MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A folklorist and WVU English professor is publishing a book called Mountaineers are Always Free: Heritage, Dissent and a West Virginia Icon.

It’s a study on the Mountaineer as the symbol of West Virginia–how the character balances between hillbilly and frontiersman. In the book, author Rosemary Hathaway talks about the mountaineer as a way of changing perceptions of Appalachian people.

Courtesy: West Virginia University Press

“We can take the good parts of that notion of what it means to be a hillbilly but turn it into something more noble and something that can’t be used against us,” said Hathaway.

The book takes interviews from former Mountaineer mascots but focuses on the folklore of the Mountaineer symbol as it relates to the entire state, not just West Virginia University.

The Mountaineer is a mirror for a deep range of intangible values and ideals: It represents pride in one’s history and heritage. It personifies the rebellious, independent spirit reflected in the state motto, Montani semper liberi (Mountaineers are always free). It has been a tool students use to release their inhibitions and a tool the university’s administration has used to rein in student misbehavoir.

Excerpt from Mountaineers Are Always Free: Heritage, Dissent, and a West Virginia Icon by Rosemary V. Hathaway

The book will be released in March 2020 through West Virginia University Press. Stay tuned to for a web exclusive Q&A with Hathaway, coming early next week.