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Exploring Primary Sources: Environmental Activism in Appalachia Exercise

Activity Information

This module focuses on various aspects and instances of environmental activism in Kentucky and Appalachia. As a place of rich natural resources and biodiversity, the region has a long history of resource extraction. The coal and timber industries have been major contributors to the state’s economy, as well as the railroad industry needed to transport these resources. Environmental issues and activism are not simply about the natural elements themselves, though, but also point to larger conversations around power, place, and agency.  

Your instructor has detailed instructions on the last tab of the guide, but the main focus of this online exercise is for you to investigate and answer questions about primary source materials related to the actions and perspectives of environmental activists in the region. Throughout these primary sources, you will see multiple motivations and justifications for activists’ responses to environmental practices in Kentucky and Appalachia. For this exercise, focus on power, perspective, and bias. A common, underlying theme in these materials is outside companies or individuals entering the area for the purpose of monetary gain or fixing a perceived problem, but not giving adequate compensation, deference, or voice to the existing community and environment. As you read through your document and answer these questions, try to put yourself in the shoes of whoever was creating or consuming the primary source document that you see now.   


You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.