Revealing Reconstruction History, Dancers Adapt To The Pandemic, And A Mountain Biking Club Empowering Women


Think back to your American history class. We all learned about the Civil War, but what did you learn about the years after the war ended? On Inside Appalachia this week, we’ll hear how that history parallels events today. We’ll also learn about a women’s mountain biking group called the Roanoke Valley Riveters, how a dance company in Asheville has adapted during the pandemic, and hear about a podcast that features first-hand accounts of West Virginia healthcare workers.

In This Episode:

A Mountain Biking Club Empowering Women 

In Roanoke, Virginia, a women’s mountain biking group is blazing through 60 miles of trail inside a nature preserve. The group, the Roanoke Valley Riveters, was formed during the coronavirus pandemic in September 2020 when members saw a need for a female-focused cycling group. A little more than a year later, photojournalist Heather Rousseau created a seven-and-a-half-minute short film about the Riveters. She spoke with Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams about the project. You can watch Rousseau’s film here.


Heather Rousseau, The Roanoke Times
Heather Rousseau, The Roanoke Times
Pam Keebler, 38, of Roanoke, at right, is one of the four founding members of the Roanoke Valley Riveters. She hugs friends during a weekly Wednesday group ride at Carvins Cove after returning for the first time from a COVID-19 quarantine. Pam tells fellow female riders, "Own your power. Know you are capable. Know you can do it. Make it happen or have fun trying and failing."

Healthcare is Human Podcast 

Ryan McCarthy, a primary care doctor in Martinsburg, West Virginia, created the Healthcare is Human podcast to document health care workers during a global pandemic.


Molly Humphreys/ Healthcare Is Human Podcast
Jamal White works in facilities at the Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

The show interviews doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers who play an essential role in keeping a hospital running. In addition to audio interviews, Healthcare is Human also tells stories of healthcare workers through photos taken by Molly Humphreys, the project’s photographer and co-creator. You can find the series and more photographs here.


Molly Humphreys/ Healthcare Is Human Podcast
Betsy Gambino, a former ER nurse with 19 years of experience who now mostly works in administration at the Berkley Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Dance Troupe Adapts During Pandemic

Before the pandemic, the Stewart Owen Dance duo largely performed far beyond their home in Old Fort, North Carolina. They traveled around the country, making a living as dancers, teachers and choreographers. But — as Blue Ridge Public Radio’s Matt Peiken reports — the pandemic has pushed them to stay closer to home.

Their show “Dirty Laundry” was streamed earlier this month through the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. You can see the performance online here.

stewart dance.png

Matt Peiken/ BPR News
Vanessa Owen (left) and Gavin Stewart rehearsing "Dirty Laundry" in a studio at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts.

Help For Some Independent Workers 

Work life is changing. More and more people are becoming independent workers and contractors. As Jessica Lilly reports, new technology, training and tools are helping some independent workers in West Virginia adapt to the changing economy.

The Freedman Bureau In Western North Carolina

In 1865, the federal government set up a program to help formerly enslaved people by providing them with food, helping them find employment, and even registering them to vote. But there was pushback, and harassment, against those who tried to help freed Black people.

Reporter Lilly Knoepp has been looking into this history for Blue Ridge Public Radio. Our producer Roxy Todd spoke with Knoepp about what she found, and what historians told her about parallels to today.

Tell Us Your Thoughts

We’d like to hear your feedback on how we talk about the history of Reconstruction and how it’s taught in our schools. It’s a controversial topic right now as state legislatures across our region debate how schools should teach American history when it comes to the subject of race.

We are going to be digging into this issue more in an episode next month, so stay tuned. And reach out: what are people saying where you live?

Email us at Tweet us @InAppalachia.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, Wes Swing, and Dinosaur Burps. Roxy Todd is our producer. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our interim executive producer is Eric Douglas. Our editor is Kelley Libby. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to