Alongside efforts to conserve the ecology and improve the local economies of the Clinch River Valley, the Clinch River Oral History Project illuminates and celebrates the cultural significance of the Clinch River in Southwest Virginia.
Over the fall and winter of 2014, Willie Dodson – a VISTA for the Clinch River Valley Initiative, along with students at Castlewood High School (CHS) in Russell County, Virginia – gathered over two dozen personal recollections of the role the river has played in the lives of folks from Tazewell, Wise, Russell and Scott Counties in Virginia.
In the spring of 2015, the CHS drama students that helped to conduct the oral history collection wrote and performed an original outdoor drama based on the content of their interviews! This performance took place on the banks of the Clinch River in the town of Saint Paul at the 17th annual Clinch River Days festival.
The interviews have also been turned into four radio segments that aired on WMMT FM’s Mountain News and World Report, a presentation at the 2015 Appalachian Studies Association conference, and a booklet of interview excerpts highlighting aspects of Clinch River culture.
The 2014 interviews are available in special collections at the University of Virginia Library.
In the fall semesters of 2016 and 2017, Radford University students expanded upon the previously collected oral histories. Students enrolled in APST495: Research in Appalachia, a class affiliated with the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Appalachian Teaching Project, obtained oral histories from residents living in the Clinch River Valley. These stories will contribute to CRVI’s efforts to preserve history, celebrate traditions, and promote economic diversification in the region.
Audio and text versions of these histories are available below.