7:00 am
Mon April 14, 2014

New Website Seeks Memories of Eastern Kentucky Coal Camps

This schoolroom photograph from Balkan, KY was submitted to the Coal Camp Documentary Project by former resident James Walters.
Credit Family of James Walters / Coal Camp Documentary Project

A new project at the University of Kentucky is trying to document the state’s eastern coal camps, before memories of the area are lost forever.

The Coal Camp Documentary Project is a website that’s seeking to collect memories and photographs of the numerous coal camps that once existed in Eastern Kentucky. Some are still there, but many have been abandoned or demolished.

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9:00 am
Sun March 9, 2014

Five Awesome Kentucky Coal Camp Photos From the National Archives

A miner. P V & K Coal Company, Clover Mine, Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky.
Credit Russell Lee / Department of the Interior/Wikimedia Commons

In the 1940s, photographer Russell Lee spent two years working for the United States Department of the Interior in Eastern Kentucky. During that time, he took thousands of pictures of coal miners and their families--many of which were centered in Harlan and Bell counties.

Lee's work contributed to health and safety changes that came about later in the mining industry, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

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9:00 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Kentucky House OKs College Scholarship Program for Coal Counties

Credit Decumanus / Wikimedia Commons

A bill that would provide up to $5,000 in college scholarships for high-school students in Kentucky's coal-producing counties has passed the state House.

Lawmakers voted 92 to 0 in support of the bill. It would establish the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Program, which would promote bachelor’s degree attainment for students in Eastern and Western Kentucky.

The plan will use about $4 million in coal-severance funds set aside in Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed budget.

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Strange Fruit
1:59 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Strange Fruit: The Story of African Americans in Appalachia; Black History Month Begins

The seldom-told story of African Americans in Appalachia has been on our minds since a few weeks ago when we spoke to Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker, who coined the term 'Affrilachian.' 

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6:55 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Hollowed Mountains, Now Hollowed Towns: Coal in Eastern Kentucky

A truck in Harlan, Ky., proclaims its support for coal and coal miners.
Credit Erica Peterson/WFPL News

HARLAN—People in Eastern Kentucky are used to the ups and downs of a coal-based economy. Prices plummet. Production slows down. Coal miners get laid off. Several months later, prices rise. The phone rings. Miners pick up their helmets and go back to work.

We're in one of those slumps now—but, this time, things are different. In the hardest-hit counties, the bumpers of heavy-duty Ford pickup trucks still host Friends of Coal license plates, next to stickers telling other drivers that coal keeps the lights on. But the winding mountain roads are a little quieter.

You can drive miles without seeing one of the lumbering coal trucks that, for years, carried away the region’s resources.

Coal is embedded into the culture and image of Eastern Kentucky, but the industry is declining in the region. And it's declining permanently. The coal miners—who've known coal through the generations—are being left behind.

Kentucky political leaders largely resort to finger-pointing and rhetoric. 

The coal miners, however, are left with few options but to adapt.

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6:46 am
Mon December 2, 2013

New Appalachian Fellowship Program Aims to Rebuild Region's Economy


A new fellowship program will begin next year, aiming to help communities in Central Appalachia rebuild their economies.

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Local News
1:18 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Beshear, Rogers Announce Summit on Kentucky's Appalachian Economy

University of Kentucky

Kentucky political leaders are rolling out another initiative intended to find ways to bolster the economy in Appalachia.

Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers held a joint press conference in Hazard today to unveil the latest effort, which they dubbed SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region.

Beshear said the economic woes of recent years have hurt Appalachia and intensified the hardships of families in the mountain region. He and Rogers have scheduled a summit of public and private sector leaders to find solutions to problems the region faces.

12:15 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

James River Shuts Down Coal Operations in Kentucky; 525 Employees Laid Off

Credit Decumanus / Wikimedia Commons

RICHMOND, Va. — James River Coal Co. is laying off 525 full-time employees and shutting down production at several mines in eastern Kentucky due to continued weak coal markets.

The Richmond-based company said Monday night the layoffs occurred at operations at the McCoy Elkhorn complex in Pike and Floyd counties, the Bledsoe complex in Leslie and Harlan counties, and the Long Branch Surface mine in London, Ky.

James River says the restart of the operations is subject to market conditions.

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6:30 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Filmmaker Presents Ideas for Developing Post-Coal Appalachian Economy

A filmmaker in North Carolina is working on a documentary that juxtaposes the coalfields of Appalachia with those of another area: Wales. He’ll present some of his findings for revitalizing a community after coal at a meeting this week.

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8:01 am
Sun July 15, 2012

Discussing the Black Lung Resurgence in Appalachia

A black lung victim nears his last breath. His sons, also coal miners keep a vigil.
Earl Dotter for NPR

Friday on WFPL's Byline, our environment reporter Erica Peterson spent some time with NPR reporter Howard Berkes and Chris Hamby with the Center for Public Integrity. They’ve been investigating a serious resurgence in black lung disease in Appalachia in a series of reports and features made public last week.

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