Inside Appalachia Inside Appalachia tells the stories of our people, and how they live today. The show is an audio tour of our rich history, food, music and culture.
Inside Appalachia

Inside Appalachia

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Inside Appalachia tells the stories of our people, and how they live today. The show is an audio tour of our rich history, food, music and culture.

Most Recent Episodes

A Floyd County Fiddler, Midwives And Home Births, And Student Stories From The Fayette Ins...

This week, we begin our journey throughout Appalachia in Floyd County, Virginia, home of Earl White. White is working to amplify the often-overlooked participation of Black musicians in old-time music. Then, we'll travel back to the early 20th century, when nurse Mary Breckenridge launched a midwifery program in Eastern Kentucky. That program would become known across the world for its positive impacts on infant survival rates. We hear from the director of the film, Angels on Horseback to learn more. Today , births by midwives are less common but we learn about that from Lauren Santucci, a film director whose documentary "Birth Place" follows a mother in Parkersburg, West Virginia. We'll also meet two student reporters at the Fayette Institute of Technology, who bring us stories about Anstead, West Virginia and about safety concerns along Route 60. And finally, we meet journalist Kim Kelley, who recently authored "Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor," to learn about the pro-Union history of Appalachian people.

A Floyd County Fiddler, Midwives And Home Births, And Student Stories From The Fayette Ins...

Wildflowers, Paddle Makers, Turkey Calls-- And More Inside Appalachia

This week, we're airing an encore episode of Inside Appalachia. We'll meet a man who makes wooden turkey calls, not ordinary turkey calls. Painter Brian Aliff doesn't call himself an artist, but he intricately paints his turkey calls, which are now collectors' items. We'll also meet people who make wooden paddles by hand and custom-decorate each one, and a man who repairs cuckoo clocks. Finally, we'll travel to some of the most beautiful spots in Appalachia to find wildflowers, like Dolly Sods and the Canaan Valley of West Virginia. And we wonder — are these areas becoming too popular? Those stories and more this week Inside Appalachia. Welder Keeps Old Clocks Ticking When you need to check the time, where do you look? Most people turn to their phones or digital watches. These days, it seems like every electronic device has a clock function in addition to whatever it's supposed to do, but it hasn't always been this way. Not all that long ago, marking the passage of time was the job of one device — a clock. Folkways reporter Zack Harold spent some time with Carl Witt, a man in Fairview, West Virginia who learned how to repair clocks after crossing paths with the late Charles Decker. Witt, a welder at the time, decided to retire and went on to start his own clock repair business — Curiosity Clockworks. Dolly Sods Hosts Wildflower Pilgrimage Dolly Sods is federally protected public land — full of rocky ridges, soggy bogs and beautiful views. It's also the site of an annual nature walk called the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage. This weekend will be the 60th time that wildflower and birding experts descend on the area for the event. Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams made the pilgrimage from his home in Floyd County, Virginia to Dolly Sods last year for the pilgrimage. Paddlers Design Their Own Gear Appalachia has several huge rivers: the Gauley, the Youghiogheny and the New River, just to name a few. Whitewater paddling is popular in the region, but it wasn't that long ago modern paddlers first started exploring these rivers, designing their own gear and even building their own paddles. Some of those DIY paddle makers are now master crafters and their work is in high demand. As part of our Inside Appalachia Folkways Project, Clara Haizlett learned more. Handmade Turkey Calls Like many Appalachian traditions, turkey calls go way back. Historically, they've been used as a hunting tool, but one West Virginia artist has taken it to the next level. Brian Aliff makes hand-crafted, prize-winning decorative turkey calls. These pieces are functional and they're becoming collector's items, but it took a while for Aliff to think of himself as an artist. Hear Folkways reporter Connie Kitts talk with Aliff on this week's episode. Increase In Tourism Puts Strain On Local Infrastructure Tucker County, West Virginia, has seen a surge of new visitors from Washington, D.C. in the years since U.S. Route 48, also known as Corridor H, opened. The growing number of visitors is good for business, but it's also straining the resources of a county with just one stoplight and 7,000 year-round residents. Mason Adams visited the towns of Thomas and Davis in Tucker County, West Virginia and has this story about managing growth and resources against the backdrop of expansive natural beauty. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Wes Swing, Dinosaur Burps, and The Chamber Brothers. Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

Bristol Sessions, Reclaiming The Banjo, Appalachian-Mexican Folk Art, And More

In this week's episode of Inside Appalachia, we'll hear about Black musicians and luthiers who are reclaiming the banjo — an instrument with deep roots in Africa and a difficult history in The United States. We'll also hear about The Bristol Sessions — recording sessions known for bringing country music out of the hollers and onto radios, and for making stars of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. But that well-known story left out a whole group of musicians — the Black musicians who played on the Bristol sessions. We'll also meet an artist from East Tennessee by way of Mexico City who's bringing Mexican folk arts to Appalachia.

Bristol Sessions, Reclaiming The Banjo, Appalachian-Mexican Folk Art, And More

Returning Home, Ballad Singers And Storytellers Across Appalachia

This week's episode is all about ballad singers and storytellers. We'll hear an interview with West Virginia native Becca Spence Dobias who wrote a novel called 'On Home.' And co-host Mason Adams sits down with ballad singer Elizabeth LaPrelle, who grew up in Rural Retreat, Virginia. As longtime performers and new parents, she and her husband took to Facebook Live, posting weekly livestreams of lullabies and stories. We'll also hear about a song called "Tom Dooley," which was first released shortly after the Civil War. It resurfaced 60 years ago, when it topped the Billboard charts. It had everything: A love triangle, a grisly murder, a manhunt, and a hanging. Folkways reporter Heather Duncan set out to explore why ballads like Tom Dooley, based on real tragedies and real people, have such staying power.

Growing Up Queer And Indian In Appalachia, New Comedy Film Set In Beckley, And Visiting A ...

This week on Inside Appalachia we'll visit a luthier's shop where old instruments get new life, and hear about a new comedy film set in Beckley, West Virginia. We'll also hear from author Neema Avashia, whose new book is "Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer And Indian In A Mountain Place." Comedy Film Set In Beckley, West Virginia The upcoming slapstick comedy "Ambrosia" is set in a quirky bed and breakfast in Beckley, West Virginia. It's a feature-length movie, but it's not a Hollywood movie; the two directors are from West Virginia, along with nearly the entire cast and crew. The film is set to debut at the Raleigh Playhouse in Beckley this spring. Our Folkways reporter Clara Haizlett spoke with Beckley filmmakers Shane Pierce and Dave Gravely about the movie.. A Guitar Surgeon Gives Old Instruments Their Voices Back Bob Smakula of Elkins, West Virginia, has made a career out of fixing old musical instruments so modern musicians can keep playing them. He tries to make repairs to fix an instrument's problems while also staying true to its history. "I've definitely honed my skills to try to be invisible," he said. "I don't want anybody to know I was ever there, except to go 'Hey, this plays better than they usually do,' or 'This sounds better than they usually do.'" Smakula has been honing his invisibility powers for a long time. Folkways reporter Zack Harold spoke with Smakula about his career for this week's episode. Coming Up Queer and Indian In A Mountain Place Author Neema Avashia grew up in a neighborhood in Kanawha County, West Virginia as the daughter of immigrants. Her new book, "Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place," is a collection of essays that describe her experience growing up as an Indian American — who also happens to be queer — and an Appalachian. Co-host Mason Adams talked with Avashia about the book and about her experiences. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, Jake Schepps, and Dinosaur Burps. Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Growing Up Queer And Indian In Appalachia, New Comedy Film Set In Beckley, And Visiting A ...

From Pittsburgh To Georgia To Shenandoah, We Asked 'What Is Appalachia?' Here's What You Said

What is Appalachia? This week, we're re-airing a December 2021 episode that seeks to answer this question, with stories from Mississippi to Pittsburgh. Appalachia connects mountainous parts of the South, the Midwest, the Rust Belt, even the Northeast. Politically, it encompasses 423 counties across 13 states — West Virginia is the only state entirely inside Appalachia. That leaves so much room for geographic and cultural variation. This week, we ask people from five Appalachian states if they feel like they're in Appalachia. Mississippi Bob Owens, locally known as 'Pop Owens', standing in front of his watermelon stand outside New Houlka, Miss. Pop said he was aware that Mississippi is part of Appalachia, but that no one in the state would consider themselves Appalachian. Caitlin Tan/WVPB Bob Owens is a watermelon farmer outside New Houlka, in the northeastern part of Mississippi. Owens said he was aware that Mississippi is part of Appalachia, but that no one in the state would consider themselves Appalachian. Shenandoah Valley In the 1960s, while some localities were clamoring to get into Appalachia, on the eastern edge of the region some lawmakers fought to keep their counties outside the boundaries, including politicians in Roanoke, Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Appalachian Studies associate professor Emily Satterwhite said explaining to her students why some counties in Virginia are included in Appalachia, but others aren't is confusing. Pittsburgh Appalachia's largest city is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When we asked people from that city to tell us if they consider it a part of Appalachia, about half said no. "I definitely do not feel that I am Appalachian culturally," said Mark Jovanovich, who grew up just outside Pittsburgh's city limits in the Woodland Hills area. "Personally, I would consider the city of Pittsburgh is sort of like a mini New York City. I guess we'd probably be lumped in as like a Rust Belt city, which makes enough sense, but definitely not Appalachian culturally." Writer Brian O'Neill disagrees. He wrote a book called "The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-First Century." What Do You Think? How about you? Do you call yourself an Appalachian? Why or why not? Send an email to insideappalachia@wvpublic.org or Tweet to us @InAppalachia. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Amythyst Kiah, Jake Schepps, and Jarett Pigmeat, courtesy of Appalshop and June Appal Recordings and Dinosaur Burps. Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. Jess Mador, Shepherd Snyder and Liz McCormick contributed to this episode.

From Pittsburgh To Georgia To Shenandoah, We Asked 'What Is Appalachia?' Here's What You Said

William Turner's Book Wins Weatherford Award, And Foster Care In West Virginia Is Still Br...

The downturn of coal in Harlan County, Kentucky has led to an exodus of Black residents in search of work. This week on Inside Appalachia, we listen back to our conversation with William Turner, whose book about growing up in a vibrant Black community in eastern Kentucky just won the Weatherford Award for nonfiction from the Appalachian Studies Association. We'll also give another listen to a conversation we did last year with reporters with Mountain State Spotlight and GroundTruth, about West Virginia's foster care system. We'll hear from reporters Amelia Ferrell Knisely and Molly Born about what they learned during their year-long investigation. After their reporting, lawmakers vowed to make changes to the foster care system. But the 2022 West Virginia Legislature adjourned this legislative session just ended, and no legislation passed that made any improvements to foster care in the state West Virginia. What could be done to fix our state's failing foster care system? The Struggle to Stay Derek Akal is a young Black man who grew up in Harlan, Kentucky. For years, he wanted to leave. Derek got a college football scholarship and thought it would be his ticket out, but a serious neck injury led him to drop out of school and return home. Reporter Benny Becker spent a year following Derek's story for our Struggle to Stay series which aired back in 2017. As a warning: this story contains racial slurs. In the past four years, a lot has changed in Akal's life. He did leave Kentucky, and briefly moved to California: Those plans didn't stick, in part because it cost so much to live there. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia for a while, but eventually made his way back to Harlan County. Today, Derek is the father of five children and works as a full-time cook at a restaurant in Harlan County. William Turner's Book Wins Weatherford Award William Turner is one of the most prolific historians of the Black experience in Appalachia. His 1985 book, Blacks in Appalachia, co-authored with Edward J. Cabbell, is considered a landmark work in the field. Turner's latest book, The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns includes his memories of growing up in Lynch, Kentucky. When Turner was a child, coal was still in its post-World War II boom years, and Lynch was a bustling company town run by U.S. Steel — one of the most powerful companies in the country in that era. This week on Inside Appalachia, listen back to co-host Mason Adams speaking with Turner about his book after its release last September. Investigation Shines Spotlight on W.Va's Foster Care System We've reported on the crisis in West Virginia's foster care system on Inside Appalachia. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice found that West Virginia is institutionalizing too many foster children with mental health conditions — and often sends them to out-of-state facilities. Last year, we aired a conversation we recorded with two reporters with Mountain State Spotlight and GroundTruth. They found that West Virginia has identified some of these facilities as abusive — accused of sexual assault, forced labor and more. Yet the foster care system continues to leave kids in these abusive, out-of-state centers. Last fall, our producer Roxy Todd sat down with reporters Amelia Ferrell Knisely and Molly Born to find out more about what they learned during their year-long investigation.

William Turner's Book Wins Weatherford Award, And Foster Care In West Virginia Is Still Br...

'To Live Here You Have to Fight' - How Appalachian Women Today Are Building On Activist Tr...

This week on Inside Appalachia, we'll hear how women in the mountains spearhead movements to battle racial injustice, defend healthy communities and fight for the rights of all Appalachians. We'll talk with the author of a book called "To Live Here You Have To Fight," hear from podcaster Anna Sale and visit a camp that teaches young people to play rock music. Women aren't front and center in accounts of the region's history, but they've been influential in everything from the coal industry to labor movements to preserving traditions. Today, women are building on this history — continuing to be role models for society, while taking our Appalachian roots into the modern day. In this episode, we'll learn about several of them, and what their stories reveal about modern movements for change across our region. How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice Appalachian history is full of sharp, groundbreaking women who changed the lives of people around them. In the 1960s, a lot of mountain women got involved with the federal War on Poverty to help people access welfare benefits. That led them into partnerships with civil rights activists, disabled miners and others. They teamed up to fight for everything from poor people's rights to community health to unionization. History professor Jessica Wilkerson tracks that history in her book, "To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice." Wilkerson spoke with Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams about what led those women into activism — and what their stories tell us about the world today. "They argued for valuing the common good, and at the end of the day, that's what these women that we're talking about were fighting for," Wilkerson said. Her book also explores how modern-day movements in Appalachia build on these traditions that were led by women. "In many ways, we're fighting many of the same battles around environmental justice, around basic quality of life." Empowering Young People Through Music Girls Rock Whitesburg in Whitesburg, Kentucky is a music camp for female, gender-fluid, non-binary and trans youth. Throughout the course of one week, campers learn an electric instrument, form a band and write songs — which they perform in front of a live audience at the end of the week. While the camp focuses on electric music instruction, participants also learn how music is tied to social justice. Back in 2019, Folkways reporter Nicole Musgrave followed two girls who came to camp and who reinvented a traditional protest song. Women-Led Puppetry Group In Knoxville Throughout history, puppets and marionettes have been used as an accessible means to tell rowdy stories, poke fun at authority figures, and provide cheap entertainment. Puppetry blurs the line between play and politics, between protests, pageants and parades - all of which have a storied history in the South. We'll hear a story from one of our Folkways reporters Katie Myers, on how a group called Cattywampus Puppet Council in Knoxville, Tennessee, is building on that tradition. Let's Talk About Hard Things West Virginia native Anna Sale is host of the popular podcast "Death, Sex & Money." It's a show that talks about, as she says, "the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more." Sale's new book, Let's Talk About Hard Things is about having frank conversations about topics that can make us uncomfortable, including relationships and death. "If you are ill, what are the kinds of last conversations you want to have with the people you love? And not try to act like it's not happening," Sale told Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan.

'To Live Here You Have to Fight' - How Appalachian Women Today Are Building On Activist Tr...

Teaching Uncomfortable History And Overlooked Stories Of Black Americans Inside Appalachia

Lawmakers across Appalachia are debating how issues of race are taught in public schools, but the U.S. isn't the only country with an unsettling history to deal with. In Germany, teachers are mandated to include lessons about one of their nation's darkest chapters — the Holocaust. This week on Inside Appalachia, we look at those discussions, and hear from people in Germany, about how they teach their difficult history. And we learn about some of the often overlooked stories of Black Americans during and after the Civil War. Seizing Freedom With Kidada Williams Kidada Williams is host of the podcast Seizing Freedom from VPM and Molten Heart. Its first season includes stories of enslaved Black Americans whose lives were radically changed when the Civil War broke out. As the Confederacy started to fall, Union soldiers occupied parts of the South, which gave some enslaved people ideas about a way to escape to freedom. Our producer Roxy Todd spoke with Williams to learn more. A Critical Moment Audio Documentary While at least nine states have already banned teachers from bringing up certain topics about race in the classroom, others have legislation in the works around the issue. But, the U.S. isn't the only country with an unsettling history to deal with. In Germany, teachers are mandated to include lessons about the Holocaust, one of their nation's darkest chapters. WFPL Arts and Culture Reporter Stephanie Wolf traveled to Germany to explore how the Holocaust is covered in schools there, and she produced an audio documentary about what she learned. Wolf teamed up with her station's education reporter, Jess Clark, to compare Germany's approach to teaching about the Holocaust with the debate in Kentucky about how our own uncomfortable history is covered in schools. Their audio documentary is called A Critical Moment. Banning Books in Public Schools The debate around Critical Race Theory is spilling into debates about what books are included in public school curricula, and even in school libraries. This issue has been front and center in Tennessee, where a school board removed a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust. Our co-host Mason Adams spoke with Blaise Gainey, a reporter who covers the state capitol in Nashville for WPLN, about the controversy. Email us at insideappalachia@wvpublic.org. Tweet us @InAppalachia. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Wes Swing, Jake Schepps, and Dinosaur Burps. Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. This episode was produced with assistance from Aileen LeBlanc and the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — a private corporation funded by the American people. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Teaching Uncomfortable History And Overlooked Stories Of Black Americans Inside Appalachia

Beans And Cornbread, Cryptid Board Games, And Bear Stories From The Smoky Mountains

If you think about one dish that has sustained generations of Appalachian people, what comes to mind? When we put the question on social media, many listeners replied with the same answer: a simple bowl of soup beans and a slice of corn bread. This week on Inside Appalachia, we'll look at the origin of beans and cornbread. And we'll meet a woman in Moorefield, West Virginia, who makes pinto beans in her restaurant, Pupuseria Emerita. Emerita Sorto grew up in Honduras. In addition to serving traditional Appalachian food, she also cooks traditional Honduran and Salvadoran food at her restaurant. We'll also learn about a new board game based on West Virginia foods and local monsters, like Mothman, and hear about a hemp business in West Virginia that's run by three generations of West Virginia women. We'll also talk with bear photographer, Bill Lea.

Beans And Cornbread, Cryptid Board Games, And Bear Stories From The Smoky Mountains