September 28, 2023

With Black historical education joining the movement as a pivotal step toward racial progress less is known about the African Americans who make up the rural and mountain south.

Synonymous with Folk music, Trump country, banjos and whiteness the geographical areas known as Appalachia are void of African American story telling on a broad scale and the Black in Appalachia Project is doing work to change that.

Notable cities within Appalachia include Asheville, NC, Binghamton, NY, Knoxville, TN, Roanoke, VA, Pittsburg, PA, and Huntsville Alabama. However the entire Appalachian region stretches between 13 states and 420 counties from North to South.

“We are here”, says Project Director William Isom who founded the Black in Appalachia organization in Knoxville, Tennessee. “We are trying to fill in the holes of some of the places that don’t normally get talked about and flesh out these stories for those community members”.

Black in Appalachia has taken on the podcast market launching its very first season on August 8th which is the State of Tennessee’s Emancipation Day.

“African Americans have a rich history all over the country and it’s important that we highlight these stories”, says Podcast Co-Host Angela Dennis.

As a journalist and member of Black With No Chaser, Angela joined the project in her hometown along with Dr. Enkeshi Thom-El Amin a sociologist and professor at The University of Tennessee.

Dr. El-Amin has studied race and place within Appalachia over the course of her college career and doctoral program. She feels that connecting our heritage to the region is important.

” People are not familiar with the parameters of Appalachia. They dont know its a geographic space but it’s also a cultural space. “Affrilachian” is Black folks making sense of their identity and thats why this podcast is so important. This is a way for people to connect to this region”, she said.

The Black in Appalachia Podcast is a two year project and the initiative will cover a wide array of topics and story telling from all over the region focusing on topics such as social justice, history, civil rights, politics and Black Joy.

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They were selected by Public Radio Exchange (PRX) which holds the largest on-demand catalog of public radio programs available for broadcast and internet use.

PRX’s Project Catapult program is a media podcast accelerator program that launched in 2016 helping and encouraging stations around the country to create podcast meaningful to their communities. The training team helps journalists and story tellers adapt and succeed in today’s highly competitive podcast market.

Black in Appalachia is a member of the third cohort of production teams throughout the U.S.

The podcast will release bi-weekly episodes on all podcast streaming platforms and hopes to create more content over the project’s two year span.

If you are interested in learning more about the Black in Appalachia initiative visit their website and their social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram.

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