JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A documentary team is traveling around Central Appalachia this summer, trying to capture the untold stories and history of Black people in the region.
Director Joshua Mancuso said the idea for The Black Appalachian documentary was first conceived in 2019. Production is now in full swing.
“My job as a documentary filmmaker is ask the questions, and let them tell the story, and then we’ll put it all together. But there’s a lot of neat things we’re discovering,” said Mancuso.
Those discoveries come from traveling around five different states and the Tri-Cities region, gathering the stories of a historically neglected population. Mancuso said another aim is challenging common misconceptions people outside the region may hold about the diversity of Appalachia.
“A lot of people outside the region will look at Appalachia and think two things — ‘poor,’ and ‘white.’ And while that does exist, there’s a lot more to Appalachia,” said Mancuso.
The film will feature a variety of interviews, such as historians, coal miners, and artists, including folk singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah and Old Crowe Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor. Langston Centre Director Adam Dickson is also involved as a producer.
“The whole point of the film is to reveal the Black experience in Appalachia. The good and the bad, past, present, and future. And also highlight the contributions of African Americans to Appalachian culture and to our country,” said Mancuso.
Crew members were at ETSU on Tuesday filming with Director of Black American Studies Daryl Carter.
“There’s a myth out there that the region and that Appalachia as a whole is monolithic. It’s not,” said Carter.
Carter said the documentary is important as America tries to find its identity in 2021.
“We’re having issues and discussions over race, over ethnicity, over gender, over sexuality, over immigration,” said Carter. “And there’s no better time to discuss these types of issues than now. To turn that mirror around. To look at ourselves, to see who we are, to appreciate that rich complexity. And to move forward in a positive, constructive, non-violent way.”
Mancuso hopes the film will be completed by the end of the year. They plan to hold screenings, enter it in film festivals, and seek distribution on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
The Black Appalachian project has already secured grants, but Mancuso said more funding is requested to bring the motion picture to its highest quality.
Mancuso said anyone interested in serving as a donor or sponsor should email TBAfilm@gmail.com.
“Whatever we can do to get it out there, and get as many people to watch it as possible. That’s going to be our next steps when we’re done,” he said.
More information can be found on the film’s website.