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Reformers to Radicals: The Appalachian Volunteers and the War on Poverty by Thomas Kiffmeyer

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The Appalachian Volunteers (AVs) started in 1964 as a program of the Council of Southern Mountains under the leadership of Milton Ogle, a staff member who supported Barry Goldwater in the Presidential election that year. The program began by enlisting college students to renovate and run enrichment programs at one and two-room schools in Eastern Kentucky. The next year the Office of Economic Opportunity, a part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty gave the AVs  grants of $300,000 and $139,000 to hire a full-time staff in support of the federal Community Action Program that was at the time devoted to “the maximum feasible participation of the poor.”  By 1966 the combination of emboldened local people and the influence of nation-wide student movements convinced both Milton Ogle and most of the staff that band-aid efforts could not achieve the systemic change needed in the region, and the AVs split from the Council. At its height, the AVs employed 500 workers in four Appalachian states. The following year, national politicians rolled back the mandate of “maximum feasible participation of the poor” and replaced it with greater power for local politicians and power structures. The AVs came under attack for supporting citizens groups opposed to strip mining and AV staff who became Vietnam War resisters. By 1967 Louie B. Nunn, a Republican, had been elected Kentucky governor, and the next year he created a Kentucky Unamerican Activities Committee and held hearings attacking the AVs. By 1970 government funding ran out, and the program closed its doors. Yes, this is quite a story, and Kiffmeyer, a history professor at Morehead State University, tells it very well. "Thoroughly researched, well-written, and judicious in tone, the enduring contribution of Reformers to Radicals is in delineating the limits of liberal reformism in a region like Central Appalachia where inequality is so entrenched that only a thorough political restructuring will bring about democratic change."―Ronald L. Lewis. "Kiffmeyer deepens our understanding of Appalachia's history during the 1960s, when the region was on the front line of the War on Poverty. His succinct, dynamic account of the Appalachian Volunteers highlights the multilayered, powerful challenges facing antipoverty warriors both within and outside the mountains and reveals yet another dimension of the unanticipated consequences of liberal reform during a tumultuous era in American history."―John Mathew Glenn. "Reformers to Radicals provides a valuable contribution to Appalachian and American historiography. It is necessary reading for anyone interested in understanding modern Appalachia's struggle with indigence or the War on Poverty's inability to provide solid and lasting solutions for such a persistent and pervasive problem."―Jinny Turman-Deal.

Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, a 2019 paperback edition of a 2008 hardback release.  284 pages with an index, Bibliography, Notes, and photos.  Trade paperback. $