by Mike Templeton

Advocacy on behalf of urban Appalachians in Cincinnati goes back to 1964 with the work at the Main Street Bible Center that primarily served people in Over-the-Rhine. In a previous blog article by Dale Marie Prenatt on the history of the Main Street Bible Center, we learned that the work of the Center continued with “Hub Services, United Appalachian Cincinnati, Appalachian Committee of CHRC, the Appalachian Identity Center, the Appalachian Community Development Corporation.” These eventually led to the founding of the Urban Appalachian Council in 1974 and then the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition in 2014. With more than half a century of advocacy, direct assistance, research, and community organizing, there is now a vast wealth of documents and information on urban Appalachian activity that has been collected in various archives.

Core member Mike Maloney explained that “these archives exist primarily in four sets of materials in the Berea College archives collections that hold extensive collections of research and other materials on Appalachian Migrants and Appalachian Migration.” These archives include the Philip J. Obermiller Papers and Appalachian Migration Research Collection, 1950-2013 and the Thomas Wagner- Philip J. Obermiller Appalachian Migrant Research Collection, just to name two prominent archives (a link to all of Berea College Archives is below). Examples of things collected in these archives include Valuing Our Past, Creating Our Future: the Founding of the Urban Appalachian Council and African American Miners and Migrants: the Eastern Kentucky Social Club. These are studies co-authored by Wagner and Obermiller.

The archives at Berea College also contain things like letters, notes, and administrative documents that can be invaluable primary resources of scholars and others with an interest in the urban Appalachian experiences. Maloney told me,“Within each of these archives there are at least four boxes filled with primary materials from all the phases of urban Appalachian research and advocacy.” The documents in these boxes detail things like the educational and cultural activities of early urban Appalachian activists and even things like race relations in urban Appalachian neighborhoods—details that may well be lost to the public imagination in our current historical context.  

Archives in the Frank Foster Memorial Library at Community Matters

In addition to the archives held by Berea College, the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition maintains its own archive collection in the Frank Foster Memorial Library at the Community Matters location in Lower Price Hill. The archive held at Community Matters includes the personal collection of Dr. Frank Foster as well as other materials. All of these materials and archives were finally made available to the public with the help of volunteers from Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati. While the Frank Foster Memorial Library does not hold open hours for the public, the materials can be searched online, and appointments can be scheduled to access these materials. Archives of the first five years of UACC are in Core member Mike Maloney’s possession.

These archives are vital resources for scholars of Appalachian Studies, but they are also important resources for almost anyone. Scholars of local Cincinnati history and students of cultural history in general will find these archives to be nearly inexhaustible sources of information. That so many of these documents are primary sources of information makes them priceless. The urban Appalachian archives are also important for people working in areas like community organizing, bibliographers, and even people who are exploring their personal genealogical backgrounds.

Of course, accessing this information is perhaps one of the most important things we need to convey. The Berea Archives Collection is available online. The link for the general list of archives on urban Appalachians is below. Within this link there are links to each individual collection. The materials in the archive are not digitized, but you can schedule access to any of them. If you have questions about the Berea College archives you can contact Sharyn Mitchell who is the Research Services Specialist for Special Collections and Archives. The archives are searchable by author, date, subject and several other subheadings. For example, there are multiple boxes that contain all the materials from the Urban Appalachian Council. In-person access to the Berea College Archives is limited for the moment due to Covid-19 precautions; email to make arrangements to access materials.

In addition to the Frank Foster Library’s searchable archives, the Library maintains its own collection of books, journals, and documents that pertain to urban Appalachians in greater Cincinnati. The UACC website also contains links to materials from the Research Committee which would serve as an ideal place to begin a research project that could eventually lead to the Berea College Archives

The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is built on the work of all the other organizations and community activist networks that went before. As we continue the work of advocacy, community organizing, and furthering urban Appalachian culture in greater Cincinnati, we rely on things like the archives of urban Appalachian researchers and organizers to guide our work in the present. We also invite others to take advantage of these archives. These are the documents and texts that detail Appalachian migration and urban Appalachians, and they provide the details of the urban Appalachian experience in our region.

The Berea College Special Collections and Archive and Special Collections are available the Berea College Library website. Clink the embedded link.

For help with the Archives, you can email Sharyn Mitchell, Research Services Specialist for Special Collections and Archives.

To access the Frank Foster Memorial Library, follow this link:

For Dale Marie Prenatt’s article on the Main Street Bible Center, click this link:

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of the forthcoming The Chief of Birds: A Memoir. Available later this year from Erratum Press, and Impossible to Believe, forthcoming from Iskra Books. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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