In honor of women’s history month, we’re sitting down with Dr. Jessica Wilkerson, a WVU professor in the Department of History and an award-winning researcher whose work has focused on Appalachia, women, and the labor and working class in 20th century America. We’ll talk with Dr. Wilkerson about how Appalachian women acted as leaders and soldiers in a grassroots war on poverty, and how the resilience of these Appalachian women over time has left a lasting impact in our communities today.
Wilkerson’s first book, To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice, traces the alliances forged and the grassroots movements led by women in the Appalachian South in the 1960s and 1970s. The book received Honorable Mention from the Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History, and the dissertation on which it was based won the OAH Lerner-Scott Prize and the Labor and Working-Class History’s Herbert Gutman Prize.
Dr. Wilkerson has collaborated on several oral history and public history projects, including the Long Women's Movement Project at the Southern Oral History Program, the Invisible Histories Project-Mississippi to document LGBTQ+ history in Mississippi, and the Black Families of Yalobusha County, MS Oral History Project at the University of Mississippi. She looks forward to continuing community-engaged collaborations and projects at WVU.
In her next book project, In Sisterhood, In Struggle, Dr. Wilkerson explores the understudied yet expansive women's movements throughout the South and Appalachia from the 1960s through the 1990s. Along with scholarly projects, she has written regularly for popular media outlets including 100 Days in Appalachia, Boston Review, NPR, Rewire News, Washington Post, and Longreads.
Personal Website: https://jessicawilkerson.org/