Black Appalachians have played a critical role in Appalachian history, yet stories of Appalachia have been whitewashed for generations. Neither the contributions of Black people to Appalachian history nor the harms experienced by Black communities are popularly known or appreciated, especially in media and policymaking.
In the fall of 2021, the Black Appalachian Coalition (BLAC) and the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI) hosted five virtual listening sessions where Black Appalachians shared stories about their past and present and thoughts about how the region should move forward.
The first BLAC paper, publicly released in February 2022, highlights some common themes and policy needs across the listening session series. Across all of these policy issues, there is a common need for Black storytelling and participation as a precondition for policymaking. Policymakers should place more value on creating spaces for groups of Appalachians that have been historically oppressed or ignored to share their stories and on helping shift narratives to reflect the region’s past and present accurately.