WVU to release book on history, symbol of the Mountaineer

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Mountaineers Are Always Free will be released by the WVU Press to the public in early spring of 2020.
Mountaineers Are Always Free will be released by the WVU Press to the public in the early spring of 2020.

The West Virginia University Mountaineer is not just a mascot: it’s a symbol of West Virginia history and identity embraced throughout the Mountain State.

Rosemary Hathaway, folklorist and associate professor of English in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, explores the spirit of the Mountaineer in her new book, Mountaineers Are Always Free.

Published by WVU Press, Mountaineers Are Always Free weighs the varying perspectives on the Mountaineer throughout its history—from a backwoods soldier to a present-day West Virginia icon.

Based on past Mountaineers’ images and portrayals, the book consistently raises the question of what freedom and independence look like in West Virginia through the lens of this mascot, and who gets to claim that freedom and independence.

To fully examine these complex forces and tensions animating the Mountaineer figure, Hathaway’s narrative draws on archival research, personal history and interviews with former students who have portrayed the mascot.

“I have been fascinated by the figure of the Mountaineer ever since I arrived at WVU in 2007, when it became clear to me that students, alumni, and West Virginians generally identify with the figure in much deeper ways than people typically relate to a college mascot,” Hathaway said.

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“The more research I did, the more complex that relationship became. I’m excited to start a conversation about the Mountaineer’s history and future through this book.”

In celebration of WVU’s annual Mountaineer Week, WVU Press will host a coffee and conversation with Hathaway and current Mountaineer Timmy Eads. WVU students, faculty, staff and community members are encouraged to attend on Nov. 8 from 10-11 a.m. in the Mountaineer Room of the Mountainlair.

Hathaway will offer an advanced reading of her book, followed by a moderated discussion between Hathaway and Eads, which will be led by WVU English professor Mary Ann Samyn.

Mountaineers Are Always Free will be released by the to the public in early spring of 2020.


Memory of the mountaineer lives on at W.Va. capitol statue

A statue of the Mountaineer stands at the West Virginia Capitol.

The late historian and journalist Jim Comstock battled ceaselessly to keep alive the memory of the “mountaineer,” the independent denizen of the state’s mountain regions, now often depicted beneath a bushy beard and wearing a coonskin cap.

When the U.S. Civil War broke out, these mountain folk quickly took up arms to extinguish the rebellion, and their efforts were memorialized in 1912 in a monument raised on the state capitol grounds.

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