Spreading our Wings—Black Huntingtonian Progress during the Era of “Benevolent Segregation.”

Significant numbers of studies have elevated the African American experience in Central Appalachia, the Ohio River Valley, and the rural-industrial circumstance of the black coal miner in southern West Virginia.[i] Yet, stories unearthing black migrant life in urban-industrial settings in Central Appalachia have been largely neglected. This paper examines the experiences of the second generation of black migrants and residents in the urban-industrial city of Huntington, West Virginia. Founded in 1871 as a trans-shipment point for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, Huntington’s burgeoning economy and comparatively tolerant racial climate throughout the late-nineteenth and early- twentieth century attracted increasing numbers of black migrants. New economic affluence and socio-cultural dynamism contributed to the construction of black institutions, home purchase, increasing entry into the public space, and the development of a black professional class. Yet, by the early twentieth-century black aspirations in the city became increasingly constrained as white Huntingtonians embraced and implemented the tenets of Jim Crowism, euphemistically administered by the state under the rubric of “Benevolent Segregation.” Complimenting works within the new urban history paradigm elevating the purposeful nature of black agency in the migratory and community-formation process, this paper examines the diverse, strategic, and successful responses of black Huntingtonians to encroaching Jim Crowism.[ii]

[i] David Alan Corbin, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: the Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), Kenneth R. Bailey, “A Judicious Mixture: Negroes and Immigrants in the West Virginia Mines, 1880-1917,” Blacks in Appalachia, eds. William H. Turner and Edward J. Cabbell (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1985), 117-132, Ronald L. Lewis, Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1987), and “From Peasant to Proletarian: The Migration of Southern Blacks to the Central Appalachian Coalfields,” The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 55, no. 1 (February 1989): 77-102, Joe W. Trotter, Jr., Coal, Class, and Color: Blacks in Southern West Virginia, 1915-1932 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990), and “The Formation of Black Community in Southern West Virginia Coalfields,” Appalachians and Race: The Mountain South from Slavery to Segregation (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2001): 284-301.

[ii] Herbert Shapiro, White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), Neil R. McMillen, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), Robin D.G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York: Free Press, 1994), Kenneth W. Goings and Gerald L. Smith, “Unhidden” Transcripts: Memphis and African American Agency, 1862-1920, The New African American Urban History, eds. Kenneth W. Goings and Raymond A. Mohl (Thousand Oaks, CA, London, and New Dehli: SAGE Publications, Inc., 1996): 141-166, Tera W. Hunter, “Domination and Resistance: The Politics of Wage Household Labor in New South Atlanta,” The New African American Urban History, 167-186, Robin D. G. Kelley, “We Are Not What We Seem”: Rethinking Black Working-class Opposition in the Jim Crow South,” The New African American Urban History, 187-239, Tera W. Hunter, To Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1997), and David Delaney, Race, Place & the Law: 1836-1948 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998).