A void in our history
by KATRINA HUDSON
I am not sure that I can truly express my sadness in regards to the lack of information on African American history in any of the publications that claim to detail the history of Hazard and Perry County. To say that I was surprised by the void that I found in our local library would be untrue. It is not the fault of any particular person, but the seemingly nonexistent history does make me feel as if African Americans only exist during Black History Month or on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
As I surveyed the material in the library, I found several books dealing with the history of the area. There were detailed accounts of family histories such as the Combses, who in one book were said to be of English decent. This particular book only dealt with the caucasian families. There are many African Americans in this area who are also Combses and wouldn't it be intriguing to find out the origins of those families. Each book was full of interesting facts and well written, but I couldn't help but feel that some portions of our history were missing.
The only African American faces in most of the books were scattered here and there with very little information. The only references to the African American population were those in century old census records found in the back of the books that counted “colored” and slaves. I am interested in African American history in Hazard and Perry County and I, at times, get quite discouraged because the resources are so few. Even our town website has very little information about the African American population.
African Americans were here in Hazard and Perry County before we started winning state basketball tournaments and football games. They were land owners some time before urban renewal, they operated business, and there were several segregated schools in this county. How can one find out about those places? How can one learn about their family history? One cannot if there are few resources that could assist in these tasks.
Although there may not be as many African Americans here in Hazard and Perry County now, there were once numerous families who originated here or migrated here from other places not long after Perry County was formed. Some had been slaves, others were born free. As a matter of fact, many families not native to the area came here to work in the coal mines, just as many of their caucasian counterparts did.
I'm interested and I feel that this is a worthwhile project. We need more information that will paint a clearer picture of the history of Hazard and Perry County. Being able to see a complete picture, will further link this small town to the rest of the country's social changes and improvements. As of now, it seems as if we went from dirt roads, horses and carriages, to an economically growing city and somewhere in there African Americans just appeared. My search has led me to a dead end and that's sad. I'm sure there is a wealth of information available in an oral form, but it must be written down ( and the light bulb comes on). That would definitely be my kind of project.
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