African American Cultural Influence in Appalachia


African Americans first arrived in Appalachia in the mid 1500s as slaves to Spanish and French explorers; centuries later many would return to the area as slaves once again. However, with their return, African Americans would play an influential role in Appalachian culture and society, contributing to regional music, oral history and folk art. As outsiders became more and more intrigued with Appalachia and associations of homogeneity were developed, minorities such as African Americans and their existence in the region were sorely overlooked. Yet, as Appalachian Studies have emerged and scholarship on the region has progressed, more attention has been paid to African Americans or, “Affrilachians,” as they are often referred to, and the roles they have played in Appalachian culture. All of the following resources relevant to this group are available in the W.L. Eury Special Collection in the Carol Grontes Belk Library and Information Commons located at Appalachian State University.

Introductory Text: 

A basic definition of “Affrilachian” appears in:

“Affrilachian.” New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed. Eds. Angus Stevenson and Christine A. Lindberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010: 27. ASU PE1628.N429

An appropriate and useful introduction to understanding African Americans in Appalachia appears in:

Turner, William H. and Edward J. Cabbell (eds.). Blacks in Appalachia. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1985. APP COLL E185.912.B53

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

highly relevant:

African Americans – Appalachian Region

African Americans – Appalachian Region – History

Appalachian Region – Race Relations

Slavery – United States

Slavery – United States – African American Slavery

Slavery – United States – African American Slaves

Slaves – Emancipation – United States

more relevant:

African American Coal Miners

African American Folk Art

African American Mennonites

African American Pacifists

African American Oral tradition

African American Railroad Employees

African American Schools

Appalachian Region – History

Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 

Blacks – Appalachia

Library of Congress Call Numbers: 


E442 – E445




Davis, Lenwood. The Black Heritage of Western North Carolina. Asheville, NC: University Graphics, UNCA, 1980. APP COLL E185.93 .N6 D378

Dunaway, Wilma A. Slavery in the American Mountain South. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003. APP COLL E443 .D87

Inscoe, John C. Appalachians and Race: The Mountain South from Slavery to Segregation. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. APP COLL E185.912 A67

Inscoe, John C. Mountain Masters, Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1989. APP COLL E445 .N8 I57

Turner, William H. and Edward J. Cabbell. Blacks in Appalachia. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1985. APP COLL E185.912.B53

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Newberry, Elizabeth R. “Affrilachians.” in Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell (eds.). Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2006. APP COLL F106 .E53

Turner, William H. “Appalachians, Black.” Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Eds. Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989: 139-141. APP COLL F209.E53


Cabbell, Edward J. Like a Weaving: References and Resources on Black Appalachians. Princeton, WV: John Henry Memorial Foundation, 1984. APP COLL Z1361 .N39 C14

The Case for Black Appalachian Studies: A Bibliography. Boone, NC: Appalachian State University, 1980. APP COLL Z1361 .N39 C27

Freed, Mark. “Preliminary Bibliography of Best-Known Black Appalachian Musicians.” Black Music Research Journal 24.1, 2004: 91-168. ASU BOUND MUSIC JOURNAL

Abstracts and Indices: 

America: History and Life

Sociological Abstracts

Social Sciences Citation Index

Ethnic News Watch


Appalachian Heritage. Hindman, KY: Appalachian Heritage, Inc., 1973-Present. APP COLL F106.A137 A6

Appalachian Journal Boone, NC: Appalachian State University, 1972-Present. APP COLL F216.2 .A66

Black Diamonds. Princeton, WVA: John Henry Memorial Foundation, 1978. APP COLL E185.93.W5 B57, vol. 1, 1978

Mountain Life & Work. Berea, KY: Berea College, 1925- Present. APP COLL GR103 .M5

Pluck!: The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. Cincinnati, OH: Duncan Hill Press, LLC, 2007-Present. APP COLL F217.A65 P58

Southern Exposure. Durham, NC: Institute for Southern Studies, 1973-Present. APP COLL F206 .S68


“Affrilachian Artist Project.” (Accessed 23 Sept. 2012)

Hoffman, Carl. “The Appalachian African-American Cultural Center: Building on the Past.” Appalachia Magazine. Appalachian Regional Commission online. (Accessed 23 Sept. 2012)

pluck! Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture.” (Accessed 26 Sept. 2012)

Other Sources: 

Theses with helpful information include:

Jamison, Phillip A. The Southern Appalachian Square Dance: African-American Influence on European-American Dance in Appalachia. MA thesis, Boone, NC: Appalachian State University, 2007. ASU SPEC UARCHIVES PUBLICATIONS LD175.A40k Th 1725

Staley, Kathryn. Between Two Worlds: African Americans in Antebellum Wilkes County. MA thesis, Boone, NC: Appalachian State University, 1999. ASU SPEC UARCHIVES PUBLICATIONS LD175.40k Th 1723

Interviews and other oral histories include:

Horton, Rhonda. Interviewed by Cheryl Claassen. August 14, 1984. Boone, NC. Transcript in APP COLL ARCHIVES Collection 225, Box 1, Folder 8

Montell, William Lynwood. The Saga of Coe Ridge: A Study in Oral History. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1970. APP COLL E185.93 .K3 M6

Mullen, Patrick B. Listening to Old Voices: Folklore, Life Stories and the Elderly. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992. APP COLL GR108 .M85

Compiled by: 

Ashley C. Brewer
December 1, 2009

Updated by: 

Rachel E. Simon
October 15, 2012