John Gaventa

John Gaventa was born in Tennessee in 1949. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1971, was a Rhodes Scholar, and received his doctorate from Oxford University. In 1976, Gaventa began a grassroots adult educational program at Highlander Research and Education Center. He received a MacArthur Award for this work in 1981.

In 1982, Gaventa published his groundbreaking book, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, a study to uncover the “hidden faces of power” in the Clear Fork Valley in Central Appalachia. The research documented how an absentee British company owned much of the land in the valley and how it extracted resources and wealth without benefitting the region.

Gaventa served as director of Highlander Center from 1993 to 1996. From 2011-2014, he served as the director of the Coady International Institute and Vice-President of International Development at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is currently living in England, where he is the Director of Research at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.


Related Stories:

Reflections on the SHC’s approach to community healthcare

Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and Maureen O’Connell consider what set the Student Health Coalition apart from other community development efforts in the Appalachian region of East Tennessee. Boomer focuses on the Coalition’s and SOCM’s value of community empowerment (by way of… Continued

Perry Steele on Summer 1972

[Story contributed by Perry Steele, 15 May 2017]  I was finishing my sophomore year at Vanderbilt. Nixon hadn’t drafted me. For some reason Professor Scott suggested I could be a community organizer. Having no other plans for the summer, I… Continued

“That kind of learning does not come from a text book.”

[Story contributed by Dr. Brent Blue, February 2016] “I remember I took these photos when I was first introduced to Jess and Steele. I believe John Gaventa was with us. The Huddleston’s freely admitted that due to my long hair,… Continued

Mo & Boomer

On strip mining, community organization, and “[having] fun while trying to change the world.” Interview with Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey, recorded at a May 2013 reunion of the Student Health Coalition in Nashville, Tennessee. Continued

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East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC)

Profile: [Contributed by John Williams and Neil McBride, September 2015.] As the members of the Student Health Coalition and the Vanderbilt Center for Health Services began working with health clinics, SOCM, the Tennessee Black Lung Association and other community-based organizations… Continued

Irwin Venick

Profile: Contributed by Irwin Venick, May 2016 I arrived in Nashville, Tennessee on a hot, humid day in August 1971 not really knowing what to expect. One thing for sure was that I was not in Kansas (meaning for me,… Continued

Marie Cirillo

[Contributed by John Emmeus Davis, 2015] Marie Cirillo was born in Brooklyn in 1929.  Her father had emigrated from rural Italy.  Her mother had grown up in a small Catholic community in central Kentucky.  Every summer, her mother returned to… Continued


Related Resources/Links:

Interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley by Evangeline Mee, 29 May 2012, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Topics discussed in this interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley include: birth in Petros, Tenn.; life history overview; coal mining father; history of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM); women’s role in SOCM; relationship of Vanderbilt University medical students; Student… Continued

John Gaventa Papers, W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University

The John Gaventa Papers include materials generated and collected during Gaventa’s career as a political sociologist, educator, author, and civil society practitioner. This includes correspondence, day planners and calendars, journals, materials from conferences, and papers, reports and studies written by… Continued

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