From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Migration from Kentucky to Iowa

The migration of African Americans from Kentucky to Iowa pre-dated the official opening of the territory in 1833 and continued into the 1900s. York is reported as being the first to cross through the region as a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Former slaves Henry and Charlotte Pyles were taken from Kentucky, and as free persons they settled in the Iowa Territory, where they assisted escaped slaves making their way to Canada.

A steady stream of Kentucky-born African Americans migrated to Iowa. The U.S. Federal Census lists over 100 in 1850, and during the Civil War the First Regiment of Iowa African Infantry included 142 recruits from Kentucky. The 1880 Census lists over 6,000 African Americans born in Kentucky and living in Iowa. During World War I over 4,000 native Kentuckians registered for the U.S. military in Iowa, and over 15,000 were counted in the 1920 Census.

For more on the migration to Iowa see J. L. Hill, "Migration of Blacks to Iowa 1820-1960," The Journal of Negro History, vol. 66, issue 4 (Winter, 1981-1982), pp. 289-303; and the website African Americans in Henry County, Iowa (extracted from the) 1870 Census.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: York
NKAA Entry: Pyles, Charlotta G. M.
NKAA Source: The Journal of Negro history (periodical)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Migration from Kentucky to Iowa,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-04-11 16:08:01