A Floyd County Fiddler, Midwives And Home Births, And Student Stories From The Fayette Institute of Technology


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.

In This Episode:

Fiddler In Floyd County, Virginia Amplifies Black Musicians In Old-Time Music
Appalachian old-time music is a confluence of a lot of cultures. It brings together traditions of Africans and African Americans, Native Americans, and the Scots-Irish. And yet, the contributions of Black and Indigenous musicians have often been denied and overlooked. In Floyd County, Virginia, one man is working to make old-time music more available to Black musicians. Folkways reporter Nicole Musgrave covered the story.

Midwives On Horseback
In the early 1900s, a nurse named Mary Breckenridge launched a nurse-midwifery program in Eastern Kentucky. The program became known around the world as a public health project that successfully improved the survival rates of babies and new mothers. This story is told in a documentary by Kentucky Educational Television called Angels on Horseback. Our producer Roxy Todd spoke with the film’s writer and director, Chelsea Gorman.

Midwives Practicing In Appalachia Today 
Roxy Todd also spoke with another film director, Lauren Santucci, about why some mothers today in Appalachia are still choosing homebirth. Santucci produced and directed a fourteen-minute film called Birth Place that follows one mother in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Return Of The Secret Sandwich Society 
On November 5, 2020, a popular restaurant in Fayetteville, West Virginia burned to the ground. The Secret Sandwich Society was a destination for travelers to the area, and a gathering place for the community. Bryson Sapio, a student reporter at the Fayette Institute of Technology reported on what that fire meant to the community, and what’s next in rebuilding.

W.Va’s New River Gorge National Park Sparking Safety Concerns
In 2020, the federal government designated West Virginia’s New River Gorge as a national park. That new designation is already bringing more tourists to Fayette County. According to reporting from Anna Skaggs and Devyn Washington, two more student reporters at the Fayette Institute of Technology, it’s also bringing a lot of additional traffic.

Fight Like Hell: Journalist Kim Kelly On American Labor And Striking Miners
Coal miners in Alabama have been on strike for more than a year — since April 1, 2021. That’s when 1,100 union miners working for Warrior Met Coal walked out of the mines and went on strike for a better contract. Kim Kelly is a freelance journalist and organizer who writes a labor column for Teen Vogue. She’s been covering the strike and wrote about it in her new book, Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor. Our host, Mason Adams, spoke with Kelly, and started by asking about what’s happening with those miners striking in Alabama.


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.

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