First chartered in 1822, Kingsport was developed as the industrial center of the Tri-cities (Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City), and is the largest of the three.
Both free and enslaved people were living in and around Kingsport at it's inception. In 1830, Sullivan County recorded 245 Free People of Color and 1322 enslaved people (8 of which were held by Kingsport's founder William King).
During the growth of industrialization at the turn of the century, the Black community grew significantly as families moved from agricultural work to urban service provision and factory work.
Black educational facilities, churches, businesses and clubs were eventually developed in support of these growing communities. One such neighborhood that was created specifically for African Americans to live during the Jim Crow era was Riverview. Built on the site of a toxic waste dump, Riverview become the hub of Black education, business and socialization.
In partnership with the Kingsport City Archives & the Kingsport Friends of the Archives, The Kingsport Community History Project's goal is to work with the Black communities of Sullivan & Hawkins Counties of Tennessee and Scott County, Virginia to fully document and make accessible the community's history.
One major outcome of this project has been the development of a series of mobile Black history displays for use in public spaces & schools in the city.
Covering five topics of Black life in the city, you can download printable versions of these informational displays here:
This project was made possible through the support of:
Much of the material collected comes from residents & churches through Community History Days hosted at V.O. Dobbins Community Center. We're also building a collection of oral histories from participants. (see below)
This project began in November 2018 and will continue into the future with ongoing scan & interview days.
If interested in providing materials, oral histories or volunteering, our Facebook page is the best place stay informed of upcoming events in the Kingsport area.
View the Sullivan County Community Archives here: