African American Experiences in the Smokies Project

Job Corpsmen in the Smokies
Job corpsmen working in the park.

NPS Photo

Do you remember the time when you were sitting on the front porch with your grandparents and they told you a story? Not just any story, but a story that made you ask more questions, read more books, or share those stories that you learned as a child with your grandchildren. In 2018, Great Smoky Mountains National Park realized that there was a missing piece to its rich puzzle of history, which led to the park’s new project, the African American Experiences in the Smokies project.This project is a collaborative effort with park partners and the community to document and share the untold stories of African Americans in and outside the Smokies. These stories have been shared by many African Americans around crackling campfires, sun-beaten front porches, and the lamp lit bedrooms, but they have yet to be shared with the world.

To tell this story, the park is conducting research into the African American experiences in the Great Smoky Mountains and southern Appalachia communities. Research topics in this framework include enslavement, the American Civil War, social dynamics, laws and policies, careers, recreation, and oral histories. These are a few of the many key topics that will help park visitors understand this important, yet untold story.

Why Is This Project Important?

To fulfill this mission, we must create spaces that tell stories such as the African American accounts throughout the Appalachian Mountains. The results of this research will be used to educate park visitors, partners, and staff through teacher workshops, interpretive programs and products, and digital media. Please return to our park website or contact us for the most updated information or if you have any leads on people, places, or events that connect with the African American Experience Project.
African American Stories
African American Stories

Take a journey through Appalachia to learn the stories of African Americans in the Smokies.


Learn more about African American history through one of the park's virtual or in-person presentations.

Black Voices of Appalachia
Oral History Project

Black Voices of Appalachia Oral History Project focuses on the experiences of African Americans in the park and Appalachia region.


Research Sources

“Contrasting Beginnings of Slavery in North America · African Passages, Lowcountry Adaptations · Lowcountry Digital History Initiative.”, Accessed 14 Mar. 2023.

“Exploring Southern Appalachia: The Conquistadors and the Catawba.” BPR, 22 Oct. 2019, Accessed 14 Mar. 2023.

Kickler, Dr. Troy. “Exploration in North Carolina (Spanish).” North Carolina History Project, Accessed 14 Mar. 2023.

Parr, Karen. “De Soto’s Exploration of South Carolina - South Carolina Encyclopedia.” South Carolina Encyclopedia, 17 May 2016, Accessed 14 Mar. 2023.

Sheppard, Donald. “Hernando de Soto’s 1540 Exploration of the Carolinas.”, 2007, Accessed 14 Mar. 2023.

Last updated: March 21, 2023

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