In 1963, Harry Caudill of Whitesburg published Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, which shone a spotlight on the plundering of the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The book forever changed Appalachia.
On the eve of the book's 50th anniversary, we begin a yearlong series examining the many difficult issues raised by the ground-breaking work. Fifty Years of Night starts with a five-part biography of author Harry Caudill, the man who focused the world's eyes on the mountains.
Caudill's story is one of a man who captured the attention of presidents, but whose despair over the fate of Appalachia later led him to espouse disparaging and widely discredited views about the people of his home region.
Reporters John Cheves and Bill Estep tell his story in this multi-part narrative format because his journey is important in understanding the path Appalachia has traveled since its publication. Throughout the series, we'll invite you to discuss Caudill's work, the changes and progress that have been made over the last half century, and the many challenges that continue to confront Appalachia — and to share your views on potential solutions.
We encourage you to pick up a copy of Caudill's book. Read it for the first time, or re-read it if it has been a few years.
Peter Baniak, Editor