East Tennessee State University’s Appalachian Archives Digitizes Black History Collection

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Of ESU:

There is a 47-minute VHS recording that features an interview with the Class of 1964 from Langston High School, a now-closed institution that served black students in Johnson City beginning in the 1890s. A Masonic Bulletin from 1985, as well as a A 1981 Kingsport Times-News article about the Pro-To Club, a non-profit society aimed at promoting the welfare of the region’s black population, is also there.

Donated to the university more than 20 years ago, the Langston Heritage Group collection includes a wealth of historical information about black churches, schools, civic clubs and organizations in Washington County from the late civil war to the present day.

Thanks to the archivists at East Tennessee State University, the collection has been digitized and made available to anyone interested in this story.

Grateful Baptist Church, 1920s (Image source: ETSU)

“The physical collection was first donated to ETSU in 2000, and it has since been consulted in the Archives’ Reading Room by dozens of scholars who have used the materials for scientific and creative projects,” said said Dr. Jeremy A. Smith, director of the Appalachian Archives. “But digitizing and making this collection available online will bring it to a global audience, providing unprecedented access to this valuable resource while helping to draw attention to an essential but underrepresented part of the Johnson City history.”
At the end of 2021, the Appalachian Archives and B. Carroll Reece Museum received $225,000 in financing from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a prestigious grant awarded to support a project to improve online access to collections and artifacts that showcase diverse voices in southern Appalachia.

Digitizing this collection is critical, Smith said, but “we know this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of documenting the rich and varied histories of African Americans in Johnson City and Eastern Tennessee.

“Our hope is to continue to partner with the wider community to add new detail and layers to this vital story, demonstrating the rich cultural diversity present in Appalachia since its beginnings,” he added.

The Appalachian Archives is actively seeking donations of new collections. If interested, call (423) 439-4338 or email [email protected]

direct to Collection of the Langston Heritage Group, 1869-2022

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Filed under: Archives and Special Collections, Associations and Organizations, Funding, Interviews, News, Profiles

About Gary Price

Gary Price ([email protected]) is a librarian, writer, consultant and frequent speaker based in the Washington DC metro area. He received his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards, including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program Alumnus of the Year. From 2006 to 2009, he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy that supports enterprise product and business model teams with just-in-time fact finding and insight.

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