters and classes were conducted by two teachers. The colored school in Benham was held in an old church with an average attendance of 65 students, though there were 135 Negro children of school age. During the 1918-1919 school term, there were six children in the 8th grade at the Benham Colored School. Plans were discussed for a $6,000 brick school house to be built with a playground. In 1919, Rosenwald funds were available and a colored school was built in Harlan that had a class B high school, there were four teachers and 240 students [source: McCoy, p.118].
In 1923 a school was built by the U. S. Coal and Coke Company and leased to the Lynch Colored Common Graded School District [source: R. Creech, "Historical marker honors Lynch Colored School," Harlan Daily Enterprise, 2003]. The Lynch Colored School had 567 students, 13 teachers, and the school had a four year high school with a class B rating [source: McCoy, p.118]. The high school was attended by students from both Lynch and Benham. The school was considered the best colored school in southeastern Kentucky, and many of the teachers were graduates of Kentucky State College [now Kentucky State University].
The Lynch mines schools system was one of the few to have a colored school superintendent, B. B. Smith [see the NKAA entry for Colored Superintendents]. Other colored schools in Harlan County were located in Closplint, Verda, Shields, Louellen, Kildav, Coxton, Tway, Liggett, Benham, Yancey, and Black Mountain [source: McCoy, p.118]. All of the colored schools were under Lela Virginia Becker, the first colored school supervisor in Harlan County. The Benham, Harlan, and Lynch high schools were among the approved Negro high schools in eastern Kentucky between 1918-1940, and Lynch Colored High School had the highest number of students [see NKAA entry African American High Schools, Eastern Kentucky, 1948].
In 1940, the Negro teachers in Harlan County were Vivian Baker, William Boyant, Georgia Bradshaw, Vivian Breedlove, Edward E. Brewer, Julius Burrell, Helen Carroll, Ben Caise, John V. Coleman, Alma Dallas, Judith Davis, T. Leory Davis, Lydia Gray, S. Henry Hagnes, Mary P. Houston, Mary L. Jackson, Lillian King, Alberta Leavis, L. C. McCrery, Ruth Mathews, Lorene McClinnick, Lovey Mitchell, Franklin Moore, Hannah Moore, Alice Parsons, Joseph Perry, Ercell Powell, Addie G. Reed, Johnnie M. Riggins, Sanford Scott, Mary Sheabe, Edythe Spencer, Henrietta Sweat, Geneva Tapp, Virginia Tichenor, Johnnie B. Ware, Mary J. Williams, Clara Woolfork, Johnnie Wood, William M. Wood, Jessie Howard, and Jennie B. Hall [source: U.S. Federal Census]. The Harlan County Area Vocational School was the first to be listed as integrated in the Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 859.
- Harlan School
- Lynch School
- Closplint School
- Verda School
- Shields School
- Louellen School
- Kildav School
- Coxton School
- Tway School
- Liggett School
- Benham School
- Yancey School
- Black Mountain School
- Evarts School [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p.859]
- Rosenwald School [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p.859]
- West Main (Lynch) [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p.860]
- Camp Number 1 School (Lynch) [source: Steve Andriga Oral History recording #1986OH275 at UK Libraries Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History]
- Camp Number 3 School (Lynch)