Inside Appalachia's 'American Dream'

Sep 2, 2016

On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we talk about the American Dream and what it takes to reach it in Appalachia. We hear from JD Vance, author of the new bestselling book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, which is about his time growing up in a rust belt town in Ohio, and in Jackson, Kentucky. In this episode, we’re going to hear stories about the working class here in Appalachia and talk about some larger battles they’re fighting today.

This episode of Inside Appalachia takes a deeper look at the American Dream and the fight to reach it here in Appalachia.

Extended Interview with JD Vance:

West Virginia vs. the EPA

In the case called West Virginia vs the EPA, coal states are fighting for jobs in court. But will a victory in the case bring back coal?

UMWA members rally in Lexington, Kentucky, in support of legislation to fully fund pensions and health benefits.
Credit Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley ReSource

Retired Miners Fight for Benefits

Fighting for their benefits isn’t something that union coal miners thought they would have to do since the government promised them “cradle to grave” benefits if they got off the picket lines and went back to work. Now, coal miners who helped keep the country’s lights on are worried that their retirement benefits could go dark due to industry bankruptcies. United Mine Workers retirees are pushing for a bill called the the Miner’s Protection Act.  The bill would shore up their pension and health benefits, but the clock is ticking on a key vote.

Protesting Kentucky Prisons

With the mining industry in sharp decline some coalfield counties are hoping new prisons can generate jobs. Eastern Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District is already home to three federal penitentiaries and could soon see construction of a fourth in Letcher County. While politicians are quick to support a “take what you get” mentality, some residents are fighting for jobs that don’t benefit from incarcerated humans.

Barrackville Middle School students work on their own art projects during a visit to the Art Museum of West Virginia University in April, 2016.
Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Fighting Stereotypes

West Virginia native, Ramona Lampel, has been fighting for decades to change negative stereotypes about Appalachia through her art collection.

A sculpture of John Henry by S.L. Jones at the Art Museum of West Virginia University.
Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The art museum at West Virginia University has vast collection of Appalachian art is on display.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from The Ohio Valley ReSource, and Harper Collins Audio.

Music in this show was provided by The Hillbilly Gypsies, Andy Agnew Jr., Larry Groce  Ben Townsend, Larry Groce., and Hurray for the Riff Raff, as heard on Mountain Stage.

Our producer is Roxy Todd. Our editor this week is Suzanne Higgins. Our audio mixer is Zander Aloi.

We’d love to hear from you. You can e-mail us at Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @JessicaYLilly.

 Sept. 17