Fifty Years of Night

Part 3: Poverty, Drugs and Education

Today we resume our yearlong series 50 Years of Night, looking at Eastern Kentucky’s ills a half-century after Whitesburg lawyer Harry Caudill published his angry book on the region, Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area.

We begin in Martin County, where President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1964. On Dec. 1, we explore Clay County’s response to rampant drug abuse inflamed by public corruption. On Dec. 15, we travel to the shadow of Pine Mountain in Letcher County, where the ramshackle schools that Caudill described underwent tremendous change — but continue to churn out too many students unprepared for college.

Fifty years after Caudill’s book appeared, Eastern Kentucky faces the same plagues: dependence on welfare, lack of educational opportunity, family-shattering drug addiction and elected officials helping themselves, not their constituents.

We hope the next three chapters of our series will continue an important public discussion about the future of a place that 734,197 Kentuckians call home.

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