Interview with Brenda Sue Bell, February 1, 1991

Project: Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Brenda Bell was born in Lexington, Kentucky, but spent her early life in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee. She states that her father was a Methodist minister and that the family moved every time he received a new job. Bell attended Transylvania University where she became involved in the Appalachian Volunteers (AVs) through a weekend program offered at the school. Bell was selected to become an AV in Knott County in 1966. She recalls that her parents were very supportive of her community service work. Bell describes the training program at Berea College and remembers that it was there that she first became aware that she was a "Southerner," due to the differences she saw between herself and volunteers from other parts of the country.

Bell discusses her experiences in Knott County working in a one-room school organizing programs for children. She lived with a single mother with whom she developed a close relationship. She recalls the many class and cultural differences she discovered between her and her host family. Bell states that if there were any long-lasting effects of her involvement in Knott County, it was the relationship she had with her host family and her own continuing commitment to social justice. The following summer Bell worked as an AV in a coal camp called Cinderella located in Williamson, West Virginia. She states that life in the coal camp was "grittier," and although the locals were less suspicious and more accepting of strangers, she did not form the same close relationships as she did the year before. Bell also explains that she did not observe the same appreciation for land and history in the coal community as she had in rural Knott County.

Bell's experience with the Appalachian Volunteers spurred her to join the Peace Corps. She went to Africa the next year. She explains that when she returned to the United States, she worked for a radical Methodist magazine, and then became involved in community service activities and social justice issues. More recently, she edited a book about Miles Horton. Bell reflects on her experiences stating that the sexism that she encountered in the AVs and Peace Corps spurred her to become involved in the women's movement in Tennessee, but that her work as an AV also gave her the confidence to be involved in activist work and to question class differences. Her experiences also caused her to become committed to raising her family in rural Tennessee.

Interview Accession

1991oh028_app300

Interviewee Name

Brenda Sue Bell

Interviewer Name

Margaret Brown

Interview Date

1991-02-01

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Bell, Brenda Sue Interview by Margaret Brown. 01 Feb. 1991. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Bell, B.S. (1991, February 01). Interview by M. Brown. Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Bell, Brenda Sue, interview by Margaret Brown. February 01, 1991, Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7b5m626t32