St. Charles is a small, incorporated, rural coal mining community of approximately 370 people in the upper part of Lee County, Va. Several hollows branch out from the town itself with a total population of 2780. This is essentially the area north of Stone Mountain to the Kentucky line bordered on the West by Route 421 proceeding to Harlan, Ky., and eastward to Jordan Branch just west of the community of Keokee.
There are no red lights in all of Lee County–the only semblance of one is a yellow warning light in the county seat, Jonesville. In the last census, Lee County was the poorest in Virginia, and the mining area in the northern section (location of St. Charles) is the poorest in the county. St. Charles remains the Democratic stronghold in spite of the fact that Lee County has turned fiercely Republican in the last six years. Eighty per cent of the people in the county are on welfare, and most are no longer able to work because of heart and lung conditions. Many are still awaiting black lung benefits. Governmental regulations about black lung benefits are constantly changing, and there are still 21,000 cases pending: some St. Charles people have not heard anything since they filed four years ago.
–Excerpt from “Final Report: Appalachian Project Rural Student Health Coalition VI 1974,” PDF page 32.
Contributed by Tish Crane Rainey, March 2017. I participated in the Student Health Coalition the summer of 1975. I had just finished my first year in nursing school at Vanderbilt with an eye on becoming a nurse midwife. That fall… Continued
Contributed by Rebecca (Becca) Joffrion Ingle. I was born in Starkeville, Miss. in 1952, but grew up from age 5 in Huntsville, Ala. This small, sleepy Alabama town exploded in growth and diversity during those years with the coming of… Continued
I am a bit late in getting my bio in, best done in the earlier stages of pending dotage. I am originally from Laurinburg, N.C., a small farming and, then, textile community in the eastern part of the state. I… Continued
Contributed by Cathy Barrow Heck I was absolutely sold on the Appalachian Student Health Coalition upon seeing the video as a nursing student in the fall of 1973. The idea of a team of students working in partnership with rural… Continued
Nancy worked with SHC in the summers of 1973 and 1974 as a community organizer in St. Charles, Va. and then as co-director of the Coalition in East Tennessee and western Virginia. She was at that time an undergraduate student… Continued
Ron Carson shares about his grandfather’s, Smith Carson, first integrated band in the area: the Black and White Melody Boys. Their legacy throughout the South includes having played with Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley. Full footage of Ron Carson’s… Continued
[Story contributed by Angela Carroll Healy, M.D.] Dear All, Seeing the videos and reading the memories of other Coalitioners has made me want to share what working with the Student Health Coalition (SHC) meant to me. I was a Brooklyn… Continued
Ron Carson discusses Dr. Daniel Gabriel, M.D. and his local legacy in African American healthcare as the only doctor who in the 1940s and 50s would see Black patients. Full footage of Ron Carson’s tour of the African American… Continued
Ron Carson showcases an old check with an emblem of what used to be called “Negro Head Rock” and shares the story about his grandmother’s 1968 petition to have it renamed. It’s now known as Stoneface Rock. Interestingly, former Student… Continued
After the 1975 health fair in St. Charles, Va., the local health council worked tirelessly to build a permanent clinic. By 1976, that clinic had opened to the public. And over time, it grew into a network of 12 regional… Continued
Ron Carson details post-Reconstruction African American migration trends from cotton fields to coal camps in St. Charles, Va. (including migration years later in the mid-20th century to northern urban centers for manufacturing jobs) and their impact on resulting Black diaspora… Continued
Brought to us by Margaret Ecker and others involved in its 2013 production, this special collection of insights from several Student Health Coalition (SHC) figureheads in the 1970s features Bill Dow, Bill Corr, Carolyn Burr, Dal Macon, and Marie Cirillo–among… Continued
Mary Herr was born in Springfield, Ill. in 1940. In 1978 she moved to Cherokee, N.C. where she has worked on many community development projects, primarily in legal aid services. Herr begins the interview by discussing her family history; a… Continued