Black Royals in Appalachia

“There is only one queen who truly ruled a kingdom on American soil.”

Vanessa Miller
Vanessa Miller

The American Queen, a highly acclaimed book by Vanessa Miller, was released in January 2024.

This novel is the true story of Queen Louella Montgomery, a resilient force who left a plantation in Mississippi with her husband to travel with a band of people seeking “the promised land.” The couple and their followers gathered ever more people as they crossed many states in the old Deep South to reach their final destination.

The first written account of this kingdom was a 20-page pamphlet by Sadie Smathers Patton in 1957, and copies are in the reference section of the main branch of the Henderson County Public Library. The American Queen invites you into this communal kingdom to learn how African Americans banded together collectively—and how one African American woman, known as Queen Louella, left a legacy for all to follow in her footsteps of hope, determination, and courage.

Many people and readers have never heard of Queen Louella and the Kingdom of the “Happyland” which is located in Henderson County, NC. The county courthouse has the deeded information of the land purchased.

Diamond Cash with “From Cotton to Crowns,” an installation she created in collaboration with Crystal Cauley.
Diamond Cash with “From Cotton to Crowns,” an installation she created in collaboration with Crystal Cauley.

A well-known local Hendersonville man, Ronnie Pepper, has created and performed storytelling about this kingdom for many years. In addition, an art installation, “From Cotton to Crowns,” created by artist Diamond Cash in collaboration with Crystal Cauley, is located inside The People’s Museum at 318 North Main Street in Hendersonville. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour.

The Black History Collective of Henderson County, a group created by Crystal Cauley, has plans in development to create an annual African-style cultural event in commemoration of Queen Louella and the Kingdom of the Happyland. Featuring Miller’s book, the celebration will use spoken word poetry and art exhibitions to honor the American Queen.

The American Queen

In 1869 a kingdom rose in the South, and Louella was its queen.

Over the twenty-four years she’s been enslaved on the Montgomery Plantation, Louella learned to feel one hate. Hate for the man who sold her mother. Hate for the overseer who left her daddy to hang from a noose. Hate so powerful there’s no room in her heart for love, not even for the honorable Reverend William, whom she likes and respects enough to marry. But when William finally listens to Louella’s pleas and leads the formerly enslaved people out of their plantation, Louella begins to replace her hate with hope.

Hope that they will find a place where they can live free from fear. Hope that despite her many unanswered prayers, she can learn to trust for new miracles. Soon, William and Louella become the appointed king and queen of their self-proclaimed Kingdom of the Happy Land. And though they are still surrounded by opposition, they continue to share a message of joy and goodness—and fight for the freedom and dignity of all.

Transformative and breathtakingly honest, The American Queen shares the unsung true history of a kingdom built as a refuge for the courageous people who dared to dream of a different way of life.

Follow Vanessa Miller on Facebook and visit for updates. Look for The American Queen online, or at any area bookstore.


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