Inside Appalachia

By West Virginia Public Broadcasting

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Inside Appalachia tells the stories of our people, and how they live today. Host Jessica Lilly leads us on an audio tour of our rich history, our food, our music and our culture. Watch Inside Appalachia videos Follow the Inside Appalachia podcast on Soundcloud here . Subscribe to the Inside Appalachia podcast here or click the red button below. Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with help from public radio stations in Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Episode Date
Clock is Ticking for Thousands of Coal Miners Who Suffer From Black Lung
Across Appalachia, thousands of coal miners have suffered from black lung disease. In the 1960s, miners organized a movement to end the chronic condition. They convinced Congress to pass new laws that were supposed to make black lung a thing of the past. Today, conditions underground have changed, and the disease has come roaring back. Black lung, also known as coal workers' pneumoconiosis, is caused by long-term exposure to coal dust in the process of mining. Inhaled coal dust builds up in the lungs, causing inflammation, and eventually tissue death. Many sufferers describe a feeling of drowning because their lungs are unable to work properly and they can’t take a breath. A 2013 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity into the misconceptions surrounding the disease and the regulatory maze associated with applying and being approved for black lung benefits revealed a system in which coal miners are fighting an unfair battle for disability payments and medical care. CPI found
Apr 19, 2019
Play Ball! What Baseball Means Inside Appalachia
Spring is here and that means baseball season. This week on Inside Appalachia we’re taking another look at baseball throughout the region. We’ll learn about the history of early baseball in the coal camp towns of southern West Virginia and go inside the legendary baseball bat factory — the Louisville Sluggers. And we’ll meet a man who went from living in an isolated timber town in Pocahontas County, West Virginia to being a professional umpire for the Cincinnati Reds.
Apr 12, 2019
Appalachian Reckoning: Writers Respond to JD Vance’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’
“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”, a personal memoir by JD Vance, was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 24 weeks. After the 2016 presidential election, some people read the book, hoping to gain insights into the region. The book sold more than a million copies, and a Ron Howard film is now in the works.
Apr 05, 2019
Controversy, Culture Clashes Surround Needle Exchange Programs in Appalachia
The opioid crisis is one of the biggest public health challenges in our region today. One strategy that’s been proved to help curb the epidemic’s worst effects is to implement harm reduction programs, which include a variety of services. One of the most controversial is a component called needle exchange.
Mar 29, 2019
Inside Appalachia, Maple Syrup Means Spring
In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another look at the sugar shacks of Appalachian maple producers, and we’ll learn how to use syrup in everything from glazed greens to buttermilk ice cream – and even roasted rabbit. Maple syrup production in West Virginia has increased by about 30 percent each year since the state Department of Agriculture began keeping track in 2016, and that’s partly due to new technologies that make producing large quantities of syrup more efficient for farmers. We’ll hear from several maple producers in the Mountain State, some who have been working for decades, and one who just started this year. We’ll also talk with a farmer, food writer and chef, Mike Costello, who runs Lost Creek Farm in Harrison County, W.Va., about his favorite stories from the history of maple syrup production in these mountains, a practice that dates back thousands of years to when Native Americans used it as their main sweetener. Costello, who prepares Appalachian meals
Mar 22, 2019
From Dollywood to the Magic City: Appalachia’s Alternative Enterprises
This week on Inside Appalachia, we take off-the-beaten-path tour of some of the region’s alternative cultures and economies. We’ll visit a factory where workers are reviving the art of glassmaking. We’ll hear how farmers and chefs are returning to some of our old-fashioned recipes for inspiration and attempting to reshape our region’s economy in the process.
Mar 15, 2019
Why We Still Need Collaboration, Compassion and Community to Thrive Inside Appalachia
In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore why communities with a culture of volunteerism, and strong support systems, are more resilient. This episode features several stories that all have one thing in common -- they’re about the impacts of community, and social interactions, have on our ability to thrive. We’ll learn about “bright spot” communities in Appalachia, which have better than average health statistics, despite also experiencing economic challenges. Researchers have been studying these communities, where they found most organizations share resources and collaborate on projects. We’ll hear about one such community, Wirt County, West Virginia , where educators at the local schools are partnering with counselors who specialize in helping children who’ve experienced trauma. Also in this episode, we'll explore how music, and in particular spiritual music, can also bring people together, especially when times are tough. Here in Appalachia, there are several
Mar 08, 2019
Dear Red States and Blue States, Can We Talk?
This week on Inside Appalachia, we’re wading into the American political divide and bringing you voices with distinct points of view from opposite sides of the country. It’s no secret that these days, we live in the divided states of America. Sometimes, it can feel like the only thing that unites us anymore is that now-nearly universal experience of sitting awkwardly around the Thanksgiving table with family members who have different political beliefs, trying to find a way to avoid politics altogether.
Mar 01, 2019
Appalachian Writers Discuss Their Work: Inside Appalachia
People who write novels, short stories and newspaper articles each tell Appalachia’s story in their own way. This is an encore airing of an Inside Appalachia show that deals with a few of the writers who tell Appalachia’s story. We’ll hear from journalist Ken Ward. He’s been writing for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia for 27 years covering environmental issues, coal mining and worker safety. He’s heard both praise and criticism for his coverage. "When somebody who’s been through what they’ve been through says you’ve always been here for us, if that doesn’t move you a little bit as a journalist, you need to get in some other business." -- Ken Ward He was awarded a MacArthur fellowship , a grant given to outstanding contributors in their local communities who push the boundaries of science, art and culture. Jessica Lilly talked to Ward to find out what this honor means to him. Karen Spears Zacharias is the writer-in-residence at Shepherd University in
Feb 22, 2019
Appalachia’s Folkways: Handmade and Passing It On
This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from Appalachians who have a knack for making things with their hands -- people who make the essentials of life in the old ways. “And when I sit down at one of those looms and I start creating a piece of cloth, I feel connected to the place of my ancestors, the people who have come before,” said weaver Jane Gilchrist.
Feb 15, 2019
Appalachia's Connection to the United Kingdom
For many people in central Appalachia, coal mining doesn't just mean jobs or the ability to earn a good living right out of high school. We’re also talking about identity and culture.
Feb 08, 2019
Inside Appalachia: Stories of Love, Friendship and Loss from StoryCorps
StoryCorps producers brought their mobile recording studio to Charleston, West Virginia, in fall 2019, and recorded more than 100 stories. These recording are between friends, co-workers and family members. StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. These recordings will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in the largest collection of oral histories in the world.
Feb 01, 2019
Inside Appalachia: EPA May List Minden, Government Shutdown Causes Delays
Two years ago, residents of Minden, West Virginia, asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do more testing and consider the town’s soil and water to be a health and environmental risk in need of another cleanup. Last September, residents received the news that, after analyzing new data, the agency proposed listing Minden on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). A final determination was supposed to happen this spring, but the partial government shutdown has pushed that back.
Jan 25, 2019
Stirring the Waters Inside Appalachia: How Drinking Water Systems Are Failing Rural Residents
For many families in parts of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, the absence of clean, reliable drinking water has become part of daily life. This week on Inside Appalachia we’ll hear from folks like Blaine Taylor, a 17-year-old resident of Martin County, Kentucky, who struggles to manage basic hygiene when his water comes out with sendiment in it.
Jan 18, 2019
Inside Appalachia: In-depth Look at Needle Exchange Programs Fighting the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is one of the biggest public health challenges in our region today. One strategy that’s been proved to help curb the epidemic’s worst effects is to implement harm reduction programs. These generally offer a variety of services but the most controversial component is often the needle exchange. Just because something is proven effective, doesn’t mean the public has bought into the idea. This week we’re taking an in-depth look at needle exchanges -- and what they can mean for their surrounding communities.
Jan 11, 2019
Inside Appalachia: Some of Our Favorite Stories
To begin 2019, Inside Appalachia is taking a look back at some favorite stories. Not our favorite stories, but those of the show’s friend Adam Harris. Harris is the Executive Producer for West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mountain Stage with Larry Groce. Pepperoni rolls have been called the unofficial food of West Virginia. They were invented here in the Mountain state. Legend has it they were originally made for coal miners to take underground in their dinner buckets - because the cured pepperoni didn’t spoil. Harris picked a trio of stories about pepperoni rolls, including an interview he did with his own mother about the first time he ever tried them himself. Before that story, though, Roxy Todd visits with a bakery that is credited with inventing the pepperoni roll and an author who wrote a book on the subject. What’s your favorite way to eat pepperoni rolls? Or if you’ve moved away, what do you do to satisfy your pepperoni roll cravings? Tell us your story on twitter at
Jan 04, 2019
Inside Appalachia: A Look at Religion with StoryCorps
To wrap up 2018, we're re-airing stories about faith and religion and their influence in Appalachia. We’ve teamed up with StoryCorps and Georgetown University’s American Pilgrimage Project for this episode. Each segment includes a StoryCorps-style interview where the participants are talking about life, faith and what it all means to them. We'll hear from a woman finds out how important her faith was to her after her father was injured in a mining accident. Adelina Lancianese is a West Virginia native and a producer at NPR Story Lab. She interviewed her 84-year-old grandfather. “It’s hard to keep the faith in situations like that. But you kind of have no other choice. It’s like you have your faith or you have nothing. And I’d rather have my faith than have nothing,” she said. We'll hear from a rabbi, who remembers the first time he visited West Virginia 30 years ago. Victor Urecki, the rabbi at B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston, W.Va., was originally born in Argentina, but he found
Dec 28, 2018
Inside Appalachia: Traditions Make Holiday Season Special
This week we’ve put together a special holiday episode about seasonal traditions. Holidays in these mountains have always been meaningful. In Appalachia, it’s usually a time to go home, or to carry on traditions of home in a new way.
Dec 21, 2018
Inside Appalachia: The Farmington Mine Disaster, 50 Years Later
On Nov. 20, 1968, an underground explosion ripped through a West Virginia coal mine and killed 78 miners. Fifty years later, the local community still comes together the Sunday before the anniversary of the Farmington Mine Disaster to remember the men lost that day. Following the tragedy in Farmington in 1968, the widows of the families demanded safer working conditions and action from Congress. The disaster was one of the instrumental forces that led Congress to pass the 1969 Federal Mine Safety Law, also referred to as the Coal Act. This legislation was more comprehensive than any previous mine safety law. The Coal Act required two annual inspections of every surface coal mine and four at every underground coal mine. It also gave federal inspectors more authority in enforcing mine safety violations by issuing fines. And while mine fatalities haven’t stopped completely since the 1969 legislation, the number of deaths of miners has decreased dramatically. And with each passing decade,
Dec 14, 2018
Indie Pro-Wrestling, A Look Back: Inside Appalachia
This week on Inside Appalachia, we take another look at the world of independent pro-wrestling. While pro-wrestling is popular across the country and all around the world, the sport has a rich and storied history here in Appalachia. In this episode we’ll take a glimpse at the action, intensity, and drama (real-life and otherwise) that happens between the ropes. We’ll visit Madison, W.Va., where All Star Wrestling (ASW) draws hundreds of people to most matches and meet Gary Damron who organizes all of the shows. We’ll also talk the inimitable Rocky Rage, a professional wrestler from the area and his switch from local hero to bad guy. And we’ll learn why Tim Hagen, who used to wrestle under the name of Vance Desmond -- or Violent Vance Desmond, depending on whether he was the villain or the good guy -- decided to turn his passion for the sport into an opportunity to teach young wrestlers. We’ll also visit Oak Hill, W.Va., where a local TV station aired a weekly show called “Saturday
Dec 07, 2018