Blues Hollers: A Pedagogy of Space and the Scale of Black Freedom in Kentucky Appalachia

McCullum, Kristan, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Alridge, Derrick, ED-EDLF Department, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the experiences of Black Appalachians who came of age in the eastern Kentucky coalfields during the classical phase of the civil rights movement. In particular, it explores the various everyday methods of Black placemaking in response to and despite the constraints of capitalism and Jim Crow. In doing so, it seeks to provide a fuller history and geography of Kentucky Appalachia by exploring the historic dialectic of the continuous projects of modernity and Black freedom. In (re)situating Appalachia within this long dialectic, I attempt to make visible the existing geographies of Appalachia that more fully connect Black Appalachians to the southern Black diaspora and the region to the South. I do this through a critical historical examination of both formal and informal educative spaces that exist both past and present within the landscape. I conceptualize the landscape as an archive that necessitates critical interrogation. This dissertation reconstructs these spaces through oral histories and a critical reading of other archival documents through what I called a blues method. Thus, I retrace the destruction and transformation of these segregated spaces from the classical civil rights period to the present, and specifically focus on the ways in which space and the landscape have been historically produced by both white and Black actors, as well as the ways in which these spaces were educative about Jim Crow realities and the limits to/possibilities of freedom. This reconstruction contributes to the preservation of these spaces, which then teaches a fuller and more complex history of race, space, and place in Kentucky Appalachia.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Appalachia, Black history, oral history, geography, education, the civil rights movement , blues
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