Hope in the West Virginia Coalfields

The raw, emotional, yet unrancorous, testimonials of forty interracial voices recalling school desegregation and life in the southern West Virginia coalfields from the 1950s-'70s is the stuff of Hope. Hope is a radio/podcast series by Talking Across the Lines dispensing wit and wisdom on race, class and community survival, based on eyewitness accounts by both black and white former alumna of Mount Hope and W.E.B. DuBois High Schools in Fayette County. Stories, spoken from many mouths and perspectives, reconstruct how it was to be black, from the perspective of students and parents, in a time and place of limited options for people of color. The series depicts disappointments, dead ends and stories of resilience and rebounding. Episodes probe a range of themes, including the consolidation of two schools, the black school beloved but underfunded, and ultimately annihilated, strategies for raising proud children of color, rule testing, powerful, sometimes lifelong interracial relationships from ball fields to heartstrings, inequality in the mines and few opportunities for higher ed. And a Twentieth Century “underground railroad” for black youth out of the southern coalfields and out of West Virginia.

Hope has the sense of truth and reconciliation hearings, as former classmates and neighbors reflect on their experiences 60 years later, unveiling what they had kept from their peers, due to cultural constraints along racial lines. Michael Kline, as co-producer, will present brief radio examples of this compelling story with commentary. Further examples available atkline@folktalk.org.