The Black presence in what would be current-day Rogersville and Hawkins County occurred as early as European movement into the area.
Prior to the US Civil War, US Census records indicate there were 194 Free People of Color and 1,893 enslaved individuals (1.20% and 11.71% of the population, respectively).
In 1870, five years after National Emancipation, the Black population of Hawkins County was counted as 1,859 individuals (or 11.73% of the overall population). These compiled data sets are available here:
Additional Resources & Materials:
Dan of the Mountain - Preston Mitchell
"Preserving rural African American heritage in Hawkins County, Tennessee: a history and restoration proposal for Saunders School, Chapel, and Cemetery." - Sharon Edwina Becker
From 1943 to 1959, The Rogersville Review ran "The Colored News". It was a society article by and about the happenings in Hawkins County's Black community.
This period of time is particularly important, as it sits between the 1940 and the currently unavailable 1950 & 1960 Census records. View, search by name & download here:
Sermons of W.C. Hargrave
Dr. Walter Clarence Hargrave, an African American teacher and pastor from East Tennessee. He served as pastor of Bethel Presbyterian in Dandridge, Tennessee as well as at St. Luke’s in New Market, Tennessee and Rice Presbyterian Church (location unknown to us). He was also the President of Swift Memorial Institute in Rogersville, Tennessee from 1936 - 1941. One of W.C. Hargrave's largest contributions to African American history is the extensive documentation of his daily living and his sermons. You can view those original manuscripts and transcriptions here.
The Swift Story
The Swift Story explores a little-known aspect of Central Appalachian history. In 1883, the first African-American graduate of Tennessee’s Maryville College, Rev. William H. Franklin, established an institution of higher learning for newly emancipated Blacks in the region.
The late-HBCU, Swift Memorial Institute in Rogersville, Tennessee became a beacon of higher education in the rural South for African Americans. The Swift Story is now being told through newly discovered photographs, letters and documents, as well as interviews with authors, academics, Swift Memorial Institute alumni and Rogersville residents.
Southern Sources Blog: Stories from Swift Memorial Institute: A Late-HBCU in Appalachia - UNC Chapel Hill
Swift Memorial Institute Oral History & Interview Transcriptions
Oral Histories & Interviews are also available at:
Price Public Community Center & Swift Museum, Rogersville, TN
Printed Transcripts of Oral Histories & Interviews are available at:
Stella Gudger at Swift Museum II
Robert J Booker on William H. Franklin
Dr. William "Tom" Bogart: Swift & Maryville College
Bobby Lovett: Swift College & The History of Black Education in Tennessee
Oral History Transcriptions & Technical Support Provided by: