For generations, many Ohio residents have worked in the coal industry.
“I personally am a coal miner’s daughter. My grandfather and my great grandfather were both miners,” says Gwynn Stewart of the Ohio State University Extension in Noble County.
She says the coal industry shaped people’s lives and identities. But as the country transitions to cleaner forms of energy, many coal mines and power plants are shutting down.
So Stewart is part of an effort to explore what coal communities are going through and share their stories through exhibitions and performances.
The team, led by Jeffrey Jacquet of Ohio State, has collected photos and interviewed about 50 former miners, power plant employees, and local residents.
“It can be traumatic for folks to grapple with the significance of these changes,” Jacquet says. “We’ve had lots of grown men getting emotional in interviews, and lots of tears have been shed over the meaning of these changes in these places.”
Stewart says the project provides space for people in these communities to grieve the past and consider the future.
“I see a lot of resilience and strength in the people and the leaders. I do see that they’re working together,” she says. “There’s a collaborative spirit toward what’s next.”
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media