Historical society partnering with Black in Appalachia for special event

Published 11:17 am Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Bell County Historical Society, in partnership with Black in Appalachia, wants the community’s help in preserving local history.

The Bell County Historical Society is partnering with Black in Appalachia for the Let’s Share Our History event on March 7.

The historical society wants the community to attend and learn about how they can help preserve the history of Bell County.

Director of the Bell County Historical Museum, Jes’Anne Givens said, “This is not just for the African American community, we want to be more inclusive. We had large Greek, Jewish, and Lebanese populations. We also have newer immigrants coming to the area. You don’t tell the whole if you don’t show multiple perspectives, which is so important.” Black in Appalachia will be co-hosting the event to help attendees learn more about what the organization does. It is also a non-profit working to highlight the history, culture, and contributions of African Americans in the Appalachia region.

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Black in Appalachia offers a podcast and has done work with East Tennessee PBS. In 2021, they visited Middlesboro to digitize and catalog thousands of Lincoln Colored School enrollment cards. These copies were given to the Middlesboro Independent Schools and the Bell County Historical Society.

The ‘Let’s Share Our History’ event will allow the community to know what history is missing and how they can help. The historical society talked with some members of the community asking what was their biggest concern.

“Oral history. They were very concerned with the number of elderly individuals in our county and city that were getting to the age that if somebody did not get a hold of these stories soon, then they would be gone,” Givens said.

The historical society recently submitted a grant to work with oral histories. This would allow them to buy the equipment needed and allow outside help to come in and help preserve oral history properly. Givens said that items like visitation cards or church fans could have pictures of old buildings that can preserve this history of Bell County.

“There’s all kinds of different things that I just don’t think people understand that could be very valuable in preserving their history.”

Some residents may remember the old saloon, The Silver Slipper, the historical society has the blueprint but no pictures.

“They could have a whole treasure trove in their home and not realize it,” Givens added.

The Lincoln School has items that are preserved while the Roland Hayes School in Pineville does not. Due to the flood in 1977, and the Pineville school system not separating the files, Givens said some items were lost or have remained unknown in the mix.

“We’re working very hard on the Roland Hayes School. In fact, we’ve only got one picture of the school that we know is in existence and it’s not even the whole front.”

Anyone with items that could preserve history and want to help have some options. For physical items, the historical society will give them the option to either gift the item or loan it. For an item that can be copied, the museum will do that and then give the item back. You will also receive paperwork in the mail for proof.

This event will allow the door to open for more opportunities for the Bell County Historical Society to provide for the community.

‘Let’s Share Our History’ will be held at the Central Arts Auditorium in Middlesboro on March 7 at 6 p.m. Members of the Bell County Historical Society will be baking cookies and will provide refreshments. There will also be a chance for community comments so the historical society can receive feedback.