Story+ Project

Coal & America: Stories from the Central Appalachian Coalfields


Story+ | Coal & America: Stories from the Central Appalachian Coalfields

This Story+ team collected oral histories about the last half-century of coal mining, from the people who lived it. After a two-week orientation in Durham, where team members were briefed on coal’s history and trained in oral history methods, the team spent two weeks conducting field interviews in Central Appalachia. By the end of the project, which concluded with a two-week processing period, the team had produced a public history website detailing the recent history of the coal industry in Appalachia from the perspective of miners and their families.

Project Sponsor(s): 

Jonathon Free, Postdoctoral Associate, Duke University Energy Initiative

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Alexander Yoshizumi, Nicholas School of the Environment


Morgan Ruff, Nicole Lindbergh, Mary Helen Wood


rock with 'I love coal' painted on its side
This coal knick-knack, a piece of painted coal, was given as a gift to our Coal and America team by one of our wonderful oral history narrators!

The project, part of Duke University's Energy Initiative, will persist through the 2018-2019 school year as a Bass Connections project called Coal in America: Chronicling and Analyzing Its Economic and Social History (2018-2019). The students will continue there the storytelling work they began during Story+. According to project sponsor Jonathan Free, the students are telling the untold stories. They are preserving oral histories from Appalachian coal miners and are learning more about how to help the region in the future. The stories will be archived both for the public and for the interviewees themselves.

Project Sponsor Jonathan Free was interviewed about the project by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Listen here!

First shift of miners at the Virginia-Pocahontas Coal Company Mine #4 Near Richlands, Virginia. Source: National Archives and Records Administration.


  • Labor History
  • Public Humanities
  • Oral History
  • Energy

Skills required

  • Audio & Video Editing
  • Collaborative Work
  • Community Engagement
  • Interviewing & Oral History
  • Website Design
  • Working with Primary Sources & Archival Research
  • Writing & Editing