TTU professor's book puts local perspective on Black History Month

A recent book by a Tennessee Tech University history professor puts a local perspective on February’s Black History Month.

TTU’s Wali Kharif teamed up with William Lynwood Montell, a folklorist from Western Kentucky University, to write Reminisces and Reflections: African Americans in the Kentucky-Tennessee Upper Cumberland Since the Civil War (Janze Publications, April 2005).

The book, Kharif’s first, is a social, cultural and economic study of African Americans from the Kentucky-Tennessee Upper Cumberland region. It relies on both historical documentation and oral tradition, examining life patterns that span the post-bellum period through the modern civil rights era.

“It’s appropriate reading for Black History Month, but more importantly, it’s a notable contribution to Tennessee and Upper Cumberland history,” Kharif said. “If it encourages someone else to study this topic further, then it will have accomplished the purpose we intended.”

Although the region has always lacked an incorporated town populated predominantly by African Americans, the book pays special attention to three distinct African American communities — Coe Ridge in Kentucky and Free Hill and Gravel Hill in Tennessee.

“The fact that African Americans make up a small percentage of the Upper Cumberland population — about 5 percent today — does not diminish the importance of their presence in the area,” Kharif and Montell state in their book.

“The region’s black population, no matter how small, is significant. How they lived in general, interacted particularly with the white majority, and accepted some change while retaining much of their cultural heritage, tells much about the resolve of a people,” the authors say.

The book includes an extensive bibliography and list of sources, and because so many of those sources are local residents who provided anecdotal information, some people may find that the work provides an acceptable supplement for their genealogical research, Kharif said.

Reminisces and Reflections is available through the TTU’s Barnes and Noble bookstore, located in the Roaden University Center.

For more information about the book, call Kharif at 931/372-6322.

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