These words of documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion, a native of McDowell County, W.Va., ring true for me and so many Mountain State expatriates: “Today, I feel a sense of guilt that I left my home state behind to chase my dreams. I am part of the problem — the face of youth exodus — and I would like to find solutions that could help us return.”
Sadly, these words of a McDowell County resident who appears in “West Virginia, Still Home,” a video McMillion produced for The New York Times, are equally true: “I don’t believe that it will ever be like it was when I was a kid. … or in my lifetime anyway.” I wish our children could experience the West Virginia I knew, but those days are gone.
Here’s hoping their generation, if not our children themselves, can make West Virginia thrive again so more people can learn to love her as I do.
Filed under: Culture and Entertainment and Family and History and Rednecks and Video and West Virginia
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I was born and raised in West Virginia, and I love my heritage. I’m not much of a talker, but if you get me talkin’ about the Mountain State — its culture, its people, its politics, its scenic beauty — you’ll be listening for quite a while.
West Virginia is without a doubt the greatest state in the union.
Nine years ago while serving as the associate editor of the now-defunct online magazine IntellectualCapital.com, I penned an essay that retold the fascinating, and technically illegal, story of how the state came to be. Today, on West Virginia’s 146th birthday, as I sit before my father’s computer in my hometown, I tell that story again, as reprinted from the June 22, 2000, issue of IC.
Happy Birthday, West Virginia!
Every month when I pen this historical essay looking at “Congress Back Then” for IC, I have one goal in mind: Cast the congressional news of today in the context of the past to show readers the “big picture” of American policy and politics. In the spirit of George Santayana’s familiar warning about history, I aim to remind us of the mistakes of our forebears to keep us from repeating them.
This month, in writing about the creation of my home state of West Virginia, I have no such higher purpose. I am simply availing myself of the columnist’s prerogative to write about whatever he chooses. Oh, I do have a news peg: West Virginia celebrated its 137th birthday on Tuesday. But that is really just an excuse to write about a topic dear to my heart.
Fortunately for IC readers, the story of West Virginia’s birth, coming as it did in the heart of the Civil War and under constitutionally questionable circumstances, is an engaging one, as Granville Davisson Hall made quite clear in his 1901 book The Rending of Virginia: A History. “To carve a new state out of an old one … in the midst of a civil war threatening the existence of the Union itself,” Hall wrote, “was a task as serious as any people ever had to confront.”
Filed under: Government and History and West Virginia
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