SoLost is the original video series by The Oxford American that celebrates getting lost in the American South. SoLost is an off-kilter video journey through the side roads, backrooms, cellars and psyche of the modern South. With subjects prospected by master image-maker and Southern back-roads champ Dave Anderson, we delight in the tastes, sounds and myriad cultural delights of this our glorious landscape. Join us every month as we unveil a new episode of SoLost: artful, online video shorts that explore the complexity and vitality of the American South.
"The Revivalist" featured an interview with me (Elaine) about Hollow’s mission! Please take the time to read!
If things are, as they say, slower in the South, then integration was no exception. The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring separate public schools for white and black children unconstitutional, finally incited change in McDowell County schools 11 years later; in some West Virginia counties, like Mercer, which desegregated in 1969, change trickled even slower.
Smith had been a teacher and a coach at Gary District School, an all black institution, before the consolidation into Gary High School happened. With two West Virginia Class A championships under his belt, one in football and one in basketball, he felt certain he’d have a position in the newly consolidated school, coaching black students and white students alike to be their athletic and academic best. He was wrong.
“Segregation became a part of my life when I was born,” Smith states. “But integration started in 1965. It was good that integration came.”
“I’m from West Virginia.”
“Oh really? I have a cousin in Roanoke.”
“That’s in Virginia.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m from West Virginia. It’s a different state.”
"It’s frustrating to come from a state that most people don’t even know exists. The only thing worse is when they do. They get that mischievous twinkle in the eye and then, out pour the jokes. The barnyard jokes, the banjo jokes, and everyone’s favorite, the incest jokes. I’m not sure what response people are hoping for when they accuse me of screwing my sister, but I can assure you it never endears me toward them. And I don’t even have a sister. But these sad stabs at humor can’t be unique to West Virginia. I’m sure it happens to people from all sorts of Southern states: Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky. Hell, to be perfectly honest, I’ve made those sorts of jokes about people from Kentucky. But it all leads up to a bigger question. These are attitudes about the South. So, is West Virginia a part of the South?"