Research Focuses on Early Black Coal Miners in Appalachia

kbrown_sotm.previewA new exhibit examining the lives of Black coal miners who migrated from the South to work in Appalachian mines in the early part of the twentieth century is now on display at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

The exhibit is based on the research conducted by Karida Brown, who recently received her Ph.D. in sociology at Brown. Dr. Brown is a descendant of Black coal miners who worked in Lynch, Kentucky.

For the project, “The Black Shackle: African Americans and the Coal Economy,” Dr. Brown conducted 200 oral history interviews and took contributions of memorabilia from those interviewed that are now part of the exhibit. These included documents, photographs, and even lumps of coal.

“Unlike traditional collections that are bought or acquired through impersonal channels, the participatory archive allows people to become partners in the history-making process,” Dr. Brown notes. “They choose what and when to donate and have a seat at the table when it comes to their collection.”


Dr. Brown is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. She earned a master of public administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to her recent Ph.D., Dr. Brown also earned a master’s degree in sociology at Brown University.


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  1. Marie says:

    Dr. Brown,
    As a granddaughter of a former West Virginia coal miner- Thank you!!
    ~Marie Walker
    Washington DC

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