The Faculty Research Colloquium
Montani non semper albus’: Class, Ethnicity, and the
Changing Image of WVU's Mountaineer Post-WWII
by Rosemary Hathaway
The post-World War II years were a contentious time for the image of the Mountaineer at WVU: in the wake of the first "Mountaineer Day" in 1947, administrators vied with students for control of the meaning of the term, while students waged a playful battle about class, ethnicity, and the mountaineer icon. This paralleled a larger shift in the definition of the term "mountaineer" regionally: early in the 20th century, Presbyterian missionary Samuel Wilson proposed the term "mountaineer" as a less pejorative term than the more common "mountain white"; however, he did so not so much to eliminate the perception of backwardness and ignorance, but because the idea of "mountain blacks, browns, and yellows" seemed so absurd. This presentation uses oral histories about early Mountaineer Day celebrations, official WVU documents, and materials collected by the West Virginia branch of the Federal Writers Project to explore how ideas about the "mountaineer" were shifting during this period.