The full This Bond Unbroken story can be found on this year's Soul of Athens project "Appalachia: The Land and The People".
Edit by Emily Harger
Music by Eli Chambers
Special thanks to Paul Hopkins and his family — your dedication to your community is inspiring.
Paul Hopkins is standing on a hillside above the small community of Greasy Creek, Ky., peering down into the valley where he has lived 66 of his 68 years. The still brown foliage of early spring sways around him in the mid-afternoon sun. He takes in the surrounding vista, light glinting off a road slicing through the ragged mountain rock, mountains he knows as well as an old friend.
Given the way Paul speaks of those two childhood years in the 1950s, one might get the impression he had been gone for decades—such was the pull of the land and people of his birthplace. It’s a magnetizing force felt by innumerable individuals like him whose families have at some point left the hills of eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio and taken to the road to look for jobs in northern cities.
Paul’s family story is a stitch in the fabric of one of America’s largest internal migrations, a mid-20th century movement that saw three million people leave Appalachia between 1940 and 1970. Eastern Kentucky was acutely impacted in particular, losing nearly 35 percent of its population in the 1950s alone. The mass exodus, once known as the “Hillbilly Highway,” shaped and continues to shape part of the cultural identity of mountain residents.
(Text by Keith Rutowski)