African Americans in Appalachia fight to be seen as a part of coal country

By | August 12, 2017

Growing up, Shaylan Clark watched as family after family packed up their cars and left her close-knit neighborhood in Lynch, Ky., to find work elsewhere after the coal jobs dried up.

Not much has changed. Everyone wants to talk about where working-class Appalachia goes from here, she said, but nobody seems to consider the African American families like hers who stayed behind.

“When someone hears ‘Appalachia,’ the first thing that pops into their head isn’t an African American face, ever,” said Clark, 20, a student who is studying history at the nearby Southeast Community Technical College. “It’s kind of irritating.”

The depiction of the working-class struggle in Appalachia — boosted by the nation’s renewed interest in so-called coal country — has been overwhelmingly white. That conflicts with the reality of towns like Lynch, a former coal camp clinging to the tallest mountain in Kentucky, where an estimated 200 of the 700 residents are black, according to recent American Community Survey data. (Washington Post)

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