Producer: Ernie Lee Martin
African Americans in Appalachia
What does it mean to be black and to live in Appalachia? Kentucky Life explores the question in this special edition, a look at the lives of Kentucky’s “Afrilachians”—African Americans in the southeastern part of the state.
With the help of poets Dorothy Fountain and Nikky Finney and guitarist Etta Baker, host Byron Crawford remembers black mountaineers, coal miners, and railroad workers. The program includes a performance by the Buckingham Lining Bar Gang of Whitesburg. Their chant-songs recall the days when gangs of black workers helped build railroads through the mountains by performing the tedious and arduous task of “lining bars,” or aligning the tracks. Songs helped keep the rhythm and relieve the boredom.
We also visit the site of Coe Ridge, a tiny community founded by freed slaves Ezekiel and Patsy Ann Coe just after the Civil War. Surrounded by hostile neighbors who were determined to drive them away, the residents of this African-American enclave in Cumberland County were equally determined to defend their homes. They and their families held out for almost a century, until a series of skirmishes with federal agents over moonshining in the area finally drove off the last residents in the late 1950s. Today, the former town site is marked only by a cemetery.
|< Previous Program | Next Program >|