Home in the McDowell County Coalfields: The African-American Population of Keystone, West Virginia

by Deaner, Larry Scott

Abstract (Summary)
At first glance, Keystone appears very similar to other small coal towns in southern West Virginia. Dilapidated and empty buildings, coal dust, and churches are evident on the landscape. However, Keystone is far from a typical coal town in central Appalachia. Although Keystone’s population has been dropping since the period following WWII, the population that remains in this small city is largely African-American. The 2000 census indicates that of the 453 residents in Keystone, 73 percent are black. According to current literature, this should not be the case. African-Americans left southern West Virginia in the post-WWII era of mechanization in the coal industry. The persistence of the African-American community is due to several factors, including home ownership opportunities, the presence of a diverse economy, and political leadership at the local and state level. I use histories, archives, and interviews with residents and historians to argue that Keystone, West Virginia, is the capital of “The Free State of McDowell.”
Bibliographical Information:


School:Ohio University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:mcdowell county west virginia african american communities coal towns appalachian diversity persistence keystone


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.