Final Project- Coal mining in Appalachia

How does coal mining affect Appalachia as a region?


  • Coal was a known resource of Appalachia, but before the Civil War there was not much use for it
  • After the Civil War ended, the Industrial Revolution began, drastically increasing the need for coal
  • In the beginning, coal mines were run by smaller local companies
  • After the Civil War, large corporations came in and took over most of the Appalachian coal supply
  • Once World War I began, the demand for coal grew even more, causing coal companies to import a huge amount of European Immigrants
  • In order to compensate for the large increase in mines and workers, coal companies began to build their own towns where the coal miners lived, and were forced to rely on everything from the coal companies
  • As World War I came to a close, the demand for coal plummeted causing prices to fall and mines to close
  • Technology advanced and decreased the need for manpower in the mines

Coal Mining Today:

  • The main places that coal mining is prevalent is Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama
  • “Nearly 13,000 coal jobs- and countless more in related industries- have disappeared in Kentucky since President Obama took office”
  • The future of coal mining is uncertain
  • Donald Trump has said he will “put coal miners back to work”, but with current policies in place, nobody knows what will actually happen

Pros of Coal Mining:

  • Mining brings jobs into Appalachia
  • Bringing more coal mining jobs back could “lure the young” to stay in Appalachia and keep the culture youthful
  • Since coal mining is an industry of “boom and bust” the welfare of Appalachia has a lot to do with how well the coal industry is doing
  • Coal mining often supports the economy
  • Provides an available energy source

Cons of Coal Mining:

  • Miners were typically paid $3-$5 a day for a 12-hour work day”
  • Land Destruction
    • Over 470 mountains in southern Appalachia have been destroyed beyond repair
    • “According to government figures for 2005, more than 1.8 billion pounds of high explosives were used in West Virginia and Kentucky alone, primarily in surface-mining operations”
  • Cancer and other sicknesses
    • Coal companies dump sludge into waterways, poisoning the water that Appalachians drink
    • The main contents of this waste is arsenic, mercury, chromium, and cadmium
    • Pollution is not regulated at the coal-burning power plants
  • Drug Issue
    • Many injuries sustained through coal mining causes miners to get hooked on prescription pain killers such as OxyContin
  • “Mountaintop-removal mines in Appalachia are estimated to produce just 5 to 10 percent of total U.S. coal production, and generate less than 4 percent of our electricity- an amount that could be eliminated from the energy supply with small gains in energy efficiency and conservation”
  • The amount of coal in Appalachia has decreased drastically due to all the mining, so jobs are rapidly decreasing, but the mountains are still destroyed

Coal Mining Laws:

  • Under the Environmental Protection Agency put in place by the Obama administration, coal companies should be regulating their pollution and waste dumping into waterways, but they are not
  • These types of laws are hard to enforce, and coal companies are so powerful they do not feel the need to follow them
  • These laws have created restrictions on areas that can be mined
  • “The federal government’s halting of about 40 mining permits in eastern Kentucky has led to the loss of about 3,600 jobs in the mines and in businesses that benefit from the region’s mining”


Experiential Learning #2

Brooke Taylor


Blacksburg Farmer’s Market

3:00 PM

For an experiential learning, I visited the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market.   They had a bagel/baked goods booth, a jewelry booth, a booth with homemade tea, eggs, and different kinds of meats, a vegetable booth, and a pastry booth.  While there, I spoke with some of the vendors, tried different foods and drink, and even bought a couple bagels.  At one booth, an older woman and her husband were selling homemade organic tea, eggs, jams, and a few different kinds of meat.  She gave me samples of the three teas she had, green, black, and ginger tea, and explained to me the process of how it was made.  She told me all of it was made on their farm, and they made it with live probiotics for freshness.  I loved the fact they her and her husband did it all together, because they seemed to love it.  I ended up buying some of the green tea, which came in a glass bottle that could be brought back and refilled for only $3.  I enjoyed talking to this woman so much because she was extremely passionate about her work.  I asked her how long she had been making her own food and coming to the farmer’s market, and she told me she had been making her own food, drinks, jams, etc. for years.  I was amazed at how much each booth actually had to offer.  Even though I only briefly spoke with a few of the vendors, each had their own story about their products and why they were there.  I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with each of these people because they made me feel included in the community.  They were not cold or unfriendly, they all wanted to share their knowledge and share what they had with the community.  I think it is special that the market is located right next to campus, because it gives students a chance to be involved in an aspect of the Blacksburg/Christiansburg community.  It made me feel at home to know how friendly and caring some of the locals are.  This experience reminded me of multiple readings from class.  In many of our readings, we learned about how a lot of Appalachian citizens live off the land, grow, and produce their own food.  I knew it was a fact, but I had never seen it in action at a place like the farmer’s market.  While there, I noticed that many of the people there were college students.  I think this is due to the fact that it is located so close to campus.  In this particular setting, it didn’t seem like any one person or booth had a majority of the power.  It was more like they were a small community, because they each had their own personalized hand made product to offer.  I had to “unlearn” my ideals about buying food.  Any time I need groceries, I just go to the grocery store, grab whatever brand or kind they have, pay and leave.  At the farmer’s market, it was much different.  When I got to the vegetable stand, I was surprised to see all the food covered in dirt with roots and stems still attached, just sitting in buckets.  This is something I was not used to seeing, because at the grocery store it is usually cleaned and set out, or packaged into bags.  Also, I wondered if any of the foods were not up to “food regulation” but then I realized, each of the products were hand made with hand grown products, most likely without all the chemicals and pesticides used by chains.  This was a very unique experience for me, nothing like I have ever experienced before.  I am looking forward to being more involved in the Blacksburg community, like at the farmer’s market, now that I know more places around the area.

Experiential Learning #1

Brooke Taylor

Experiential Learning

Saturday, October 8th

7:00 PM at Clementine’s Restaurant

Harrisonburg Virginia

One weekend, I went to visit my sister who attends JMU in Harrisonburg.  We went to a local restaurant named Clementine’s to see a band.  The band was called “Girls, Guns, and Glory” and they were a blues rock band.  The band members were all relatively young, probably in their twenties or thirties.  While there was a fair share of college students there, I was surprised to see a lot of locals watching the band.  This event was sort of out of the ordinary for me because I do not usually listen to blues or rock, and I have never attended a restaurant/bar with a live band.  I began talking to some people sitting next to us and they were about in their mid fifty’s.  They said that Girls, Guns, and Glory was one of their favorite bands and they drove about forty minutes from their home to see them.  Almost immediately after they began playing people of all ages were up and dancing to the music.  This reminded me of the reading “Music in Appalachia” from High Mountains Rising. This chapter talked about how influential music is in Appalachia and how there are multiple types of music in the region.  Many people think of Appalachia as only playing “hillbilly” country music, but this is not true at all.  All different types of music are played and listened to.  My perception of Harrisonburg culture changed after attending this show because I always just thought of it as a college town without much Appalachian influence.  I did not necessarily feel like an outsider while I was there because there was plenty of college students there listening.  I learned a lot about the Harrisonburg culture while I was at Clementine’s.  While observing, I noticed that most of the people there were seeing the band and not just eating.  Clementine’s usually has an event or band playing on most nights, so a lot of times the crowd can just be there to eat.  I also realized that as soon as the band began setting up, the restaurant became packed.  Before, it was just a normal sized group of people, and then it grew into a huge crowd standing in between tables, filling out the whole place.  The atmosphere of the restaurant changed when the band came on.  They turned the lights down, added colored lights, and the band was playing the music very loudly.  This made it more of a rowdy “party” like scene.  Every person in the place seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Even if they were not dancing, people were bobbing their heads or tapping their feet to the music.  I was surprised to see the different age ranges there.  While it was a college restaurant/bar, people of all ages were there from children to older adults.  I think that music is an amazing aspect of Appalachian culture.  Not only does it serve as a source of entertainment, it brings people together and creates a social event.  I watched people that clearly did not know each other dancing, laughing, and engaging all because of the band/music.  It was the kind of music that made you want to get up out of your chair and be a part of, even if it is not something you’re used to.  Personally, I haven’t really ever listened to any kind of blues or rock music, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching this band play.  Music plays a huge role in Appalachia by uniting the community and giving people who may not have much in common something to share.

The Band: Girls, Guns, and Glorypicture1

Issues in Appalachia

Appalachia is a very influential and important region in the United States.  Through agriculture, mining, music, etc. Appalachia has created a very unique culture.  Although Appalachia has been very prosperous, there are some issues.  Coal mining has been a huge industry throughout the entire region.  It has helped create and sustain many jobs, but has detrimental effects on the environment and the people living in it.  Many reports of cancer in specific locations have surfaced in the area.  The coal companies do not seem to be taking the environmental acts seriously, so they dump toxic waste into waterways.  The heavy metals from the blasting remains in the waste, poisoning the water Appalachians drink.  Over time, multiple people have gotten sick and even died directly due to the hazardous waste coal companies are dumping.  There is a large issue between coal miners and other citizens of Appalachia.  On one hand, the coal industry has created jobs for people in the region, paying them just enough to live.  Since rural Appalachia does not contain many big business companies and opportunities that larger cities have, mining is the only available option for many people.  People opposing coal mining have seen the horrible effects on the land, as well as on health.  Many Appalachian’s live in extreme poverty, barely able to support themselves and their families.  In some areas of Appalachia, education is not strongly encouraged and school systems are underdeveloped.  With no strong incentive to go to school, many people lack an education.  Also, some people cannot afford to go to college or even high school, and they have to begin work as soon as they are of age.  I believe Appalachia could be improved in many different aspects to help solve these issues.  For example, improving education systems could help children get involved in school at an early age, increasing their chances of continuing their education.  If more jobs are brought into Appalachia, more people would be able to work elsewhere other than in the mines.  I think Appalachia should place heavy importance on finding a renewable energy source, so other jobs can be brought in and mining can be reduced.  Offering job training programs could help out of work people learn skills to allow them to work outside of the mining industry.  Appalachia has a multitude of resources and people to offer, they just need programs to be implemented to help.

Trampoline Group Project- Music

Music and Media

  • Freedom of music

o   Dawn was happy when her parents left so she could go to concerts (pg. 139)

o   Dawn talks about Willet for the first time (pg. 3)

  •  “Willet Bilson sounded about my age. He sounded like someone I would like to talk to” (Gipe 3).

o   Why was music such a release for Dawn? How did her relationship with Willet Bilson affect her interaction with music?

  • Generational

o   Dawn’s Grandpa likes an older kind of music (pg. 142)

  • Types of music

o   Hippie music or punk

o   Hippie music: John Lennon, the Beatles, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Neil Young

  • How music affects culture

o   How does music affect Dawn?

Key Theme: Dichotomy between commercial and local music

Local music has a larger focus on connecting people through experience. Dance halls and folk instruments create an extremely kinetic environment that serves to establish social ties between individuals. It’s tied into religious gatherings as well as secular meetings. It is very much ingrained into the social fabric of the Appalachian region.

Commercial music is not necessarily tied to social gatherings. Therefore, it often seeks to create feelings of nostalgia for folk music or completely deviate from local mountain music.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does music become an influential part of Dawn’s life?
  2. What effect does music have on the Appalachian culture?
  3. How did Dawn use music as an escape from the negative parts of her life?
  4. What was the effect of local music in the novel? Do you see the effects of local music in Blacksburg or your hometown?
  5. Why did Dawn enjoy punk music?

Our presentation is about how music is important in Trampoline and how it effects Dawn.  Music had a big influence on her by being her escape.  She listened to Willett Bilson’s radio station whenever she got a chance, and got lost in the music.  I think music was one of the things that kept Dawn grounded.

The Last Mountain and OxyContin

This week, we watched a video called “The Last Mountain”, read articles on the use of OxyContin in Appalachia, and did an experiment to make coal crystals.  In the video “The Last Mountain” we saw how much the coal mining industry affected Appalachia.  The people who lived near the mountain were suffering severe affects.  For example, multiple people that lived next door to each other died of brain tumors due to inhaling the pollutants from the mining.  Also, a man that was interviewed showed his vintage car that he had to have repainted multiple times because the fumes stripped car paint.  If the fumes these people are ingesting can strip car paint, what else is it doing to them.  A woman that was interviewed spoke about her child who was born with autism.  She wondered if she had lived in another place if her child would not have autism.  The other side of the story is from the coal miners’ perspective.  The people who work on the mountain do not want to stop because it is their only source of income.  They believe that outsiders are coming in and trying to take their jobs away, but have no real say because they do not actually live in the region.  The article we read relates to the movie because many coal miners and citizens of Appalachia are addicted to prescription drugs, especially OxyContin.  Doctors are prescribing mass amounts of this addictive drug to curb pain, causing mass addiction across Appalachia.  I believe that every area has its own problems with drugs, and that it is dependent upon where you live.  In Appalachia, many people work jobs requiring manual labor, and have to work through injuries and pain just to make a living.  Doctors in Appalachia seem to be more lenient, some prescribing Oxy without even consulting the patients doctor.  All of these issues in Appalachia can be avoided or managed, but the citizens of Appalachia need to be heard by government for any changes to be made.


Coal Crystal Project

United Mine Workers of America

A current group organizing in Appalachia currently is the United Mine Workers of America.  The members of the organization include miners, manufacturing workers, health care workers, correction officers, and public employees.  The main issue they focus on is safety for employees in the workplace, but they also fight for financial security at home. Currently, they are the largest labor union in North America.

Mining Industry

Internal Colonization and Modernization

“Until World War II three different social systems existed side by side in the coal fields of the Southern Appalachian’s: (1) the original rural mountain settlements, characterized by a pattern of isolated residence and subsistent farming (2) the coal camps, primarily composed of homogenous work groups which were socially segregated and economically dependent upon a single extractive industry…”

Appalachia was very quickly transitioned from a slow moving farming area, to a huge industrial coal mining business.  While coal mining brought profit to Appalachia, did the degradation of their natural resources, low wages, and unsafe working conditions outweigh the benefits in the eyes of Appalachians?

Music in Appalachia

I believe that music is a huge part of life.  It has emotion, invokes thought, sends messages, and in this case, can describe a geological area.  Bill Malone’s chapter “Music” describes the influence, types, and popularity of music in Appalachia.  He says that music had more “magical appeal” than anything else in Appalachia.  While I agree with this, he also says that there is not such thing as Appalachian music, just a bunch of vocal styles made by separate musicians in Appalachia.  I do not think this is true.  I think that Appalachian musicians as a whole contribute to the culture and the way of life in Appalachia.  I believe it is more than just music, it is a way for these “mountaineers” to express themselves and tell their story to the rest of the world who may not know anything about Appalachia at all.  It gives Appalachians the opportunity to talk about their region in their own way.  Malone also mentions that folk music is a big part of Appalachia, and it is liked by young and old.  I think this is a different, yet intriguing, concept that such different generations like the same type of music.  Where I grew up, older people listened to completely different music than younger people.  Older people listened to music that was popular when they were younger, while we listened to music that was popular then.  Malone goes into detail of how Appalachian music has changed over different time periods from folk music, to ballad singing, to blues.  “However, bluegrass found a receptive audience among mountain people, especially those who had relocated to the working-class sectors of Detroit, Cincinnati and other southern Ohio industrial towns, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.”   I think that Bluegrass music was what really shaped the style of music for Appalachia.   It brought people together, while they listened to music that was something they could relate their lives to.  The song “Boys ‘Round Here” by Blake Shelton is a good representation of Appalachian music to me.  He sings about “red dirt roads”, country living, trucks, etc.  I think that music in Appalachia has actually helped people view the area in different ways.  While music has been a huge influence in the region, do other stereotypes of Appalachia overshadow the power of music?


Straw, Richard Alan., and Tyler Blethen. High Mountains Rising: Appalachia in Time and Place. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2004. Print.

Merchandising the Mountaineer


This week we read multiple different articles.  The one that stuck out to me the most was “Merchandising the Mountaineer”.  It talked about how photographs and articles had perpetuated the negative views of Appalachia.  Muriel Sheppard wrote a book named “Cabins in the Laurel”, with photographs shot by Bayard Wootten.  Wootten did not depict Appalachia as how it really was in his photos. Sheppard had a preconception of Appalachia that it was a “folk” society of pioneers where people just “sang songs and practiced folk traditions”.  Sheppard wrote about Appalachia not really knowing what it was really like, then Wootten gave visuals that seemed to almost oppose the text.  All of the photos showed the poverty and “uncivilized” looking areas of Appalachia.  “The only building shown is the court house which dominates the photo and the corner of a general store.  Yet the image that dictates the character of the photo is not the telephone pole indicating modern communication or the sign in the window the the courthouse denoting the National reemployment Office, but the buckboard and team of horses parked at the side of the courthouse.”  This quote really shocked me because it showed how biased Wootten must have been.  He was continuing the stereotypes of Appalachia through pictures that were not intended to show otherwise.  It was also mentioned that the two towns Wootten shot photos in were not very large, and made to look even smaller.  He made the towns look like there was one road, not many people, and few things going on around the town.  He photographed an Appalachian school building that had only one school room with a caption saying “Appalachia takes education seriously”.  This almost seems to be mocking Appalachia, because the picture made it look as if Appalachia lacked education and did not place emphasis on the importance of school.  Gender roles was also a theme in the photos.  Women were photographed doing their domestic housework while men were shown doing the agricultural and more difficult work.  He tried to show Appalachia as a place that had not advanced in any way and was lacking technology, education, and culture.  None of this is true to Appalachia.  Sheppard went back to Appalachia, North Carolina specifically, to write the other side of the story, and show the area for how it actually was.  In my opinion, people like Wootten are the ones that continue to fuel the fire of the Appalachian stereotypes today.

McKnight, B. L. (2013, August). Whose Agenda Is It, Anyway? Documentary Burdens, Community Benefits. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from
Watkins, C. A. (n.d.). Merchandising the Mountaineer.