Liberia, South Carolina

An African American Appalachian Community

By John M. Coggeshall

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, 3 maps, 1 graph, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4085-3
    Published: May 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5400-1
    Published: April 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4084-6
    Published: May 2018
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-4086-0
    Published: April 2018

H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

Runner-Up, 2018 Weatherford Award for Nonfiction, Berea College and Appalachian Studies Association

In 2007, while researching mountain culture in upstate South Carolina, anthropologist John M. Coggeshall stumbled upon the small community of Liberia in the Blue Ridge foothills. There he met Mable Owens Clarke and her family, the remaining members of a small African American community still living on land obtained immediately after the Civil War. This intimate history tells the story of five generations of the Owens family and their friends and neighbors, chronicling their struggles through slavery, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, and the desegregation of the state. Through hours of interviews with Mable and her relatives, as well as friends and neighbors, Coggeshall presents an ethnographic history that allows members of a largely ignored community to speak and record their own history for the first time. This story sheds new light on the African American experience in Appalachia, and in it Coggeshall documents the community’s 150-year history of resistance to white oppression, while offering a new way to understand the symbolic relationship between residents and the land they occupy, tying together family, memory, and narratives to explain this connection.

About the Author

John M. Coggeshall is professor of anthropology at Clemson University.
For more information about John M. Coggeshall, visit the Author Page.


“This book is a beacon for those of us who struggle to uplift the study and celebration of African-American Appalachian communities and people.”—Appalachian Mountain Books

“This case study of an African American community is a balanced presentation of family narratives, historians’ research, and anthropological insights. It is a must-have book for collections in African American studies, anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences.”—Choice

“A book that will become a foundational text for scholars planning to teach Black Appalachian history and should also become a critical resource for scholars researching rural Black communities and collecting oral histories.”—Black Perspectives

“Coggeshall succeeds in telling a story of Black life in America from the perspective of five generations of one extended family. Liberia, South Carolina, furthermore leaves no doubts of this community’s belonging to the broader story of radical Black freedom struggles in America.” —Journal of African American History

“John M. Coggeshall’s Liberia, South Carolina offers an in-depth and moving history of rural African American resistance to white domination in the American south by former slaves and their descendants. A remarkable story.”—Susan E. Keefe, Appalachian State University

“An intricate, nuanced perspective on this community’s history, Liberia, South Carolina complicates simplistic understandings of Jim Crow and highlights the importance of studying African American communities in Appalachia. A tremendously important book.”—Bruce Baker, Newcastle University