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Gone Home

Race and Roots through Appalachia

By Karida L. Brown

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones, 2 tables, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4703-6
    Published: September 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4704-3
    Published: August 2018

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Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2019 PROSE Award in Anthropology, Criminology, and Sociology, Association of American Publishers

Since the 2016 presidential election, Americans have witnessed countless stories about Appalachia: its changing political leanings, its opioid crisis, its increasing joblessness, and its declining population. These stories, however, largely ignore black Appalachian lives. Karida L. Brown’s Gone Home offers a much-needed corrective to the current whitewashing of Appalachia. In telling the stories of African Americans living and working in Appalachian coal towns, Brown offers a sweeping look at race, identity, changes in politics and policy, and black migration in the region and beyond.

Drawn from over 150 original oral history interviews with former and current residents of Harlan County, Kentucky, Brown shows that as the nation experienced enormous transformation from the pre- to the post-civil rights era, so too did black Americans. In reconstructing the life histories of black coal miners, Brown shows the mutable and shifting nature of collective identity, the struggles of labor and representation, and that Appalachia is far more diverse than you think.

About the Author

Karida L. Brown is assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
For more information about Karida L. Brown, visit the Author Page.


“In this tale of the collective African-American search for a place to call home, Brown provides an insightful look at 20th-century American culture.”--Publishers Weekly

“Karida L. Brown’s work continues to complicate Appalachian history by surveying the lived experiences of black residents in Harlan County, Kentucky. . . . The personal stories of black Appalachians provide useful data for seasoned researchers.”--Journal of Southern History

“Breathtaking in its scope, substance, and style, Gone Home breaks important new ground. Karida Brown's distinctive and compelling voice will deeply impact both scholarly and public audiences. This book is poised to become a classic.” —David Cunningham, Washington University in St. Louis

Gone Home is a migrating portrait of black families who moved from Alabama plantations to Kentucky coalfields, and from there to cities across the nation. Displaced by industrial decline, these families were forced to redefine the meaning of home and homemaking. Karida Brown eloquently follows the twentieth-century Great Migration and shows how it transformed African American identity and culture. Her beautiful book offers a deep understanding of both the American South and our nation.”—William Ferris, author of The South in Color: A Visual Journal

“In this wondrous and careful work of essential and classic southern sociology, Karida Leigh Brown brilliantly illuminates black subjectivities as lived, realized, and constituted in the overlooked ancestral African American homeland of Appalachian coal country. Traversing time and space, race and region, Gone Home tells about the South in ways heretofore unimaginable.”—Zandria Robinson, author of This Ain't Chicago

“With magnificent prose Gone Home is a powerful sociological and racial analysis of the lives and experiences of black people in and across Kentucky and Appalachia. Karida Brown has gifted us with a book that is a must read within and beyond the academy.”—Marcus Anthony Hunter, author of Black Citymakers: How the Philadelphia Negro Changed Urban America