“It all starts right here,” Reverend Edgar J. Moss said as he pointed to the large piece of Harlan County coal sitting in the middle of the living room of his Hartford, Connecticut home. Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project founder Karida Brown and Southern Historical Collection archivist Biff Hollingsworth listened intently as Moss explained the significance of the coal. Reverend Moss’s father Green Moss had worked in the mines near the family’s home in Benham, Kentucky. The elder Moss had come to the mountains of Kentucky from Alabama, one of many African American men recruited out of Alabama’s coalfields by the International Harvester Corporation because of their skill in extracting anthracite – a notoriously tricky type of coal found within a great vein of coal stretching across the eastern half of the continent.

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Reverend Moss left his Kentucky home in May 1958, heading north for better job opportunities, and he took with him the large black rock. He also took with him his lifelong love for photography. Ever since he received his first camera at age 11, Moss has been documenting his life, the lives of friends and family, and his community. 

In March 2014, Reverend Moss donated his large collection of photographs, documents and other artifacts to the Southern Historical Collection to preserve them for future generations.

 

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