Ghosts of Lone Rock

A Sewanee history professor’s archaeological excavation shines a light on a dark corner of local history in which Black prisoners were forced to mine coal without pay in Reconstruction-era Grundy County.

When a prisoner arrived at the Lone Rock Stockade—a prison located in what is now part of South Cumberland State Park just outside Tracy City, Tennessee—he was immediately sent to the stockade physician’s office. There, he would be issued one black-and-white striped uniform that he would eat, sleep, and work in. But more importantly, after a basic health examination, the physician would assign the prisoner a daily quota of coal he would be forced to mine without pay on behalf of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company (TCI).

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