East Tennessee State University’s Appalachia Archives digitizes the Black History Collection


From ETSU:

There is a 47-minute VHS recording that contains an interview with the class of 1964 at Langston High School, a now-defunct institution that served Johnson City’s black students from the 1890s. A 1985 Masonic newsletter and a 1981 Kingsport Times-News article on the Pro-To Club, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of the area’s black population, also exist.

Donated to the university more than 20 years ago, the Langston Heritage Group Collection contains a wealth of historical information about black churches, schools, civic groups and organizations throughout Washington County from the end of the Civil War to the present day.

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

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

“The physical collection was first donated to ETSU in 2000, and since then it has been accessed in the archives reading room by dozens of researchers who have used the materials for scientific and creative projects,” said Dr. Jeremy A. Smith, Director of the Archives of Appalachia. “But the digitization and availability of this collection 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 Johnson City’s history.”
In late 2021, the Archives of Appalachia and the B. Carroll Reece Museum received $225,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a prestigious grant to support a project to improve online access to collections and artifacts representing diverse voices in the southern Highlight Appalachian Mountains.

Digitizing this collection is critical, Smith said, but “we know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to documenting the rich and diverse history of African Americans in Johnson City and East Tennessee.”

“Our hope is to continue to work with the broader community to add new details and new layers to this vital story and demonstrate the rich cultural diversity that has existed in Appalachia since its beginnings,” he added.

The Archives of Appalachia actively seeks donations for new collections. If interested, call (423) 439-4338 or email [email protected]

Direct to Langston Heritage Group Collection, 1869-2022


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

About Gary Price

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


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