Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ronnie Sue Jaffe, July 20, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - How she became involved with the Appalachian Volunteers

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Partial Transcript: This is the ambiance of Ronnie Sue Jaffe’s office, which is in an apartment building that now only has two tenants left.

Segment Synopsis: Ronnie Sue Jaffe discusses her family background and how she became involved in political activism. She talks about joining the Appalachian Volunteers and her expectations of the work she would be doing.

Keywords: Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Building schools; College; Excitement; Families; New York; Political action; Reform politics; Vietnam War protests

Subjects: Political activists; Political participation.

00:06:19 - First impressions of West Virginia / decision to stay after her first summer

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Partial Transcript: What were your earliest memories of being in West Virginia?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe talks about arriving in West Virginia and the training she received. She talks about her assignment to Buff Lick and the work she did there. She talks about the work going on in Raleigh County and being convinced to stay in West Virginia after her first summer there. She talks about her relationships with the local people.

Keywords: Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Buff Lick (W. Va.); Community meetings; Families; Local people; Locals; Pine Knot (W. Va.); Relationships; Training

Subjects: Community action; Raleigh County (W. Va.); West Virginia

00:14:06 - Responsibilities as an Appalachian Volunteer

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Partial Transcript: What did you spend your time doing? What was your main work responsibility?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe talks about her main responsibilities during her time in West Virginia including driving local people to community action meetings and beginning the Head Start program.

Keywords: Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Community Action Programs; Community meetings; Head Start programs; Interest; Involvement; Responsibilities; Work

Subjects: Community action; Social reformers--Appalachian Region

00:16:33 - Bird Hendricks and other local people involved in community action

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Partial Transcript: Ta, talk a little bit about Bird Hendricks. What, what part did he play in all this?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe talks about a local man, Bird Hendricks, who was heavily involved in community action. She talks about other local people and families who were also involved in issues like strip mining.

Keywords: Bird Hendricks; Bonds family; Charleston (W. Va.); Community opinion; Division; Issues; Management; Mudslide damage

Subjects: Community action; Lobbying; Strip mining

00:21:50 - Relationships between VISTA workers and people in the communities

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Partial Transcript: Did you feel any sense of, of criticism or disapproval of you as a VISTA by any elements in the community?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe talks about the relationships between VISTA workers and the local people, both positive and negative. She discusses the community's views on government. She talks about the VISTA workers' perceptions of their own work.

Keywords: Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Community; Criticism; Disapproval; Federal government; Media; Morale; Outsiders; Perceptions; Power structures; Pride; Relationships; States' rights; Threatened; VISTA

Subjects: Volunteers in Service to America

00:27:41 - Regrets from her time as a VISTA worker

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Partial Transcript: What are some of the things that wou--that you recall having second thoughts about at the time, or wondering if they were good ideas?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe talks about mistakes she believes were made by the VISTA workers, the regrets she has, and whether she believes they would do anything differently if they could. She addresses the claim that the outside volunteers were manipulating the local people.

Keywords: Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Communities; Discontent; History; Issues; Manipulation; Optimism; Regrets; Relationships; Second thoughts; Self-assured; VISTA; War on Poverty

Subjects: Political activists.; Volunteers in Service to America

00:31:38 - Working in Wyoming County / threats and race relations

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Partial Transcript: When you, well, hold on a second. Wyoming County, how did you first hear about that thing and get involved in it and so on?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe talks about moving to Wyoming County and beginning more community action programs. She talks about conflicts between VISTA workers and local people and politicians. She talks about how the Appalachian Volunteers' policy of racial integration affected their perception in the communities.

Keywords: Anger; Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Conflicts; Impact; Interest; Local politicians; Naivety; Racial integration; Social barriers; Social rules; Threats; VISTA; Wyoming County United Communities (WCUC)

Subjects: Race relations--Appalachian Region; Raleigh County (W. Va.); Volunteers in Service to America; Wyoming County (W. Va.)

00:42:43 - How her experiences as a VISTA worker impacted her life

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Partial Transcript: Um, when we, when we were talking, when I first, first got here, you were, you started sort of philosophizing about the impact of, of what happened, or the lack thereof, or where it, where it lay.

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe discusses whether her time as an Appalachian Volunteer has affected the rest of her life. She talks about whether the program has had any lasting effects. She talks about why she decided to leave West Virginia and her continued political activism.

Keywords: Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Belonging; Changes; Community organizing; Disappointment; Friendships; Home; Impact; Learning; Leaving; Political activism; Profound experiences; Programs; Revolutions; VISTA; West Virginia; Worldviews

Subjects: Volunteers in Service to America

00:51:51 - Vietnam War and the Poverty Program

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Partial Transcript: Another thing that, that, uh, interesting theme that you mentioned when we were first starting to talk was the fact that...

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe gives her opinion on how the Appalachian Volunteers handled their anti-Vietnam War sentiment, including Joe Mulloy's protest. She discusses the connection between the Vietnam War and the downfall of the poverty programs.

Keywords: Anti-war movements; Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Joseph "Joe" Mulloy; Local issues; Poverty Programs

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

00:55:10 - Young people's lack of activism today

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Partial Transcript: Do you think that it’s likely that there will be another episode, period like that, that we lived through in our early twenties in the foreseeable future?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe talks about her opinions of young people today and whether there will continue to be political activism in the younger generation. She talks about why the federal government may have started the VISTA program.

Keywords: Anger; Channeling energy; Generations; Government; Involvement; Political activism; Self-centered; VISTA; Young people

Subjects: Volunteers in Service to America

00:59:40 - Differences between the Appalachian Volunteers and other VISTA programs / sexism within the community action groups

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Partial Transcript: If you were to, uh, to spin off the top of your head a snappy one-and-a-half minute summation of what all this meant to you, what would it be?

Segment Synopsis: Jaffe discusses the differences between the Appalachian Volunteers and other VISTA programs. She talks about the roles of women and whether she witnessed sexism within the community action groups. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Appalachian Volunteers (AVs); Community organizing; Differences; Goals; Negative feelings; Radicals; Sexism; Social relationships; Supervisors; VISTA; Women's roles

Subjects: Sex discrimination against women; Volunteers in Service to America; Women political activists