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Something's Rising

Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal

Silas House

Publication Year: 2009

Like an old-fashioned hymn sung in rounds, Something’s Rising gives a stirring voice to the lives, culture, and determination of the people fighting the destructive practice of mountaintop removal in the coalfields of central Appalachia. Each person’s story, unique and unfiltered, articulates the hardship of living in these majestic mountains amid the daily desecration of the land by the coal industry because of America’s insistence on cheap energy. Developed as an alternative to strip mining, mountaintop removal mining consists of blasting away the tops of mountains, dumping waste into the valleys, and retrieving the exposed coal. This process buries streams, pollutes wells and waterways, and alters fragile ecologies in the region. The people who live, work, and raise families in central Appalachia face not only the physical destruction of their land but also the loss of their culture and health in a society dominated by the consequences of mountaintop removal. Included here are oral histories from Jean Ritchie, “the mother of folk,” who doesn’t let her eighty-six years slow down her fighting spirit; Judy Bonds, a tough-talking coal-miner’s daughter; Kathy Mattea, the beloved country singer who believes cooperation is the key to winning the battle; Jack Spadaro, the heroic whistle-blower who has risked everything to share his insider knowledge of federal mining agencies; Larry Bush, who doesn’t back down even when speeding coal trucks are used to intimidate him; Denise Giardina, a celebrated writer who ran for governor to bring attention to the issue; and many more. The book features both well-known activists and people rarely in the media. Each oral history is prefaced with a biographical essay that vividly establishes the interview settings and the subjects’ connections to their region. Written and edited by native sons of the mountains, this compelling book captures a fever-pitch moment in the movement against mountaintop removal. Silas House and Jason Howard are experts on the history of resistance in Appalachia, the legacy of exploitation of the region’s natural resources, and area’s unique culture and landscape. This lyrical and informative text provides a critical perspective on a powerful industry. The cumulative effect of these stories is stunning and powerful. Something’s Rising will long stand as a testament to the social and ecological consequences of energy at any cost and will be especially welcomed by readers of Appalachian studies, environmental science, and by all who value the mountain’s majesty—our national heritage.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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pp. xi-xii

Silas House and Jason Howard are both sons of Appalachia, their family lives intertwined with coal mining. Something’s Rising bears witness to the people they love and the lives they have lived—and still live, with great courage, right here in Appalachia ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

We offer our heartfelt thanks to all of the following, who helped in manners large and small, whether it be by offering tips on good subjects, singing songs that inspired us, passing along news, telling stories of their own, or serving as a guiding spirit: Lisa Abbott, Josiah Akinyele, Pat Beaver, Wendell Berry, Kate Black, Teri Blanton ...

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pp. 1-22

These words were spoken by Senator Robert F. Kennedy at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky, on February 13, 1968, during a fact-finding mission of sorts. Over the course of two gray February days, Kennedy traveled more than two hundred miles over winding mountain roads ...

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Jean Ritchie: The Preservationist

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pp. 28-44

Jean Ritchie’s eyes haven’t changed since she was a young girl. At eighty-six years old, they are as blue as blown glass, full of wisdom and cleverness and intensity and, above all, kindness. Kindness lights up Ritchie’s entire face, so clear and real that it causes her to seem almost not of this world. Beatific. And she possesses the ...

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Denise Giardina: Mother Jones’s Great-Granddaughter

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pp. 45-66

Denise Giardina is a radical. Perched on the worn couch in her cozy home in Charleston, West Virginia, Giardina doesn’t shy away from this term, a death knell in modern politics. She certainly doesn’t fit the stereotype. ...

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Bev May: Little Acts of Greatness

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pp. 67-94

Bev May moves up the steep mountain much like she must have as a little girl growing up here on Wilson Creek, Kentucky. Her trusty dog, Rufus, a mixed breed with a noble profile, is barely able to stay ahead, although he seems intent on doing so. ...

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Carl Shoupe: Union Made

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pp. 95-112

Carl Shoupe is mad as hell. You can’t hear it in his voice or even see it in his eyes. The clench of his firm, mountain jaw—his inheritance from his Cherokee grandmother—is the giveaway. As he stands to address the Bank of America shareholder ...

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Kathy Mattea: A Light in the Dark

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pp. 113-131

Mattea is a beloved, Grammy-winning singer who spent the last decade of the twentieth century as one of country music’s most dependable and most respected hit-makers. Her songs are the kind that people know all the words to and sing along with when they come on the radio: ...

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Judy Bonds: The Endangered Hillbilly

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pp. 131-150

There’s a heaviness that hangs over the town of Whitesville, West Virginia. Like the fog from the nearby Big Coal River, it seeps through the streets, past the empty storefronts, on up the mountainside to the rows of houses that overlook the town. ...

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Pat Hudson: Called to Action

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pp. 151-178

It’s a cold Sunday morning in East Tennessee and the Church of the Savior is filled to capacity. The congregation stands; voices from across the crowded church harmonize and send the words of a nineteenth-century hymn soaring up to the rafters. ...

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Jack Spadaro: Appalachian Patriot

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pp. 179-200

It’s the beginning of the dreaded dog days of summer on the forks of Troublesome Creek in Knott County, Kentucky. Those gathered at the forks for the Appalachian Writers Workshop, held annually on the hillside campus of the Hindman Settlement School ...

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Nathan Hall: A Leader, Not a Follower

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pp. 201-216

When presidential hopeful John Edwards visited Whitesburg, Kentucky, in June 2007, retracing the steps of Bobby Kennedy’s “poverty tour,” the first question he answered was one posed by Nathan Hall, a twenty-three-year-old Berea College student from Floyd County, Kentucky. ...

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Anne Shelby and Jessie Lynne Keltner: Holy Ground

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pp. 217-244

It is high summer, and the sisters are picking blackberries on the homeplace. They amble along this place of their youth, the land that has been in their family for more than a hundred years. In fact, this land is a part of their family. ...

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Larry Bush: The Gathering Storm

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pp. 245-262

The road over Black Mountain winds about like a coiled snake, poised to strike at any moment. At 4,145 feet above sea level, Black Mountain is one of Appalachia’s highest mountains. The view from crooked Highway 160 is nothing less than breathtaking ...

Appendix A: Text of the Petition Letter Circulated by Coal Companies against the Stream Saver Bill

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pp. 263-264

Appendix B: House Bill 164, the Stream Saver Bill, as Introduced in February 2008

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pp. 265


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pp. 267-285

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 287-291

About the Authors

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pp. 291


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pp. 293-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780813173412
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125466

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Environmentalism -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
  • Celebrities -- Appalachian Region, Southern -- Interviews.
  • Mountaintop removal mining -- Environmental aspects -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
  • Landscape protection -- Appalachian Region, Southern -- Citizen participation.
  • Appalachian Region, Southern -- Environmental conditions.
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