Culture That Connects Appalachia To The World


Culture can connect us to our kindred spirits across great distances, even during a global pandemic. It helps build bridges in other ways, too. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear stories about cultural ties that bind us to people across the globe.

We meet fans of Appalachian old-time music who live in Wales. “Learning their style and keeping songs alive, and introducing it to new types of people is really quite important,” said Welsh musician Ben McManus, who has traveled to West Virginia to study Appalachian music. Likewise, we’ll meet Appalachian musicians who have discovered some of their musical roots, tracing the history of musical tunes that came to Appalachia from the British Isles. 

And we explore an issue that has become a flash point for political divides in our country — Confederate monuments, and the history of oppression that these monuments represent to many. 

In This Episode:

Making And Recording Black History

The Roanoke Tribune is a family owned, African-American newspaper. The paper’s mission is “Making and Recording Black History since 1939.” 

Reporter Mason Adams went to see the newspaper staff in action, and learn about how they’ve survived all these years. 

Confederate Monuments


Credit Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson stands tall on the grounds of the West Virginia Capitol building in Charleston.

From protests over police brutality, to debates over Confederate statues, the history of slavery and racism in our country influences so much of what we currently experience. West Virginia is the only state to have been born from the Civil War 157 years ago. Despite that birth story, Confederate monuments still exist across the state. Reporter Dave Mistich takes a look at the debate and what some historians say about a galvanizing moment in America as protests over racial injustice continue.

Robert E. Lee

In Murray, Ky., there is a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the grounds of the Calloway County Courthouse. Some residents are asking for its removal. Football coach, and former U.S. Marine, Sherman Neal, sparked the debate when he wrote a public letter about what the statue represents to him as a black man. Ohio Valley ReSource reporter Liam Niemeyer recently caught up with Neal to hear his story.

Racial Reckoning

Conversations about racism can be divisive, but they can also reveal solidarity. Residents of Whitesburg, Ky., recently found themselves in the midst of their own racial reckoning when the county’s highest elected official criticized Black Lives Matter protests in a Facebook post. Reporter Sydney Boles of WMMT has this story about the community’s response.

wvpublicnews · Culture That Connects Appalachia To The World

Choreography of Light and Glass

The West Virginia Dance Company is a modern dance company based in Beckley, W.Va., Choreographer Toneta Akers-Toler tells Appalachian stories through dance. She’s created dances that help tell the story of the West Virginia Mine Wars, and shows the artistic process of making glass.

Inside Appalachia Folkways reporter Jordan Lovejoy has this story.

Wales and Appalachia

People from all over the world travel to old-time and traditional music festivals like the Appalachian String Band Music Festival and Vandalia Gathering in W.Va., and the Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. They spend their time sharing stories and swapping tunes. 

All of these gatherings were canceled this year because of the pandemic, but our folkways reporter Catlin Tan discovered there’s a growing community of musicians from both Wales and Appalachia who share an interest in the culture that binds us together. 

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council, WKMS in Murray Ky., WMMT in Whitesburg, Ky., and the Ohio Valley Resource. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Kaia Kater, Nat Reese and Dinosaur Burps.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi and Kyle Vass also helped produce our show this week. 

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.