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Highlighting overlooked stories across Appalachian Virginia

A walking path through a forest in southwest Virginia
Roxy Todd
Radio IQ
A walking path through a forest in southwest Virginia

Across the country there have been many debates around monuments and the stories they tell. A new project is underway to highlight stories in southwest Virginia that have often been overlooked.

There are many moments of Appalachian history that have been suppressed, or forgotten. Take, for example, stories of settlers who were forced from their land when the Federal Government created Shenandoah National Park. Or residents from the Monacan Indian Nation, many of whom left Virginia in the 1920s and 30s, after restrictive race laws made it difficult for them to find work here.

“And so that’s a story of resettlement within Virginia that’s often not understood or told,” said Katy Powell, director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies. She and her team were awarded a $3 million grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation for their project, called Monuments Across Appalachian Virginia. Some of the stories they help tell will be about social justice movements, including feminist and labor struggles and fights for civil rights.

“It’s never been more important to believe in the power of collective action,” said Emily Satterwhite, director of Appalachian Studies at Virginia Tech, and is on the team overseeing the project. “And so my hope is that by telling some of those stories, we inspire the next generation as well.”

Satterwhite, Powell and their team will create an advisory board, who will select community groups across southwest Virginia who are already working to highlight some of these untold stories. “And to work with community groups and artists to reimagine what a monument can be,” said Powell.

Some of the funds will be used to help pay for staff from those organizations.

The money could also be used to create historical markers, public art, as well as theatrical performances and festivals.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Updated: March 13, 2023 at 1:46 PM EDT
Editor's Note: Radio IQ is a service of Virginia Tech.

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.