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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


On February 7, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts arrived in Charleston to register as a candidate in West Virginia’s presidential primary.

Kennedy needed a victory in West Virginia. A wealthy Roman-Catholic, he had to prove that he could win in a blue-collar, Protestant state. For six weeks, Kennedy crisscrossed the mountains promising federal help for West Virginia if he was elected.

John F. Kennedy: Of course this state has been hard hit, in fact, probably more hard hit than any state in the Union. There are about 250,000 people in West Virginia on surplus foods. What I think the most significant thing is that most of these people have been put out of work because machines have taken their place. What’s happened in West Virginia is going to happen in many states in the Union unless the federal government begins to recognize that this is a great national problem to which we have devoted very little attention.

Ronald Eller: When John Kennedy came to campaign in West Virginia, he saw conditions that clearly shocked him. That made it difficult for him to believe that these conditions survived in mid-century America.

Narrator: In May, Kennedy won an impressive victory in West Virginia. He said later that it was the most important step on his road to the White House.

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