Mtn. Talk: Jessie Wilkerson & Appalachian Women in Social Justice Movements
In this episode of Mountain Talk, WMMT’s Rachel Garringer sat down with Jessie Wilkerson: Assistant Professor of History and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi and author of the book To Live Here You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice.
In this interview Wilkerson talks about growing up on her family farm in east Tennessee, and how she learned about labor history and Appalachian history from her grandmother. She delves into her book and shares a few stories of eastern Kentucky women who she features in it, including: Eula Hall, Bessie Smith Gayheart, and Minnie Lunsford. Wilkerson also talks about the concept of women’s caregiving as a political activity, and how she navigated issues of race and racism in Appalachia in the writing of her book.
From the Appalshop Archive we dug up audio of Eula Hall in the 1986 Appalshop film Mud Creek Medicine directed by Anne Lewis. Another treasure in the Appalshop archive is an interview with Minnie Lunsford, Betty Eldridge and Gussie Mills recorded by Mountain Community Television circa 1974. MCTV was a local cable access TV project in Norton, VA in the 1970s. Paul Congo, the former head of MCTV, donated a bunch of his videotapes to Appalshop a while back. In this episode, you’ll also hear a clip of Minnie Lunsford comparing the union struggle they were currently engaged in during the 1973 and ’74 Brookside Strike to the days of Bloody Harlan in the 1930s.
Music on this episode features a song written by the Brookside women in the early 1970s and included in the Mountain Community Television interview “Brookside Women.” The song is a re-writing of Glen Campbell’s tune “Kentucky Means Paradise.”