The Ragged Wound—Can the Appalachian Diaspora Save the Region?

As an independent scholar and folklorist, my travels across the country have allowed me to engage with Appalachian descendants in many parts of the United States. My field is Appalachian folk magic and healing, and my field research affords me the opportunity to hear the stories these people carry—stories of moonlit nights, home cooking, family memories of perceived simpler times. It is no secret that the Appalachian region is beset with seemingly insurmountable problems, ranging from opioid addiction to environmental challenges left behind by the decades of work by extraction industries. Studying the population decline in much of the region, a recent editorial in the Roanoke Times suggested that it might be time to “let Appalachia go.” Instead of throwing this old and beautiful baby out with the bath-water, this paper proposes that the members of the extensive Appalachian diaspora be engaged in reviving the places their ancestors called home. Drawing them back to make investments of time, interest and money through oral history and corporate myth may give some of these rural and blighted townships a renewed sense of self, as well as a pride in our shared history and folkways.