‘Slavery in Appalachia’ exhibit explores slavery in Radford

Researchers say slave numbers increased significantly after the railroad was built through the area

RADFORD, Va. – A new light is being shed on the history of slavery in Radford and other parts of Appalachia.

‘Slavery in Appalachia’ is a new exhibit housed in the Glencoe Mansion, Museum, and Gallery. The executive director of the museum, Scott Gardner, said this exhibit is just the beginning of a larger project.

“The exhibit on slavery is just the beginning. We wanted to really tell the story of African Americans in Appalachia in this region. We thought we would take it in a chronological approach, so starting with slavery,” Gardner said.

The project took a little over a year and a half to complete. Gardner and other members of the Radford community wanted to see these stories told.

Sarah Carter is a descendant of slaves of Dr. John B. Radford ... where the city of Radford gets its name.

Carter said many people don’t think the Appalachia area had slavery.

“People wanted to ignore it. They didn’t want to acknowledge that Appalachia existed. They saw Appalachia people in a different lighting compared to say like New York and the big cities,” Carter said.

Gardner found a similar theme with some of the visitors coming to the museum.

“We’ve had so many people come through the doors here that had no idea that slavery existed here … or if they thought it existed here they thought it was different or they thought there weren’t significant numbers here,” Gardner said.

Gardner and Carter worked along with other people to create the exhibit. While you won’t find any artifacts or more materialistic items as part of the exhibit, you will have the chance to take a walk through some of the history of slavery in the area.

Through her research, Carter found that her ancestors owned by Radford were treated fairly compared to slaves on the other side of town.

“The most significant piece that I found was that the Radford slaves were being well taken care of but the slaves on the west end were being mistreated,” Carter said.

She hopes people will appreciate the exhibit as it tells a story that has been overshadowed for years.

“I hope they give it thought … put it into reality. Slavery is never going to go away. It may not be here physically but mentally and historically…slavery will always be here,” Carter said.

The exhibit will remain on the ground floor for the rest of February. Eventually, it will permanently rest on the top level of the museum.

About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.