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

African American Schools in Harlan County, KY

In 1890, there were two colored schools in Harlan County, KY, with a total of 70 students, according to Lottie McCoy's thesis, History of Education in Harlan County, Kentucky, p. 118. In the 1886 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Harlan County is included in the list of counties that had a colored school [see NKAA entry African American Schools, 1886].

From 1918-1919, there were only three Negro teachers in the county school system. In Camp No. 3, the coal mine superintendent had set aside an old building to be used as a school for the 12 Negro children in the camp [source: "Negro Schools," pp. 357-358 in M. B. Ellis, "Children of the Kentucky coal fields," The American Child, vol. 1, May 1919-February 1920].

In Lynch, there was a colored school held in temporary quarters with classes conducted by two teachers. The colored school in Benham was held in an old church with an average attendance of 65 students, though there were 135 Negro children of school age in the community. During the 1918-1919 school term, six 8th grade children attended  the Benham Colored School. Plans were discussed for a $6,000 brick school house to be built with a playground. In 1919, Rosenwald funds were available for a colored school to be built in Harlan that had a class B high school; the colored school had four teachers and 240 students [source: McCoy, p. 118].

In 1923 a school was built by the U. S. Coal and Coke Company and leased to the Lynch Colored Common Graded School District [source: R. Creech, "Historical marker honors Lynch Colored School," Harlan Daily Enterprise, 2003]. The Lynch Colored School had 567 students and 13 teachers, and included a four year high school with a class B rating [source: McCoy, p. 118]. The high school was attended by students from both Lynch and Benham. The school was considered the best colored school in southeastern Kentucky, and many of the teachers were graduates of Kentucky State College [now Kentucky State University]. The Lynch mines schools system was one of the few to have a colored school superintendent, B. B. Smith [see the NKAA entry for Colored Superintendents].

Other colored schools in Harlan County were located in Closplint, Verda, Shields, Louellen, Kildav, Coxton, Tway, Liggett, Benham, Yancey, and Black Mountain [source: McCoy, p. 118]. All of the colored schools were under Lela Virginia Becker, the first colored school supervisor in Harlan County. The Benham, Harlan, and Lynch high schools were among the approved Negro high schools in eastern Kentucky between 1918-1940, with Lynch Colored High School having the highest number of students [see NKAA entry African American High Schools, Eastern Kentucky, 1948].

In 1940, the Negro teachers in Harlan County were Vivian Baker, William Boyant, Georgia Bradshaw, Vivian Breedlove, Edward E. Brewer, Julius Burrell, Helen Carroll, Ben Caise, John V. Coleman, Alma Dallas, Judith Davis, T. Leory Davis, Lydia Gray, S. Henry Hagnes, Mary P. Houston, Mary L. Jackson, Lillian King, Alberta Leavis, L. C. McCrery, Ruth Mathews, Lorene McClinnick, Lovey Mitchell, Franklin Moore, Hannah Moore, Alice Parsons, Joseph Perry, Ercell Powell, Addie G. Reed, Johnnie M. Riggins, Sanford Scott, Mary Sheabe, Edythe Spencer, Henrietta Sweat, Geneva Tapp, Virginia Tichenor, Johnnie B. Ware, Mary J. Williams, Clara Woolfork, Johnnie Wood, William M. Wood, Jessie Howard, and Jennie B. Hall [source: U.S. Federal Census]. The Harlan County Area Vocational School was the first to be listed as integrated in the Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 859.

  • Harlan School
  • Lynch School
  • Closplint School
  • Verda School
  • Shields School
  • Louellen School
  • Kildav School
  • Coxton School
  • Tway School
  • Liggett School
  • Benham School
  • Yancey School
  • Black Mountain School
  • Evarts School  [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 859]
  • Rosenwald School [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 859]
  • West Main (Lynch) [source: Kentucky School Directory, 1961-62, p. 860]
  • Camp Number 1 School (Lynch) [source: Steve Andriga Oral History recording #1986OH275 at UK Libraries Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History]
  • Camp Number 3 School (Lynch)

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Harlan County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lynch, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Harlan, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Closplint, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Verda, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Shields, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louellen, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Kildav, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Coxton, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Tway, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Liggett, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Benham, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Yancey, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Black Mountain, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Evarts, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Camp No.1, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Camp No.3, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: African American Schools - Kentucky, 1886
NKAA Source: History of education in Harlan County, Kentucky (thesis)
NKAA Source: The American child (periodical)
NKAA Source: The Harlan daily enterprise (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Kentucky school directory (serial)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  African American Schools, High Schools - Eastern Kentucky, 1948
NKAA Entry:  Report: Negro School Districts and Their Needs by L. N. Taylor
NKAA Entry:  African American Schools - Colored Superintendents at Kentucky Public Schools, 1925
NKAA Entry:  Kendall, Joseph N.

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“African American Schools in Harlan County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed January 27, 2023,

Last modified: 2022-12-14 17:27:02