by Mike Templeton

There are many resources for people involved in Appalachian research, advocacy, and study, and a primary one has been, and still is, the Appalnet listserv moderated by Roy Silver.  Part of the nature of being urban Appalachian is sustaining ties and connections with all the other aspects of Appalachian life and culture, and the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition appreciates the ways in which Appalnet helps us stay connected to many other resources.

For nearly two decades, Roy Silver has facilitated Appalnet for anyone with an interest in Appalachian issues, culture, and history. The Appalnet listserv provides an online space for students, scholars, historians, artists, writers, etc. to shares ideas that pertain to all things Appalachia. In these days of personal blogs, websites, and social media platforms, the listserv may appear as something of an online relic. Appalnet continues in the listserv format for the simple reason that it works. Checking in on any given day, and you will find people sharing ideas and information that keep us in the loop of what is happening in areas that pertain to the Appalachian experience and Appalachian region. And being on Appalnet means getting regular updates on what others are doing.

Appalnet began with Darlene Wilson when she was a doctoral student in history at the University of Kentucky. The person who was then the director or the Appalachian Center served as Darlene Wilson’s advisor as she created Appalnet in the early 1990s. Roy Silver came on has co-moderator in the late 1990s, and he took over full managerial responsibilities about 18 years ago.  Since then, Roy Silver has been making sure the conversation about Appalachia remains current and available for all of us. Appalanet provides access to information and discussions on just about anything that pertains to the Appalachian region, and this includes the urban Appalachian communities. Roy Silver said that “people can post just about anything as long as it adheres to some relatively simple guidelines.” Appalnet provides a central site for all of us with interests in Appalachia to build and maintain a community centered on our mutual interests.

Roy Silver offers a slightly different version of the urban Appalachian. He grew up in New York City and ended up in Appalachia. His educational background began at Queens College which is part of the City University of New York where he studied in Urban Studies. Silver explained that at the time he was at Queens College, Urban Studies was an interdisciplinary program not unlike Appalachian studies is now: “We took classes in various disciplines—sociology, history, political economy—and the program of studies emerged from across these disciplines.” In the same ways that Appalachian studies draws on ideas form across the disciplines, Silver’s work in Urban Studies also drew on what would pertain to a given area of interest. Roy Silver’s was to get an understanding of the uneven economic development of urban and rural areas. This put him in an ideal position to work in Appalachia.

The opportunity to take his interest and dedication presented itself when Silver was finishing his doctorate at the University of Toledo. “I began teaching in Barbour County and other areas in the Appalachian region. The people were so welcoming and made the transition so smooth, it happened quite naturally,” Silver explained. He also said that “there were plenty of opportunities to work for social and economic justice in the Appalachian region.”  After doing work in Lexington and Cincinnati, he settled in at Southeast Technical College and Community College in Cumberland, Kentucky where he taught until recently when he retired. It was here Silver became ensconced in Appalachia and began digging into the business of becoming part of what was going on in the region.

Roy Silver’s work has included activism and scholarly studies. He never really left that multi-disciplinary approach that he learned in urban studies behind. He has been active in studying and helping to shape the ways communities are formed and sustained, a process of vital importance in rural Appalachia as the ravages of the extraction industries have devastated communities. Roy Silver has also written on educational issues in rural Appalachia.

Silver is still at the helm of Appalnet. He told me he is hoping to “pass the torch soon” now that he is retired. Roy Silver is also living in greater Cincinnati agian, and he told me he has already thought about contacting the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition to potentially get involved here. Meanwhile, Roy Silver is settling into the area and taking some time to adjust. We can all be grateful he is still working on the Appalnet listserv bringing the conversation about Appalachia to our inboxes.

To subscript to Appalnet, follow this link:

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of the forthcoming The Chief of Birds: A Memoir. Available later this year from Erratum Press. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

One thought on “Roy Silver and the Appalnet Listserv

  1. Thank you, Mr. Templeton, for this wonderful feature on my longtime friend, Roy Silver. I well remember when Roy settled into my home county – Harlan County, KY., where he anchored “everything progressive” at the community college from which I took my AA degree in 1966 – Southeast Community College. My parents respected and interacted with Roy, whom I have been privileged to share ideas with for almost 4 decades. When Roy left Harlan County, retiring to live in Northern Kentucky, it was like a six-foot seam of coal being having been mined out, having supplied great energy for a long time. Roy was and will always be a part of KY’s highest peak – Black Mountain in Harlan County. Thanks, Mr. Templeton, for doing this feature on Roy, which is very well done. Well deserved.

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