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In the extended article that appears below historians Daudi Abe and Quintard Taylor explore the history of African Americans in Martin Luther King County from 1858 to 2014.
They analyze the forces which encouraged people of African ancestry to settle in the county and discuss the rapid political, social, and economic changes that its black residents have faced since the first arrival, Manuel Lopes, came to the county in 1858.
By 1880 King County’s black population reached 34 individuals.
Male pioneers were lured to the area by opportunities in construction, farming, and coal mining while women frequently worked as domestic servants or owned small boarding houses or stores.
African American men, for example, routinely participated in civic life of the county at a time when voting prohibitions and terrorist tactics drove post-Reconstruction-era African Americans away from the polls in other regions of the country.