Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM)

MOUNTAIN PEOPLE’S THEN AND NOW

A comprehensive history (1974-2023) of a vibrant community-owned and community-operated clinic network in East Tennessee composed by Caryl Carpenter 2024   I came to East Tennessee in December of 1975. The Board of Directors of Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) had hired me to be their administrator. MPHC was founded in 1974. The first administrator, …

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The role of themes and tendrils in packaging the Coalition narrative

John Davis reflects on the process of being involved in the archive project, noting the joy of collectively rediscovering the Coalition narrative and the challenge of packaging it according to over-arching themes and other common threads. Biff Hollingsworth adds that, in addition to themes, the concept of tendrils (or ripples of the SHC work, such …

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Rethinking quiescence: “hidden transcripts” of community agency

John Gaventa reflects on his early conclusions about the role of quiescence in the Clearfork Valley, recognizing now that he may have under-appreciated ongoing forms of resistance, such as through storytelling, music, and other invisible acts. He pulls on political sociologist James Scott’s concept of “hidden transcripts” to further explain how people may exercise agency …

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On the interplay between land ownership and mineral rights

John Gaventa clarifies the interplay between surface land ownership and the exploitative acquisition of below-ground mineral rights by large coal companies in Appalachia. He cites The American Association, a British company that at one time owned 80,000 acres across Clairborne, Bell, Campbell, and Whitley Counties in East Tennessee, as a prime example of absentee corporate …

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The Appalachian Land Ownership Study: an emblem of citizen-driven participatory action research

John Gaventa further describes how the 1977 flood mobilized citizens toward supplementary research into the inequities connected to land ownership, taxation practices, and other local power dynamics. They requested funding from the ARC for what over time developed into the Appalachian Land Ownership Study, an effort that involved close review of courthouse tax records in …

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Findings of the 1971 land ownership study and subsequent legal action

John Gaventa elaborates on initial findings from the 1971 land ownership study and what transpired in response. With documented evidence of inequitable corporate control over land and natural resources (due in large part to unfair property taxation practices and the absence of proper mineral rights assessment), local citizens sought legal action. These included (but were …

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Participatory action research in practice: who owns Appalachia?

John Gaventa recaps and differentiates between two related studies concerning land ownership in Appalachia. The first was conducted during the summer of 1971 across several East Tennessee counties. It affected Gaventa’s pursuits over the next 50 years, including publication of his book Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, and facilitated further …

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On SOCM’s early days and development as a threat to strip mining

John Kennedy elaborates on Heleny Cook’s and Jane Sampson’s role with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), their organizing efforts having grown directly out of John Gaventa’s strip mining research and related work about the American Association. For more information on John Kennedy’s involvement with the East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC) and work related to black …

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Progression of the Black Lung Association under new union leadership, 1972-1973

John Kennedy details progression of the Black Lung Association (BLA) between 1972 and 1973, following its first successful objective in replacing Tony Boyle with Arnold Miller as president of United Mine Workers (UMW). For more information on John Kennedy’s involvement with the East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC) and work related to black lung, follow this …

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