Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Lisa Gabbert


Lisa Gabbert


For decades, Harlan County has been studied for its unique characteristics—coal, class, power, and segregation, which have allowed many fields to understand the deeply rooted history of the region. It has become increasingly clear that Harlan County is unlike many other mining regions in the Appalachian area. Harlan County mines developed “model towns” with schools, hospitals, stores and housing for their workers, thus, drawing in migrant workers, native Appalachians, and immigrants. Among these people were African Americans.

African American coal miners’ have been heavily discussed in literature, especially in West Virginia and Alabama. This work focuses on African American mining families in Harlan County, Kentucky.

This work focused specifically on a small mining town in Harlan County, KY named Lynch. “Home to Harlan” explores two main ideas: the formation of community as a way to understand group among African American miners’ children and how community in continued in the present as seen in homecoming. The community formed a social club, the Eastern Kentucky Social Club (EKSC), to reaffirm bonds built in childhood after the decline of coal caused outmigration. This club hosted two annual gathers that encouraged return migration to bolster communal bonds. “Home to Harlan” focused on the Memorial Day celebration and its evolution express that communities can continue gathering despite outmigration and how celebrations are recontextualized to fit the needs of the attendees.

Available for download on Tuesday, August 01, 2023