Pre-Existing Conditions

The communities served by the Student Health Coalition (SHC) had endured many decades of economic exploitation, deprivation, division, and struggle long before the organization’s arrival in the 1970s. These same communities had forged a distinctive identity of hard work, mutual aid, and making-do while developing a rich culture of music, religion, language, hunting, husbandry, healing, and folklore. Poverty and abundance existed side by side.

 

“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 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

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 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

Decline of coal camp healthcare and subsequent basis of need for reform

Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and Maureen O’Connell discuss the local healthcare setting upon Save Our Cumberland Mountain’s (SOCM) and the Student Health Coalition’s (SHC) early stages of community organizing in East Tennessee. Maureen details several local factors which established a major… Continued

Square Morman’s sons on 1960s civil unrest and Tent City

Dana Ellis, a nurse and co-director of the West Tennessee Student Health Coalition, asks two of Square Morman’s sons what it was like in the early 1960s — from racial tensions to the development of “Tent City.” Recorded on June… Continued

SHC in Mud Creek, Kentucky

[Story contributed by Jack Beckford, with assistance from Sara Platt Williams] During the Fall of 1970, the SHC was contacted by the Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization (EKWRO), centered in Floyd Co, Ky. EKWRO was already doing organizing among low-income… Continued