Interview with Michael Kline, March 14, 1991

Project: Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Michael Kline was born in Washington, D.C., but spent much of his time in West Virginia where his father owned a farm. In high school Kline was diagnosed with dyslexia, and he states his dyslexia is what attracted him to the oral culture of Appalachia. Kline graduated from George Washington University with a degree in anthropology in 1964. He describes working for a juvenile court until he became aware of a voter registration project that the judge was involved with in his spare time. Kline then joined the Appalachian Volunteers (AVs) where he found people with "a sense of social vision."

Kline worked on a preliminary evaluation of the AV's progress and interviewed 200 people during his first two months with the program. Kline found that even book and one-room school programs caused controversy in the communities in which they were introduced. In 1966 Kline became a field representative for Breathitt, Lee, Wolfe, and Owsley counties, and the contact person for Appalachian Volunteer chapters at Berea College, the University of Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky University. He explains that community organizing work was possible due to the strong connections between local organizers, namely Buck and James Maggard. Kline recalls confrontations with the powerful Turner family of Breathitt County, and describes a close friend, Phil Johnson, who was killed in a mysterious car crash.

Kline describes the AVs as a "chauvinistic" and "elitist" organization, but believes that they at least struggled with these issues. He and other AVs learned about politics, history, and about approaching cultures different from their own. Kline found these lessons powerful and believes them to be the "basis" for his life experience since then. He worked for the Highlander Folk School as a freelance musician and then became involved in folklore scholarship. Kline is currently the public folklorist for the Pioneer Valley Folklore Society in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Interview Accession

1991oh185_app310

Interviewee Name

Michael Kline

Interviewer Name

Margaret Brown

Interview Date

1991-03-14

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.

Interview Usage

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

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Kline, Michael Interview by Margaret Brown. 14 Mar. 1991. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Kline, M. (1991, March 14). Interview by M. Brown. Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Kline, Michael, interview by Margaret Brown. March 14, 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/xt7w3r0pts4t