Between 1940 and 1970, Harlan County, Kentucky lost seventy percent of its black population due to industrial decline. Accompanying the estimated five million other African Americans who were migrating out of the Deep South, this generation of coal kids migrated to urban cities in Northern, Midwestern, and Western regions of the U.S. This chapter analyzes the ways in which the adults in Harlan County prepared their youth to adopt to a migratory mindset, one in which children understood leaving home after high school was inevitable. Central to this analysis is their decision-making process that factored in gender, institutions, jobs, war, politics, and higher education when choosing destinations and forming the mechanisms that undergirded this massive out-migration. The chapter also focuses on the forming of the post-migration diaspora, particularly the emergence of this group’s diasporic consciousness. Though they were uprooted from home at a young age, thousands of African Americans still consider these post-industrial Appalachian communities “home.” Using the Eastern Kentucky Social Club reunion and the Memorial Day weekend pilgrimage as examples, this chapter offers an in-depth treatment of black place-making, collective memory, and archive.
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