Mtn. Talk: Karida Brown & Black History in Eastern Kentucky
Karida Brown is an assistant professor of sociology and African American Studies at the University of California in Los Angeles, but she’s also a member of what she calls the “Eastern Kentucky African American Diaspora”- with deep personal ties to Harlan County, KY where her grandparents lived, and much of her extended family still lives.
For this episode of Mountain Talk WMMT’s Public Affairs Director Rachel Garringer spoke with Dr. Brown by phone about her new book Gone Home: Race & Roots Through Appalachia. Gone Home was published in 2018 by the University of North Carolina Press, who wrote: “Karida L. Brown’s Gone Home offers a much-needed corrective to the current whitewashing of Appalachia. In telling the stories of African Americans living and working in Appalachian coal towns, Brown offers a sweeping look at race, identity, changes in politics and policy, and black migration in the region and beyond.”
Over the course of the interview Brown also talks about the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project– a public humanities project and community archive – out of which the book was born. And, she shares memories of “coming home” to Lynch, KY from Long Island, NY to visit her grandparents and cousins when she was growing up, as well as the moment she felt called to record oral histories of Black life in the eastern Kentucky coalfields and in cities across the nation where many African American families with ties to KY still call Harlan County home.
Along the way we’ll hear religious songs sung by the choirs of two different African American churches in Harlan County. From the Macedonia Baptist Church Choir, of Cumberland, we’ll hear “I Love the Lord” and “Hallelujah The Almighty Reigns.” For the second tune they were joined by West Virginia’s First Lady of Gospel Music, Ethel Caffie Austin. Both of those songs were recorded at Appalshop’s annual Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival in 1994. And, we’ll hear the Mt. Sinai Spirituals from Lynch, KY performing at the Poor People’s Campaign Tour Visit to the Benham Kentucky in March 2018. We’ll also hear a few short audio clips from some of the one hundred and fifty oral history interviews Brown conducted for this project.