Professor Jacqueline Clark presents ongoing research about Appalachia

“Objects of Hate: Disrupting the Whitewashing of Appalachia through Public Writing and Photography” was presented in the spring by Jacqueline Clark, professor of sociology, for the Faculty Scholarship Series.

While many associate the Appalachian region with poor whites, most are unaware of the history of African Americans in the geographic area, Clark says. Her research addresses this oversight by tracing the family history of Leslie Whittington, an African-American man born in western North Carolina, who is also the grandson of a formerly enslaved man named John Myra Stepp.

Over the course of her recent sabbatical, Clark engaged in public writing on the project, including a series of guest blogs for the website Sociological Images. These pieces address the history of African Americans in Appalachia, slavery in the region, and why Whittington has chosen to collect racist artifacts associated with the Jim Crow era.

Clark also created a photo essay from the project, which she presented at Thread at Yale, a program for nonfiction storytellers, held at Yale University, and which will also be published in an upcoming special Social Justice issue in the Journal of Appalachian Studies. She shared images and excerpts from the photo essay at the Faculty Scholarship Series presentation.

The work is important, Clark says, because it addresses the long-ignored history of slavery in Appalachia and the harmful consequences associated with the Jim Crow era in the region. She also notes that sharing stories like Whittington’s and his family’s is an important and necessary step in working toward racial and social justice.


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