Mtn. Talk: Black in Appalachia
In this episode we’ll learn about Black in Appalachia: an oral history project, community archiving project, and soon to be podcast exploring Black histories and communities across Central and Southern Appalachia.
WMMT’s Rachel Garringer sat down with the project’s director William Isom II and podcast producer Terence Harris to learn more about the history, current scope, and future work of the project. Isom is a sixth generation east Tennessean who shares his experiences of trying to trace his own family’s history in the region and how that has informed his approach to researching Black history in Appalachia in a community based context. Harris now lives in Knoxville but hails from the Southside of Chicago, and he talks about the upcoming podcast and the team helping bring the Black histories gathered through this project into the present on the upcoming show.
Along the way, we’ll hear excerpts from some of the oral history interviews in the Black in Appalachia community archive including:
Karida Brown, a Professor of Sociology at UCLA who tells the story of African American migration out of the Deep South to the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, and then, as coal jobs declined, on north to the Rust Belt and cities of the Northeast.
Della Watts who shares her own family’s story of leaving Harlan County Kentucky for Cleveland Ohio in the 1950s and the segregation of the bus and bus stations on that journey north.
And Arlin Lee Bowers and Linnie Hamilton Gillespie, both raised in Greene County, Tennessee, who share stories of growing up on farms, and raising tobacco, tomatoes, and rabbits – as well as sneaking out of the house as young people!
Songs on this episode come from Sparky Rucker’s album Cold & Lonely on a Train. That album was produced by Appalshop’s own June Appal Recordings in 1977. In this episode we hear “Walkin’ Blues,” “Crossroads,” “Love in Vain,” and “Pallet on the Floor.”