Stories

The larger narrative of the Coalition work has been made possible through the steady accumulation of individual stories submitted to the archive over time. Some participants have written down a brief memory about a hog butchering, their home visit, or some other snapshot from the past. Others have recorded longer stories using a tape recorder or video camera. Still others have provided a fuller telling of the birth and growth of a whole community’s engagement with health care, environmental issues, and political power. All stories are collected into this section, organized by categories listed in the drop down menu and on the left side of this screen. See below for quick access to the ten most recently added stories.

Recently Added:

Sharon Roberson on institutional racism and her invitation to Chancellor Heard’s home

Sharon Roberson shares what she’s most proud of from her time in West Tennessee, explaining how it cultivated greater depth to her critical understanding of institutional racism and the ensuing drive to educate others on the matter.   Full footage… Continued

On Sharon Roberson’s mother, Lady Kendall

Sharon Roberson shares a story exemplifying her mother’s legacy of kindness and advocacy, highlighting the power of leaders to change institutions.   Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s 2018 oral history interview. Continued

“Whites treated Whites and Blacks treated Blacks”

Sharon Roberson discusses her witness of racial segregation in rural West Tennessee healthcare (circa late 1970s), noting how said disparities severely limited access to healthcare for many in the area.   Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s 2018 oral history interview. Continued

Sharon Roberson on respect for elders

Sharon Roberson shares how her cultural upbringing facilitated an innate respect for elders that, she believes, is foundational to achieving societal civility.   Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s 2018 oral history interview. Continued

Sharon Roberson on systemic racism: then and now

Sharon Roberson reflects on her witness and personal experience of racism together with our ongoing culture of racism today, highlights the widespread mistrust of Medicaid expansion and Obamacare common among many people (largely due to politically-driven misinformation and propaganda), and… Continued

On the anti-establishment origins of the Coalition and Center for Health Services

Sharon Roberson and Margaret Ecker discuss how Vanderbilt University no longer has a Student Health Coalition or Center for Health Services, in part due to an unspecified anger more characteristic of the 1960s and 1970s student generation, on top of… Continued

Sharon Roberson’s work with the YWCA

Sharon Roberson delves into more detail about her ongoing work with the YWCA and how her experience with the Coalition shaped the values which, to this day, inspire her professional priorities.   Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s 2018 oral history… Continued

West TN summers and their impact on Sharon Roberson’s career arc

Sharon Roberson shares how her experience with the Center for Health Services informed her professional pursuits, particularly as it relates to combatting the mentality she’d witnessed among many people in West Tennessee–that being the impetus not to “rock the boat”… Continued

Differences between West and East TN core injustices and approach to community organizing

Sharon Roberson describes community organizing work over time and the growing tension that transpired among Vanderbilt students from one summer to the next, particularly in light of apartheid in South Africa and the ongoing domestic fight for civil rights. Many… Continued

Sharon Roberson on her family stay and community relationships in West TN

Sharon Roberson provides insight into the dynamic of student stays with local families and developing community relationships, including the mutually shared desire not to disrupt existing social norms that would persist after they left.   Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s… Continued

Appealing to community leaders, the health fair model, and rights and benefits counseling in West TN

Sharon Roberson describes the student-led approach to community organizing in West Tennessee, such as appealing to established community leaders (namely, ministers from local churches). She also details the health fair model and rights and benefits counseling, both of which were… Continued

Sharon Roberson on Black deference to White people in West Tennessee

Sharon Roberson describes an air conditioning situation in the Haywood County Public Health Services building which, to her surprise, highlighted how Black people, according to custom and engrained mentality, demonstrated deference to the White demographic.   Full footage of Sharon… Continued

Sharon Roberson’s early involvement with the Center for Health Services

Sharon Roberson tells of her first getting involved with the Center for Health Services, a Vanderbilt-sponsored affiliate program of the Student Health Coalition. She worked in West Tennessee (primarily Haywood County) and explains that unique to this region, in comparison… Continued

An anecdote on Bill Dow from John Williams

John Williams shares a fun Bill Dow anecdote as the ETRC and BLA panel comes to a close.   Full footage of the 2017 ETRC panel featuring John Williams, John McArthur, Lark Hayes, and Neil McBride. Continued

Neil McBride on the spirit of ETRC

Lark Hayes highlights Neil McBride’s thoughtfulness and tenacity in his litigative work with the East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC), and shares an email verbalizing his perception of ETRC’s empowering spirit.   Full footage of the 2017 ETRC panel featuring John… Continued

Lark Hayes’ origins with ETRC

Lark Hayes shares her history with the East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC), highlighting responsibilities such as putting together a rights and benefits handbook, southern coal property title research, and overloaded coal truck fact-finding (for lawsuits) alongside Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and… Continued

Bob Firestone and John Twiggs arrive in Jacksboro

John McArthur tells the story of his and the board’s decision to hire Bob Firestone and John Twiggs, both from the University of Minnesota, as the Jacksboro Clinic’s first two National Health Service Corps physicians. Despite cultural differences, the community… Continued

John McArthur on Columbus and Ruby McGee

John McArthur names two of his heroes in the effort to organize the black lung clinic in Jacksboro, Tenn. According to him, Columbus McGee, a coal miner, and his wife, Ruby, were the lifeblood of the Black Lung Association (BLA)… Continued

On John McArthur’s background

John McArthur elaborates on how his familial background and upbringing set him apart from many others involved with the Black Lung Association (BLA). Raised in Appalachia, he was radicalized while in college at UTC and shifted his studies from forestry… Continued

J.W. Bradley lobbying for strip mining legislation

John Williams recalls J.W. Bradley’s tenacity while lobbying Congress in support of strip mining regulation, which in 1976, was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.   Full footage of the 2017 ETRC panel featuring John Williams, John McArthur, Lark… Continued

ETRC’s lawsuit against Davidson County Health Department

John Williams shares ETRC’s successful lawsuit against the Health Department in Davidson County. The effort was collaborative alongside other environmental organizations, including Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), and initiated as a means to mandate the monitoring and enforcement of water… Continued

Key issues tackled by ETRC

John Williams and Neil McBride share a list of the East Tennessee Research Corporation’s range of legal issues addressed between 1974 and 1977, including but not limited to: coal industry regulation, industrial development, environmental litigation, barriers to independently-run rural health… Continued

ETRC’s first board of directors

John Williams explains the first priority upon establishing the East Tennessee Research Corporation: electing a Board of Directors that could oversee the organization’s operations. Billy Christopher, named Chairman of the Board, Dean Rivkin, and Jack Gibbons were three of the… Continued

Establishing the East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC)

John Williams details the development of the East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC) as a 501(c)(3) in 1973. Those involved considered a couple different precedented models for doing so, but the organization ultimately achieved its goal with help from Vanderbilt University’s… Continued

On values-based and community-driven archives

Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Public Programming Archivist at the Southern Historical Collection, provides an excellent thumbnail description of the ongoing shift in archiving toward community-driven, values-based collecting practices. Follow this link to learn more.   Full footage of the 2017… Continued

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