Appalachian Heritage Week 2022 challenges stereotypes and honors history

After two years of modified and shortened versions of the tradition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Appalachian Heritage Week is back in full swing this year. The celebration of Appalachian history, which will take place Monday, April 18–Friday, April 22, will feature performances, exhibits, and speakers for the entire community to enjoy.

“It’s important to know where we come from. As each year and each decade goes by, we sometimes develop stereotypical ideas about what it was like in the old days,” Director of the John B. Stephenson Center for Appalachia Kathy Olson said. “There are a lot of stereotypical ideas of this region, and I think it’s important to take a look at those concepts, some of which are realities, but realize that they aren’t the whole story.”

All events are free and open to students, faculty, and staff as well as the local community unless otherwise stated. Olson hopes that the entire community will come out and participate in this wonderful week of events and learn more about this beautiful region that Lees-McRae calls home.

“We’re not just this monolithic culture here in Appalachia, but rather we come from a variety of backgrounds. Sometimes it’s hard to highlight that, and it must be intentional. We need more of that intentionality,” Olson said.

This year, the diverse range of backgrounds that make Appalachia the region it is will be highlighted by the week’s programming, with a talk by William Turner about his book “The Harlan Renaissance: A Memoir of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns” on Wednesday, and a presentation by Ted Olson on Scots Irish heritage in the region on Thursday.

“I feel like starting conversations and initiating more communication, whether it’s with students, faculty, the community, is very important. If we don’t do things where we can interact with each other we can sort of miss where we are,” Olson said. “I think it’s important to bring the past and present together. You need that heritage to have a greater context of where we are today.”

By Maya JarrellApril 12, 2022
CommunityCampus Life