Press release from Mars Hill College, shared April 10:
Kathryn Newfont, associate professor of history and faculty chair for the Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at Mars Hill College, has received the prestigious Weatherford Award for non-fiction her first book, Blue Ridge Commons: Environmental Activism and Forest History in Western North Carolina.
The award is presented annually by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association to the authors of one nonfiction work, one fiction work, and one work of poetry, which in its year best illuminates the challenges, personalities and unique qualities of the Appalachian South. The conferring of this annual award in each of the three categories has come to be recognized as a major Appalachian event.
This year, the award was presented March 24 at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference, which took place at Appalachian State University.
“I am humbled and grateful that Blue Ridge Commons received this recognition from the Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College.” Newfont said.
Blue Ridge Commons traces the environmental efforts of the late 20th century spearheaded by residents of the Blue Ridge region, and how those efforts grew out of what she called “commons environmentalism.” Central to the book is the life and work of Esther Cunningham, a native of Macon County who was instrumental in the founding and the major movements of the early Western North Carolina Alliance.
“The book began as an effort to chronicle the important work of many remarkable mountain residents who worked tirelessly to defend our southern Appalachian forests,” Newfont said. “This award is in many ways a testament to what they accomplished, and to the ongoing importance of protecting our rich forest inheritance. It means a great deal to me to have received this award from my peers who have done so much on behalf of our magnificent region.”