Inside Appalachia

courtesy Joni Deutsch

Jewish communities across West Virginia are struggling to keep their traditions alive.

“It is actually kind of scary. I worry because a lot of people my age are moving away for, like, school or jobs and because of that the communities are getting smaller,” said Kirston Kennedy, a young Jewish Appalachian who inspired our show. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear an Inside Appalachia preview. In honor of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 12, this weekend’s episode of Inside Appalachia explores stories of Jewish-Appalachians.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, here in West Virginia, one source of energy -- coal -- tends to dominate discussions about the economy. But it’s another form of energy production that brought The World’s Jason Margolis to the state.

Derek Cline/ Inside Appalachia

So how do you say Appalachia? This week, our episode is about the many different accents, and pronunciations, of Appalachia. Many of those interviewed for the show said they have very strong feelings about pronunciation.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we conclude our 8-month series, The Struggle to Stay. We hear the final chapter of Derek Akal’s story.

Derek is from a coal-camp town called Lynch, in Harlan County, Kentucky. The last time we heard from Derek, he was planning to move to California. But to do that, he needs to save enough money.

courtesy Derek Akal

This is the last part of our Struggle to Stay series, and the final chapter of Derek Akal’s Struggle to Stay. Derek, 22, is from a coal-camp town called Lynch, in Harlan County, Kentucky. If you haven’t caught his earlier stories, here’s a quick recap: Derek says he wants to leave eastern Kentucky to find work. A few years ago, he moved away on a college football scholarship, but then a neck injury led him to move back home. 


Much of Appalachia’s economy has rested on the boom and bust cycles of industries like coal and manufacturing for decades. It’s true that these industries have long put bread on the Appalachian table, but as those industries have faded in recent decades, jobs have grown scarce. 

So are there industries that might one day provide more financial stability to the region? This week on Inside Appalachia, we learn more about some unexpected and unique ways Appalachians are thinking outside the box to earn money, like growing industrial hemp, installing solar panels and even growing tea.

courtesy Derek Akal

This is chapter four of Derek Akal’s Struggle to Stay. In the first chapter, we met a young man from Harlan County, Kentucky, who thought a college football scholarship was going to be his ticket out. But a serious neck injury led Derek to drop out and move back home.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we have a special show that features the next installment of our Struggle to Stay series following Derek Akal. Derek is a young man from Harlan County, Kentucky whose grandparents encouraged him to leave Appalachia, to go to college and find opportunity out of state.

Benny Becker/ WMMT

This is chapter two of Derek Akal’s Struggle to Stay. In the first chapter, we met a young man from Harlan County, Kentucky, who thought a college football scholarship was going to be his ticket out. But a serious neck injury led Derek to drop out and move back home. 


Benny Becker/ WMMT

Too many times, when stories of Appalachia are in the national spotlight, we hear shallow, shocking and grim stories. But they miss some of the most inspiring aspects to our realities: the struggle, the perseverance and the resilience.  On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia we’ll meet storytellers who work to help Appalachians tell their own stories, and capture the true Appalachian spirit behind the statistics.

Benny Becker/ WMMT

Derek Akal, 22, grew up in the famed coalfields of Harlan County, Kentucky. He’s a bit over six feet tall, he’s black, and he has an athlete’s build. Neat curls of black hair rise off the top of his head, and on his chin, he keeps a closely-trimmed mustache and goatee.

I first interviewed Derek in October 2016. At that time, he said he was trying to become a Kentucky state trooper, but also making plans to move to Texas to work on an oil rig. 


USDA/ Daniel Boone National Forest

In this week's episode of Inside Appalachia, we visit communities impacted by creation of flood-control lakes. Like the Village of Lilly, where back in the 1940s, about 40 families were pushed off their land along the Bluestone River in Summers County, West Virginia. Many of these families had lived there for more than 200 years. 

Inside Appalachia Host Jessica Lilly has deep roots to this community, as we hear in this episode. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we preview of our weekend radio show, Inside Appalachia. The latest episode, we visit communities impacted by the creation of flood-control lakes.

Like the Village of Lilly, where in the 1940s, about 40 families were pushed off their land along the Bluestone River in Summers County. Many of these families had lived there for more than 200 years.

Jack Corn/ U.S. National Archives

Coal mine owner Andrew Jordon and environmental attorney Joe Lovett grew up together in Charleston, but have taken two completely different, even adversarial, paths in life. On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear “Two Tales of Coal” from the Us & Them Podcast


Reid Frazier/ The Allegheny Front

For the past few weeks, we’ve been following the story of Dave Hathaway, a laid off miner from Greene County, Pennsylvania, as part of our series The Struggle to Stay.

Late in 2016, he got a job offer for a company that was doing blasting work. It was great money, and a steady day shift. But it was in Maryland. He’d have to spend four nights a week in a hotel, leaving Ashley to take care of newborn Deacon. “We agreed I pretty much had to do it,” he said. “I didn’t have any funds coming in.”

Emily Hilliard/ WV Folklife Program

Eighty-seven year-old Jim Shaffer has had his hands busy since 1946. He is the last commercial broom-maker left in West Virginia. People from all over the country have come to see, and take home, some of Shaffer’s work.

A short film about Jim Shaffer is being screened at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress later this month at an event called "Reel Folk: Cultural Explorations on Film". The video was produced earlier this year by Inside Appalachia, in collaboration with the West Virginia Folklife Program

Mark Regan Photography

Today, more than 45 million Americans live in poverty. After decades of widely publicized campaigns with names like “the War on Poverty”, living on low income often comes an extreme sense of shame and self-doubt. On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear different ways of reporting on financial security, or lack thereof. From a coal miner who lost his job, to a long-time welfare director, how do we talk about folks who are good at making do with what they have? How do we react when we hear these stories? 


courtesy Charlie McCoy

Even if you don’t recognize the name Charlie McCoy, you’ve probably heard his music. Many of the great musicians who recorded in Nashville over the past fifty years have played with McCoy, a native of West Virginia who’s been working in the Nashville music industry for over five decades. He’s recorded with some of the best known country music and rock and roll legends, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, and George Jones. Charlie McCoy's new memoir is called 50 Cents and a Box Top

EMILY SARKEES

There’s no place in America that’s gained a bigger reputation for country and rock and roll music than Nashville, Tennessee. So what does it take to make it there? Well, perhaps having West Virginia roots might help. There are so many talented musicians from our region who’ve found success in Nashville that some refer to the scene as the “WV music mafia.” But what about the folks who stay here in the Mountain State? What does it take to “make it” in the current music scene here?  


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