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

Migration from Kentucky to Iowa

The migration of African Americans from Kentucky to Iowa pre-date 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. There was a steady stream of Kentucky-born African Americans migrating 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. Counted in the 1880 Census were over 6,000 African Americans who were born in Kentucky and lived in Iowa. During WWI 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


Cited in this Entry

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

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Migration from Kentucky to Iowa,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed September 21, 2020,

Last modified: 2019-05-16 16:06:10