Cicero M. Fain III on “Black Huntington: An Appalachian Story”

Cicero M. Fain III is a professor of history at the College of Southern Maryland. He recently answered some questions about his new book Black Huntington: An Appalachian Story.


Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I decided to write the book because no one had yet told this important story.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

Two of my biggest were:

1) conversations held on my front porch discussing this historical figure, development, and/or event, which, over the course of time prompted me to dig deeper into the uniqueness of Huntington’s black history.

2) And black local historians, like Edna Duckworth and Nelson Barnett, Jr., whose initial research presented historical documentation that provided evidence of black contributions.

Q: How did you conduct research for your book?

A wide ranging search through archival material, genealogical societies, local history collections, libraries, court documents, newspapers, journals, articles, family histories, interviews, and church records throughout the Tri-State region of WV, KY, and OH.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

Charles Ringo’s exploits.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

That while WV was formed as anti-slavery slave, it was not pro-black. In truth, Black residents and migrants arrived in the state because of economic opportunity and not because WV was somehow elevated in their thoughts on race. It was their labor that was eventually coveted, not their political aspirations.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

Blacks had to combat racism, forge a life, build community, work the worst jobs and under occupational constraints, construct institutions, and climb the economic ladder while confronting the barriers and mechanisms of Jim Crowism. Their fortitude, persistence, and sacrifice should be noted and celebrated.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

I’m a huge science fiction fan so I’m always watching some show or movie. Most of my reading is purposeful, so not a lot of time to pick up a book just for the sheer pleasure of reading and learning. However, I’ve started in on Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and am immensely enjoying it. I’ve got eclectic tastes in music. Everything from Pink Floyd to Prince, from Jill Scott to Corrine Bailey Rae, from Pat Matheny to George Duke, from Milton Nascimeinto to Santana.


About Heather Gernenz

University of Illinois Press Publicity Manager