New Class Explores Documentaries for Social Change Focusing on Coal Appalachia

James Abshire, of Phyllis, Kentucky, talks about the mining accident that broke his back and forced him to retire in 1977. Photograph by Roger May, 2009.

CDS is pleased to offer a new continuing education class taught by folklorist Joy Salyers and documentary photographer Roger May—Can Docs for Social Change Make a Difference? The effects of mining coal in Appalachia, especially in eastern Kentucky and western West Virginia, have been featured in documentaries for decades. The federal government’s War on Poverty in the 1960s brought many documentarians to the region to bring attention to poverty, environmental destruction, worker exploitation, and health issues. Yet all of these problems still exist. Why have more than fifty years of documentaries helped so little? What strategies have worked and what new trends are emerging? This class will explore documentary forms from the history of documenting coal Appalachia, including photography, writing, and film, and collectively create a toolkit for effective social change documentaries that students can apply to their own work.

Click here to register and for more information about the class and the instructors.

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