Growing Up Colored

The noted writer and educator tells of his boyhood in the West Virginia town of Piedmont, where African Americans were second-class citizens but family pride ran deep.

You wouldn’t know Piedmont anymore—my Piedmont, I mean—the town in West Virginia where I learned to be a colored boy. Read more »

China Town

What you find when you visit the place that set America’s table

In a cramped but tidy museum within the Homer Laughlin pottery factory, in Newell, West Virginia, I stood before a small case displaying an object that all but took my breath away. There, under a steady but flattering light, was the 500 millionth piece of Fiesta ware. Half a billion pieces! My mind scrabbled around the number like a pup on a newly waxed floor, trying to gain purchase.

Read more »

Mr. Smith Goes Underground

The strangest of all Cold War relics also offers a clue to why we won it

At six-thirty on Monday evening, October 22, 1962, 146 members of the Folding Paper Box Association, highballs and filter-tipped cigarettes in hand, swung into the cocktail party preceding the group’s evening banquet at the venerable Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Read more »

Mound Country

Elaborate earthworks engineered two thousand years ago by an impenetrably mysterious people still stand in astonishing abundance throughout the Ohio River Valley

Robert Maslowski and I made our way carefully across the tobacco field, trying not to disturb the neat rows of freshly plowed furrows. On the other side of the flat valley, a tractor moved slowly across the horizon “settin’ tobacco,” as they call planting seedlings in this part of West Virginia. Our destination was also far away: an oasis of greenery in the distance that was a prehistoric Indian mound. Read more »

What Happened In Hinton

Back in Prohibition days, the citizens of a West Virginia town decided to crack down on bootlegging and prostitution. The author remembers it well.

How does one describe a small town? And how does one explain a town when it sets out to catch all its sinners? All I can do is tell you a little of the history of my hometown, Hinton, Summers County, West Virginia, as I remember it. Read more »

The West Virginia Mine War


On the morning of August 1, 1921, the Gazette of Charleston, West Virginia, carried under an eight-column banner on its front page the following dispatch from the city of Bluefield:

“Sid Hatfield lies in the morgue at Welch tonight, a smile frozen on his lips, eyes wide open and five bullet holes in his head and chest. On the slab next to him lies the body of his friend and bodyguard, Ed Chambers. Read more »