Abandoned farmhouse western North Carolina
Julia Franks

Eight years ago, Julia Franks and her husband bought a farm in western North Carolina. At the time, the 1800s farmhouse on the land was still standing and when they walked in the doors, they were greeted by dozens of odd artifacts, including animal bones, locks of hair, insect hives, and even a jar with a fingernail in it. Franks is a high school literature teacher and lover of writing, so it was hard for her to not let her imagination run wild.

photo of Kathy Mattea
Arlin Geyer/Warren Wilson College

For the last 25 years, the Swannanoa Gathering has brought thousands of people from across the world to experience the old-time musical traditions of Appalachia.

The five-week program features workshops in traditional folk, guitar composition and Celtic music and includes instruction from Grammy award-winning musicians like Janis Ian and Tom Paxton.

Algonquin Books

In the years leading up the Civil War, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

It was meant to be a compromise between Southern slave owners and Northern anti-slavery movements.

Instead, it ripped the country further apart and placed a bounty on people who had otherwise earned their freedom.

This is the context in which North Carolina author Robert Morgan wrote his newest novel. 

Image of miner loading coal in Portal 31 in Lynch, Ky. in the 1920s.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Appalachian Archives. These photos are part of the U.S. Coal & Coke and International Harvester Image Collection.

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

Tens of thousands of African-Americans called Appalachia home in the early 20th century, yet most popular representations of the region rarely include details about the black experience.

Tara Linhardt plays with Nepali musicians
Tara Linhardt

Nepal and Appalachia are on opposite ends of the Earth, but their musical traditions show striking parallels. Bluegrass musician Tara Linhardt traveled with friends, her mandolin and camera around the Nepali countryside to find and play alongside musicians preserving the country's folk traditions. The result is a musical fusion of two worlds usually separated by cultural and geographic barriers.

The truce signing in 2003 with Reo Hatfield, Bo McCoy and Ron McCoy
Ron McCoy and Jerry D. Hatfield

The Hatfields and the McCoys are two of the most well-known American families. Their legendary family feud ended more than a century ago but continues to capture the American imagination to this day.

In the past two decades, direct descendants of the patriarchs have been working to reunite the two families and reintroduce their heritage and story to the American public.

Image of miner loading coal in Portal 31 in Lynch, Ky. in the 1920s.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Appalachian Archives. These photos are part of the U.S. Coal & Coke and International Harvester Image Collection.

Tens of thousands of African-Americans called Appalachia home in the early 20th century, yet most popular representations of the region rarely include details about the black experience.

One young researcher sought to change that through an archival project that examines the history and culture of coal mining communities in eastern Kentucky. Karida Brown grew up in New York, but both of her parents are from Lynch, Ky.

Will Michaels / WUNC

Hindugrass is a collective music project that has been around for 17 years. 

The Durham-based band can be anything from a quartet to an octet in live performances and the band describes its sound as "Indo-Appalachian fusion." It's a mixture of classical Indian sounds and Appalachian folk.

Host Frank Stasio discusses what that means with five members of Hindugrass: John Heitzenrater on the sarod, Laura Thomas on the violin,  Katie Wyatt on the viola, Chris Johnson on the tabla, and Ed Butler on percussion.

In addition to taking on education initiatives, PAGE encourages girls to produce photography and digital stories.
Madison County Photo Exhibition /

Rural communities in western North Carolina are in the midst of an economic shift.

The rise and fall of the family farm means places like Madison County are looking for new ways to support themselves. The answer could be in the tech industry. But technology businesses rely on a steady stream of well-educated workers. 

A panel discussion tonight at Duke University, "Rethinking Appalachia," examines ways to develop a high-tech workforce in rural Appalachia.

David Joy's new book tells the story of a young man working for his father's meth ring in rural North Carolina.

Jacob McNeely grew up in the mountains of North Carolina.

A life of crime as an employee of his father's meth ring is the only one he has ever known. But a violent event and a reunion with his first love offer McNeely the possibility of escape. 

Looking At Appalachia

Jan 22, 2015
Ronald Sowder cuts Tom Fitzsimmons hair in Hinton, Summers County, West Virginia .
Ryan Stone / Looking at Appalachia

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. The images of the Appalachia region from that period created stereotypes of its people and land for the rest of the country.

Image of banjo hero Carroll Best.
Courtesy of Louise Best

In the 1930s, the National Park Service sent a man named Joseph Hall to the Great Smoky Mountains to document the life and stories of people who were about to be relocated so that it could become a national park

Gerry Dincher / Flickr/Creative Commons

"Hain't dat white rice over yonder a-sittin' sigogglin'?"

That sentence is mostly non-sense, but it's also tells a quick and fascinating history of the Appalachian dialect.

Listen to our Eric Mennel take a lesson in Appalachian-speak from NC State linguist Walt Wolfram. (The lesson takes under two minutes.)

VanderVeen Photographers

Beowulf is a classic tale that has been told and retold in many ways. But in 2006, a team in Greensboro designed a surprising twist on the age-old tale: a music-filled play set in Appalachia.
Jacie Buckner (foreground) and Alexis Wills

Jacie Buckner and Alexis Wills are teenagers. Both grew up in the same Appalachian region of North Carolina. Jacie describes herself as quiet. Alexis says she is a rebel.  They met in middle school, when they ran into each other in the lunchroom. " I looked at Jacie and thought 'oh my goodness, she’s going to hate me!'"Alexis says.

Ballad singer and banj player Sheila Kay Adams.
Kim Dryden, courtesty of Sheila Kay Adams

Mention the name Sheila Kay Adams to any traditional old time musician and you’re likely to elicit a reverent response.  In the world of American ballad singers, Adams remains one of the pillars of tradition, drawing on her Madison County roots to perform and teach the old style of singing and banjo playing passed down in her family for generations.  This week, her lifetime of nurturing and sharing traditional music earned her a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle singing the ballad 'Lord Bateman' with a 'crankie.'
Laura Candler

When traditional Appalachian musician Anna Roberts-Gevalt first showed ballad singer Elizabeth LaPrelle a crankie, Elizabeth was speechless.

“I really freaked out,” LaPrelle said. She was astounded not only because she had never seen one before, but also because it was such a powerful tool for storytelling.

Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle

While many popular musicians today seek out the newest digital technology to enhance their performances, there’s a young musical duo from rural Virginia who are moving in the opposite direction. Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle call themselves simply “Anna and Elizabeth.”  Both accomplished traditional Appalachian musicians on a variety of instruments, together they have resurrected a storytelling tradition called the “crankie,” whose technology outdates their combined age (which is 50).

'The Next Best Thing' by Overmountain Men
Overmountain Men

Musicians David Childers and Bob Crawford bonded over a shared love of Appalachian music and history. The result is the second CD from their band "The Overmountain Men." Crawford is also the bassist for the Avett Brothers, while Childers has had a long career with the Modern Don Juans.

Ron Rash's latest collection of short stories is 'Nothing Gold Can Stay.'
Harper Collins Publishers

  Author Ron Rash has been chronicling the Appalachian way of life for nearly two decades. His poetry and fiction have earned him wide acclaim and a position alongside other esteemed writers from western North Carolina. He joins host Isaac-Davy Aronson to discuss his latest book of short stories: “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (HarperCollins/2013).

Deborah Hicks  grew up in an Appalachian paper mill town she hoped to escape. Her education opened doors for her to leave and travel to other parts of a country, but she returned time and again to Appalachia as a teacher. Deborah has dedicated her life to educating those that need her most - focusing on young girls in poor neighborhoods. She is the founder and director of PAGE, Partnership for Appalachian Girls' Education, in Madison County.

Laurelyn Dossett's Appalachian style is well known. Music legend Levon Helm covered her song "Anna Lee" on two grammy winning projects, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops named their recent grammy nominated release after Dossett's song "Leaving Eden." Host Frank Stasio talks to her live at the UpStage Cabaret at Triad Stage about her upcoming shows, and she performs live in the studio.

New Wildlife Refuge Proposed for Western NC

Jun 12, 2012

North Carolina's Western counties are home to one of the country's rarest natural habitats, mountain bogs. As Asma Khalid reports, the federal government is on a mission to preserve this unusual landscape by creating a national wildlife refuge in Southern Appalachia.

Asma Khalid: If you've never visited a mountain bog, think of a mini swamp, but isolated and patchy. Mountain bogs breed diverse creatures, and sometimes even endangered species.

Gary Peeples works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Asheville.

Appalachia now has its own version of WikiLeaks. It's a website where government and corporate whistle blowers can anonymously share documents. Jim Tobias is co-coordinator of Honest Appalachia, which will focus on North Carolina and six other states.