Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



While historians and other scholars have explored grassroots organizing in Kentucky, most historiography on this topic is limited to the 1930s through 1970s and focused on coal, labor, and the Civil Rights Movement. This paper fills a gap within the historiography by extending the discussion of grassroots organizing in Kentucky past the 1970s. Through the examination of organizational documents, membership newsletters, and oral histories, this paper explores the transformation of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) from 1981 to 2020. KFTC began as a small Eastern Kentucky organization focused predominantly on fair taxing practices in coal companies. Through efforts to diversify both their platform and membership, KFTC grew to become a statewide organization with the capacity to impact Charles Booker’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

This analysis offers ample insights into internal state dynamics, in contrast to the well-documented rampant misunderstanding of the state by those outside of it. As historians such as Elizabeth Catte have showcased, the tendency of political commentators and scholars to narrow in on nationwide election results has led to an incomplete understanding of politics in Kentucky. When the political history of Kentucky is centered around voting and election results, the work done on-the-ground by Kentuckians is often ignored. This leads to Charles Booker appearing to be a single, lucky instance of potential progress in Kentucky rather than a candidate who benefited from decades of grassroots organizing by groups like KFTC. This paper argues for the historical analysis of Kentucky politics to expand past voting records due to the history of political disengagement, specifically in Eastern Kentucky, stemming from decades of corruption within government and companies.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dorothea Browder, Ph.D.


Appalachian Studies | History | United States History