Pike County, OH: As Black as We Wish to Be

Pike County, Ohio

In this episode Al Letson and guest producer Lu Olkowski visit a tiny town in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio where, for a century, residents have shared the common bond of identifying as African-American despite the fact that they look white. Racial lines have been blurred to invisibility, and people inside the same family can vehemently disagree about whether they are black or white. It can be tense and confusing. As a result, everyone’s choosing: Am I black? Am I mixed race? Or, am I white? Adding to the confusion, there’s a movement afoot to recognize their Native-American heritage.

Photo Credit: Lloyd Cederstrand


Episode Music

Artist Track
Michael Brook Burning the Proof
Michael Brook Carthage Grain Sale
Act 1
Michael Brook Childhood Adventure
Michael Brook Billie & Hitchhiker
Michael Brook Wayne’s Arrest
Michael Brook Birds, Snow, Ice
Michael Brook Violence at Home
Michael Brook Best Unsaid
Michael Brook Carte Noir
Act 2
Michael Brook Carthage Grain Sale
Michael Brook Burning the Proof
Michael Brook Arrival at the Slabs
Nightmares on Wax Fire In the Middle
Sending Letters to the Sea Hopscotch
Michael Brook Waking/Waterskier
Erik Friedlander King Rig
Erik Friedlander Dream Song
Michael Brook Billie & Hitchhiker
Michael Brook Salvation Mountain
Michael Brook Ron Climbs Hill
Michael Brook Selling Books
Act 3
Erik Friedlander Block Ice & Propane
Michael Brook Swimming & Horses
Erik Friedlander Dream Song
Michael Brook Free Satellite and Hunting Advice
Erik Friedlander The Wrong Advice
Kaki King Doing the Wrong Thing
Michael Brook Carte Noir
Kaki King Night After Sidewalk
Kaki King Neanderthal
Erik Friendlander Yakima
  • My-two-cents

    As a Caribbean light brown woman with a white Haitian husband and a black Hispanic adopted daughter this story hit home. Well worth the time I spent in my car outside of my home not wanting to come in so I wouldn’t miss a thing. Very thought provoking. Excellent work. Love your show. Thank you!!!!!!!!!

  • Hondo

    This show was a great wake up call to America’s {1 drop rule} Being a Bi racial middle age man, i understand how both sides feel. Get rid of racial classifications and that we are all Americans! This theory who’s “black” it is base on racist believes that is still rampant in our society. No other country in the world classify people this way. To me this is base on the old ” Jim Crow ” style of thinking. We all have the right to be who we want to be regardless, what our peers tell us to be! Hold your head up high and don’t be ashamed who you’re!

  • C J

    Hondo, I said that a long time ago. I though we were all AMERICANS. I am a 15 year Army veteran and the entire conversation about race is just unbearable for me. I’m just sick of hearing it. I was very saddened to hear about the sister who not only disowned her own sister, but aided in the ridicule of her own flesh and blood. The part about how she sits down with a group of her white friends and listen to them bad mouth the black person across the room hit home for me as well. That happens more than people know. It’s quite pathetic. I’m going to stop here now for the sake of I hate to waste energy on something so ridiculous. I guess we’re proud to be anything BUT American.

  • thankgodforpbsandnpr

    Considering all the advantages of being white in the U.S., the young woman’s choice to identify herself to other as white is a rational choice.

    • Lawrence

      How so? How is it ever rational to turn on your family for you own feelings of being wanted?

  • Sara

    This is about the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s sad to hear that people are ashamed of who they are and to have to deny who they are and to be so ashamed to be associated with a particular race- a race I’m a member of. It is sad.