Teaching Uncomfortable History And Overlooked Stories Of Black Americans Inside Appalachia


Lawmakers across Appalachia are debating how issues of race are taught in public schools, but the U.S. isn’t the only country with an unsettling history to deal with.

In Germany, teachers are mandated to include lessons about one of their nation’s darkest chapters — the Holocaust.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we look at those discussions, and hear from people in Germany, about how they teach their difficult history. And we learn about some of the often overlooked stories of Black Americans during and after the Civil War.

In This Episode:

  • Seizing Freedom With Kidada Williams
  • A Critical Moment Audio Documentary
  • Banning Books in Public Schools

Seizing Freedom With Kidada Williams

Seizing Freedom With Kidada Williams

Lyne Lucien/Virginia Public Media
Seizing Freedom is a podcast from VPM and Molten Heart about Black liberation, progress and joy.

Kidada Williams is host of the podcast Seizing Freedom from Virginia Public Media and Molten Heart. Its first season includes stories of enslaved Black Americans whose lives were radically changed when the Civil War broke out. As the Confederacy started to fall, Union soldiers occupied parts of the South, which gave some enslaved people ideas about a way to escape to freedom. Our producer Roxy Todd spoke with Williams to learn more.

A Critical Moment Audio Documentary


Stephanie Wolf/Virginia Public Media
Students at Male High School in Louisville, Kentucky learn about the reasons many Black Americans left the U.S. South during the Great Migration. Later, their teacher asks them to decide if issues like discrimination and hate crimes are still relevant today.

While at least nine states have already banned teachers from bringing up certain topics about race in the classroom, others have legislation in the works around the issue. But, the U.S. isn’t the only country with an unsettling history to deal with. In Germany, teachers are mandated to include lessons about the Holocaust, one of their nation’s darkest chapters.

WFPL Arts and Culture Reporter Stephanie Wolf traveled to Germany to explore how the Holocaust is covered in schools there, and she produced an audio documentary about what she learned. Wolf teamed up with her station’s education reporter, Jess Clark, to compare Germany’s approach to teaching about the Holocaust with the debate in Kentucky about how our own uncomfortable history is covered in schools. Their audio documentary is called A Critical Moment.

Banning Books in Public School
The debate around Critical Race Theory is spilling into debates about what books are included in public school curricula, and even in school libraries. This issue has been front and center in Tennessee, where a school board removed a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust. Our co-host Mason Adams spoke with Blaise Gainey, a reporter who covers the state capitol in Nashville for WPLN, about the controversy.


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Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Wes Swing, Jake Schepps, and Dinosaur Burps. 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. This episode was produced with assistance from Aileen LeBlanc and the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — a private corporation funded by the American people. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.