African American Genealogy and History Workshop planned for Feb. 18-19

JONESBOROUGH — The Jonesborough Genealogical Society and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society-East Tennessee Chapter will host a distinguished lineup of speakers on Feb. 18-19 at the African American Genealogy and History Workshop at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.

The event is free. However, participants are encouraged to register online by visiting and clicking on the blog entry for the event.

The program gets underway on Friday with a welcome and introductions at 5:30 p.m. The first presentation, “Shocking Discoveries of East Tennessee’s Slave Trade in Newspapers,” will be delivered via Zoom starting at 6 p.m. by Bill Carey, executive director of Tennessee History for Kids and the author of “Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee.”

A few years ago, Carey spent months collecting every runaway slave ad, slave-sale ad and slave-wanted ad ever published in Tennessee’s newspapers. He found more than 900 different runaway slave ads alone. He then studied the history of slavery and the slave trade to better understand what the ads meant (it’s not always obvious). The end result was the book “Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee.” In his session, Carey will talk about some of the high (or low) points, with a focus on shocking discoveries about the history of East Tennessee.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, Carmen Bradley Campbell, a genealogist and member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society-East Tennessee Chapter, will present “How to Catch a Whisper: An Overview of Genealogical Tips and Research Tools That Beginner Family Researchers May Encounter as They Search for Their Family’s Historical Footprint.”

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On Saturday, the welcome and introductions begin at 9 a.m. followed by “African American Newspaper Research” with Taneya Y. Koonce (via Zoom) at 9:30 a.m. Koonce is an enthusiastic genealogist with a long-standing passion for exploring family history and more than 20 years of professional expertise in information science, research and information organization. She volunteers extensively in the genealogy community, with current leadership roles in the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, the USGenWeb Project, and the National Genealogical Society. She also runs a Facebook community for family history enthusiasts, the Academy of Legacy Leaders™, a group to foster education, inspiration and camaraderie for family history activities.

Author Leigh Ann Gardner will take the stage at 10:30 a.m. to present “Looking for Your Ancestors in Unusual Places.” Gardner received her master’s degree in history with an emphasis in public history from Middle Tennessee State University. She developed an interest in documenting African American history during her time at the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU, both as a graduate student and later as a staff member. Her thesis was titled, “The African American Presence at the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site, 1784-1900.” During her time at the Center for Historic Preservation, she worked on several projects for historic sites in East Tennessee. She has spent over a decade documenting African American benevolent and fraternal groups and their cemeteries in Tennessee. Her book on the subject, “To Care for the Sick and Bury the Dead: African American Lodges and Cemeteries in Tennessee,” will be released by Vanderbilt University Press this month.

Following a lunch break, Dr. Wilma A. Dunaway, an author and professor emerita of sociology at Virginia Tech, steps to the microphone to present “Bearing Witness to the Silenced Past: Tracing the Family Histories of Appalachian Slaves.” Dunaway earned her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D degrees from the University of Tennessee. She completed her dissertation about the integration of antebellum Appalachia into global capitalism, where she received a fellowship from Woodrow Wilson Foundation. From 1999 to 2015, she taught as an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Tech. In 2015, she earned the title of professor emerita.

Her research interest includes women’s work, slavery and Appalachia among others. She is the author of “Women, Work and Family in the Antebellum Mountain South” (2008), “Slavery in the American Mountain South” (2003), “The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation” (2003) and “The First American Frontier: Transition to Capitalism in Southern Appalachia, 1700-1860” (1996). She also has won the Weatherford Nonfiction Award twice, including Best Book about the Southern Appalachian region from the Appalachian Studies Association (1996, 2003) and the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Tennessee (2015). Since 2000, she has helped more than 300 families to identify their ties to slave ancestors and to former slaveholders.

The Jonesborough Visitors Center is located at 117 Boone St. in historic Jonesborough. For a detailed schedule or to register, visit and click on the blog entry for the event.

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