Racial Disparities

In 1973, the Student Health Coalition (SHC) expanded its summer activities beyond Appalachia to include Fayette County in west Tennessee. The next year, it added Lee County in southwest Virginia. A predominance of the people in both counties were African American. What they shared in common with the populations served by the SHC in Appalachia was poverty. But race imposed additional obstacles to the delivery of health care – and to the ability of African Americans in these rural communities to access other services and economic opportunities. Past and present struggles to overcome such inequities infuse the reflections collected here.


Minnie Bommer’s encounter with hospital segregation

Having overcome the adversity of racially biased employment discrimination imposed upon her at the outset of her nursing career, Minnie Bommer shares also about the realities of healthcare inequities and segregation experienced post-hire at a hospital in Covington, Tenn. Recorded… Continued

Minnie Bommer on racially charged employment discrimination and her journey to nursing career

Minnie Bommer shares her tumultuous experience at the outset of her nursing career, detailing the extent of racially biased obstacles intended to bar her from hire at hospitals in Tipton County, Tenn. Recorded on June 1, 2018.   Full footage… 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

Negro League’s Josh Gibson in contrast to MLB’s first black ballplayer Jackie Robinson

Ron Carson explains why he considers Josh Gibson of the Negro League’s Homestead Grays to have been the best Black ball player ever, and how racist behavioral expectations contributed to Jackie Robinson’s acceptance in MLB.   Full footage of Ron… Continued

First integrated band in St. Charles, VA: Smith Carson and the Black and White Melody Boys

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

The renaming of “Negro Head Rock”

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

Post-Reconstruction African American migration and the St. Charles coal camps

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

History of Rosenwald School in Pennington Gap, VA, 1930s-1960s

Ron Carson discusses the history of the Rosenwald School (or Pennington Gap Colored School, now the site of the African American Cultural Center) between the 1930s and 1960s, showcasing various school records and sharing stories about its day-to-day operations. More… Continued

Dr. Daniel Gabriel’s legacy in St. Charles, VA

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

Pushback against Douglas Community Health Center

Jean Carney shares how rhetoric against the Black-run Douglas Community Health Center manifested as several false accusations and presented various legal challenges to both the clinic and associated nurse practitioners.   Full footage of Jean Carney at the old Douglas… Continued

Behind the scenes at Douglas Community Health Center

Jean Carney reminisces the early days of Douglas Community Health Center in Stanton, Tenn. Following a brief overview of the clinic’s architectural layout and functional operations, she delves into the impact of race relations on healthcare at the time.  … Continued

Meryl Rice on Byron De La Beckwith’s assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers

Meryl Rice recalls her family’s business encounters with Byron De La Beckwith (prior to his murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers) and speaks to their horror at learning what he’d committed. Recorded on June 2, 2018.   Full footage… Continued

Rev. Anderson on the origins and operation of Tent City

Rev. Anderson discusses the foundation of Tent City in Fayette County, Tenn. and other community responses to the civil rights violations imposed on Black sharecroppers registered to vote. He links one of the leading incentives behind registration to Black representation… Continued

Jean Carney on the motivation to build the Stanton, Tenn. health clinic

Carney discusses how segregation created healthcare disparities in her community and provides a historical account of the health clinic in Stanton, Tenn. Recorded October of 2017. Continued