The Depression and industrial changes after World War I had devastating effects on the nation’s soft coal industry. When the federal government asked AFSC to help communities on the brink of starvation, we approached the situation as an opportunity for empowerment instead of temporary relief. We began to envision sustainable ways for people who had depended on coal for generations to become self-supporting. Therefore, the Archives includes both (a) extensive documentation of the Service Committee’s traditional feeding and public health work in Appalachia from 1931 to 1938, and (b) proposals for—and experiments with—new, long-term solutions to the dilemma of people entirely dependent upon a disappearing way of life.
First-hand accounts describe programs and local responses. Work logs meticulously track physical and human resources used. We also have two silent films and hundreds of photographs and brochures.
AFSC’s West Virginia program continues into the 21st century, still striving for economic justice. Staff and volunteers have had a major impact on legislation related to the minimum wage, workers’ rights, child nutrition, and mining safety. The Goat Rope blog follows their work.