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African Americans in Tennessee (Special Collections)

This guide highlights primary sources and research materials in Special Collections related to the African American experience in East Tennessee from the late 18th century to present day.

What's in this Guide?

This research guide identifies Special Collections materials related to the African American experience in East Tennessee from the late 18th century to present day.

photograph of african american leaders in knoxville tennessee in 1920 standing in front of Knoxville's Carnegie Library.

African American Leaders in Knoxville, Tennessee c. 1920.

The five men in this picture who stand in front of Knoxville's Carnegie Library were prominent citizens in the black community. They are identified on the back of the photograph as: Jim Beck, postal clerk; Dr. Henry M. Green; Webster Porter, editor of the East Tennessee News; Joshua Cobb, teacher; and John Hoff, lawyer. From the Volunteer Voices Digital Collection. 

Search Terms

Use the following terms to locate materials related to the African American experience in East Tennessee. Although some of the below keywords may be offensive, outdated, and no longer used in archival practice, the unfortunate historic usage of specific terms can help researchers to identify contemporaneous materials from that era. Try combining several terms to return more relevant results.

  • Abolition
  • African American
  • Afro-American
  • Black
  • Civil Rights
  • Colored
  • Desegregation
  • Freedmen
  • Integration
  • Negro
  • Race
  • Segregation
  • Slave
  • Slavery







To find more information on locating primary sources, manuscripts, and archives material in Special Collections, please visit the Using Special Collection's SCOUT research guide, found at

General Resources for African Americans in Tennessee


Knoxville's African-American Community, 1860-1920. 1989 (F444.K7 J66 1989)

The History of Blacks in Knoxville, Tennessee: The First One Hundred Years, 1791-1891. 1990 (F444.K7 H58 1990)

Two Hundred Years of Black Culture in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1791 to 1991. 1993 (F444.K7 B66 1993)


The Negro in Tennessee Politics and Governmental Affairs, 1865-1965: The Hundred Years Story. 1965 (E185.93.T3 S26)

Blacks in Tennessee, 1791-1970. 1981 (E185.93.T3 L36)

Appalachians and Race: The Mountain South from Slavery to Segregation. 2001 (E185.912 .A67 2001)

Trial and Triumph: Essays in Tennessee's African American History. 2002 (F445.N4 T75 2002)

The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History. 2005 (E185.93 .T3 L68 2005)

Separate Peoples, One Land: The Minds of Cherokees, Blacks, and Whites on the Tennessee Frontier. 2007 (F445 .A1 C86 2007)