Antebellum Appalachian African-Americans


Free and enslaved persons of African descent lived within the antebellum Appalachian region. Although relatively fewer than other Southern regions, blacks affected the politics, culture and the racial make-up of Appalachia. Various aspects of life may be explored such as the abolition movement, active and passive resistance, biographies, Cherokee slave owners, coal mining, freedmen, historical landmarks, Melungeons, mulattos, mustees and the underground railroad. No definitive book has been written for the region as the whole and the researcher will find a paucity of secondary sources focusing specifically on antebellum Appalachian blacks. Specific counties and states, however, include relevant information within their histories.

Please note that all material in this Pathfinder can be located in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection except where otherwise noted.

Introductory Text: 

Woodson, Carter. “Freedom and Slavery in Appalachia in America” found in the Journal of Negro History (1916) Vol. 1, no. 1. [Online version. See ASU PERIODICALS for print version.] Also reprinted in the book Blacks in Appalachia. ASU APP COLL STACKS: E185.912 .B53 1985.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 
  • Afro-Americans -- Appalachian Region
  • Afro-Americans -- Appalachian Region -- History
  • Afro-Americans -- Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Afro-Americans -- Appalachian Region, Southern -- Music
  • Antislavery Movements

Subdivide geographically:

  • Antislavery Movements -- America
  • Antislavery movements -- Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Appalachian Region, Southern -- Race Relations
  • Appalachian Region -- Statistics
  • Appalachian Region -- Population
  • Appalachian Region -- Population Statistics
  • Fugitive Slaves -- United States
  • Slaveholders -- Appalachian Region, Southern -- History -- 19th Century
  • Slavery (may subdivide adding a “state name” after “slavery”)
  • Slavery -- Appalachian Region, Southern -- History -- 19th Century
  • Slavery -- United States -- Appalachian Region
  • Slaves -- Emancipation
  • Underground Railroad
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 

Coleman, J. Winston, Jr. Slavery Times in Kentucky. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1940. 351 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS: E445 .K5 C7 1940.

Inscoe, John. Mountain Masters: Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina . Knoxville:
University of Tennessee Press, 1989. 348 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS: E445 .N8157.

Lamon, Lester C. Blacks in Tennessee, 1791 - 1970. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press (in conjunction with the TN Historical Commission), 1981. 121 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS: E185.93 .T3 L36.

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Fears, Mary L. Jackson. Slave Ancestral Research: It’s Something Else. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1995. (Genealogical guide) 268 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS: E185.96 .F43. [library use only]

Turner, William. “Appalachians, Black.” The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture . Charles Reagan Wilson & William Ferris, coeditors. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. 1634 pages. See pages 139-142. ASU APP COLL OVERSIZE: F209 .E53. [library use only]


Black American Culture Bibliography: A List of Books and Periodicals on Black American Culture Located in the Belk Library, ASU . Boone, NC: Belk Library Acquisitions Department. 1972. ASU MAIN STACKS: Z1361 .N39 B45 [circulating]; ASU IMC STACKS 016.301451 A646 [circulating]; and ASU APP COLL STACKS: Z1361 .N39 B45 [noncirculating]

Burke, Henry Robert. Historian and Executive Director, Society for Intercultural History, 1997. Origins of the Melungeon-American Subculture. Available online at: .

Cabbell, Edward Joseph. References and Resources on Black Appalachians: A Bibliography on “Auxiliary” Southern Highlanders. Master’s Thesis, ASU, 1982. 72 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS:
E185.912 .C32 1982.

Jones, Judy. Appalachian Origin Fuels Race Debate: Melungeon Group Tied to Africans, American Indians. Lexington Herald-Leader, Southeastern Kentucky Bureau, 1997. Available online at:

Morrison, Nancy Sparks. The Mystery of the Melungeons. IIGS Newsletter (International Internet Genealogical Society), October 1998. Contains extensive bibliography on the Melungeons. Available online at:

“Negroes.” Bibliography of Southern Appalachia . Charlotte T. Ross, ed. Boone, NC: Appalachian
Consortium, 1976. 235 pages. ASU APP COLL OVERSIZE: Z1251 .A7 B5x.

Smith, John David. Black Slavery in the Americas . Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1982.
ASU REFERENCE: ZT164.56 563 1982.

Thompson, Lawrence Sidney. The Southern Black: Slave and Free: A Bibliography of Anti- and Pro-slavery Books and Pamphlets, and of Social and Economic Conditions in the Southern States from the Beginnings to 1950 . Troy, NC: Whitston Publishing Co., 1970. 576 pages. ASU REFERENCE: Z1251 .S7 T47. [noncirculating]

Abstracts and Indices: 

Materials listed here should be used for an exhaustive search.
Only a limited return can be expected for the time spent.

America: History and Life

Index to Black Periodicals . 1984 to present. Formerly: Index to Periodicals By and About Backs . 1973 - 1983. ASU REFERENCE: AI3 .O4.

Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature . ASU REFERENCE: AI3 .P7 1802-1881. and ASU MICROFORMS [fiche]: LAC 30978-79.

UnCover A Database of over 18,000 Journals from Many Disciplines.

Writings on American History . Bound: 1902-1903; 1906-1940; 1948-1990. ASU REFERENCE: E11 .W75.

Use these Subject Headings:

  • “Appalachia/n African-Americans”
  • “Appalachia/n Afro-Americans”
  • “Appalachia/n Blacks”
  • “Appalachia/n Negro” [pre-1980]
  • “Appalachian Slave”
  • “Appalachia/n Slavery”

Appalachian Journal: A Regional Studies Review. Boone, NC: Appalachian State University. v. 1, 1972 to present. ASU APP COLL STACKS: F216.2 .A66. Indexed in vols. 7, 18, and 23.

Journal of Negro History . Washington [etc.] Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Print version available in ASU PERIODICALS. Indexed each volume.

Phylon . Atlanta, GA: Atlanta University. ASU PERIODICALS. Bound and Microfilm. Indexed each volume.

Also, various state historical journals publish relevant articles.

Other Sources: 

U.S. Federal Census, by county and state. Free and enslaved blacks are included in the Federal Census for the years, 1787, 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, and 1840. Enslaved blacks are enumerated in a separate Slave Census for the years, 1850 and 1860. ASU APP COLL MICROFILM.

Writer’s Project Administration Slave Narratives. Virginia’s narratives are found in:

Weevils in the Wheat Charles L. Perdue, Jr., Thomas E. Barden, and Robert K. Phillips, eds. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976. 405 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS: E444 .W37 and ASU MAIN STACKS: E444 .V57.

The American Slave : A Composite Autobiography. George Rawick, ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Pub. Co. 1972--. Multi-volume set. ASU MAIN STACKS: E444 .A45.

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Kathryn L. Staley, 12 December 1997