Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Our Appalachia

Our Appalachia: An Oral History

Laurel Shackelford
Bill Weinberg
Photographs by DONALD R. ANDERSON
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 408
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Our Appalachia
    Book Description:

    Many books have been written about Appalachia, but few have voiced its concerns with the warmth and directness of this one. From hundreds of interviews gathered by the Appalachian Oral History Project, editors Laurel Shackelford and Bill Weinberg have woven a rich verbal tapestry that portrays the people and the region in all their variety.

    The words on the page have the ring of truth, for these are the people of Appalachia speaking for themselves. Here they recollect an earlier time of isolation but of independence and neighborliness. For a nearer time they tell of the great changes that took place in Appalachia with the growth of coal mining and railroads and the disruption of old ways. Persisting through the years and sounding clearly in the interviews are the dignity of the Appalachian people and their close ties with the land, despite the exploitation and change they have endured.

    When first published,Our Appalachiawas widely praised. This new edition again makes available an authentic source of social history for all those with an interest in the region.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5824-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 1-2)
    (pp. 3-13)

    Our Appalachiaportrays the people, the life, the history, and the culture of a region of America that is both little known and little understood. We call the region Central Appalachia but its name and its boundaries are suggestive only. OurAppalachiais about people—mountain people—the hills of eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia and the ranges and valleys of western North Carolina. The mountain people talk about a way of life not walled in by state or county lines. Their thoughts, struggles, feelings, and recollections will be familiar to many people in southern Ohio or northern Georgia, rural...

  4. Part One A Simpler Time

      (pp. 17-62)

      Back when I was growing up, about February you’d go clearing land, clearing it off for a crop. They’d send one of us old boys out and invite everybody in the whole community to come to the working. They’d come, too. I’ve seen forty and forty-five and they’d just clean off acres a day, pile it ready to burn. They was grubbing, sawing logs, cutting logs, spreading them, piling them in big grips, and getting them ready to burn. When it got dry they burned it off clean. There was no overseer. They all knowed how to work.

      The womenfolks...

      (pp. 63-90)

      You asked what was life like? Well, in some ways it was very ideal, of course, because we did have the beautiful woods, we had everything that nature gives, but we had none of the things that civilization gives. The woods themselves offered food. There were roots, berries, the sap of trees. We lived well.

      Now, anything could hit you for a lean year. If your father stayed well and your mother stayed well, you had a pretty good life. The weaving went on, the carding, the spinning. But if something happened to your family and your father died, then...

    • 3 WORKING
      (pp. 91-129)

      Hunting ginseng was a good hobby for anybody. My daddy learned it to me. When I was a little boy he took me senging with him and when he would find a bunch he would show it to me. In the spring of the year when it first started coming up everything was so green it was hard to find. I’ve found the best time to find it was from about the middle of September to the fifteenth of October when it turns a pretty yellow color and there ain’t another weed in the hills that favors it. You can...

  5. Part Two A Culture under Attack

      (pp. 133-192)

      MAYO: [My father] went to school in Johnson County; then he went to Kentucky Wesleyan at Millersburg, Kentucky.* He had an instructor there who was apparently quite knowledgeable in minerals [and] it has been said that my father got some inspiration from him to keep on the lookout for coal as being a valuable product some day. As soon as he came back to Paintsville from Wesleyan he had to teach school in order to make a living. I think they paid $50 a year, or $100 a year. Out of that magnificent sum he was able to save $150...

      (pp. 193-242)

      My grandfather died young; he took bone scrofula. He had bought a farm over on Johnson Fork of Lacy Creek.* He paid for his farm and he had a wife and five children. This old doctor that was doctoring him had to have a new kind of medicine, which he said cost three hundred dollars. [My grandfather] had to mortgage the farm to get this three hundred dollars. He takes the mortgage to the doctor. My grandfather died and my grandmother couldn’t raise that amount of money. [The doctor] closes this mortgage and set these kids, and that woman, out...

      (pp. 243-296)

      “Coal miners was hit harder than anybody. They had no gardens, [so] they’d go up on a little steep hillside and rake them off a little garden and tend it, but they didn’t have no way of putting up and taking care of stuff like the farmers did. Farmers [like us] was hit hard about tax money and things like that, but they wasn’t hit too hard about food. We had enough to eat, but we had four children and another one on the road, and we didn’t have no way of making ends meet for money and doctor’s bills,...

      (pp. 297-339)

      I don’t believe that a person who works in the coal mines is any more endangered than my wife sitting there on the porch. The whole house could fall in on her. I would say that a person is about as safe in a coal mine as [he is working] in a garage checking automobiles because there is a lot more men working in the coal mines than there would be in any garage. There are a lot of people who get killed in garages and there are a lot of people who get killed in the mines.

      I never...

  6. Part Three Digging In

      (pp. 343-382)

      Before I went into the service there were several things I wanted to do, but the people—I’m speaking primarily of white people—[would say], “There is nothing for you.” I could work for these people on the farm, but as a young black man I was wanting to do something for myself, something I could be proud of. At the age of seventeen I cried to my mother to sign my enlistment papers and after a period of days she signed.

      When I got back to the United States [from Korea] I reported to Camp Pickett, Virginia. I stayed...

    (pp. 383-390)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 391-398)