Lynch Colored School

Historical Marker #2109 in Lynch, Kentucky (Harlan County) commemorates the history of the Lynch Colored School, a segregation-era school that educated the community's African American students.

When the coal boom hit eastern Kentucky in the early-twentieth century, mining companies primarily recruited their workers from three population segments. First were local residents, who were traditionally farmers. Second were immigrants, including natives of Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Italy. Third were African Americans from the Southern states. Like the native mountaineers, they were typically farmers or had worked in the iron foundries of cities such as Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. Many African Americans who tired of a sharecropping existence welcomed a new change of scenery and opportunity for wage labor.

During segregation, local residents and immigrant children attended the same schools, but African American students were educated elsewhere. In an attempt to accommodate "separate but equal" facilities as determined by the famous 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, in 1923, the United States Coal Company constructed the Lynch Colored School in Harlan County, which served the adjacent coal towns of Lynch and Benham.

While their fathers toiled away in coal mines, the students at Lynch Colored School received instruction. African American teachers and administrators worked long hours to provide the miners' children with a quality education. Community ties were strong among Lynch’s black population. School events and sports teams brought out the whole community to support their scholars. When the school finally integrated in 1963, it became the town's West Main High School.

Today, Lynch Colored School still stands as a testament to African American initiative. Many of Lynch's black community—although now dispersed across the United States—still hold reunions to remember their times growing up in coal country.

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Lynch Colored School

Lynch Colored School

Lynch Colored School served the African American students of this coal mining community for many years. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

Lynch Colored Church West

Lynch Colored Church West

Lynch also had two African American church buildings. One on the east side of town and this one on the west. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Lynch Trojans

Lynch Trojans

At one time the town of Lynch had a significant African American population that was drawn there for coal mining. The Lynch Trojans, a semi-professional basketball team called the town home. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Benham, Kentucky

Benham, Kentucky

Benham, Kentucky, was the neighboring community to Lynch. Benham was founded by Wisconsin Steel Corporation (later known as International Harvester). Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Children on Playground

Children on Playground

When miners came to the coal towns their families followed. Some coal companies provided amenities such as schools, theaters, hospitals, and church buildings to accommodate their workers. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Coal Cars

Coal Cars

Lynch was literally built on coal. The town was constructed by the United States Coal and Coke Company specifically to house the workers needed to extract the valuable commodity from the mountains. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Timber Operation

Timber Operation

Coal mining and timber harvesting were the two most common occupations in many eastern communities like Lynch. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tim Talbott, “Lynch Colored School,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed May 23, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/557.

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