Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century

Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century

Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century

Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century

Synopsis

Appalachia first entered the American consciousness as a distinct region in the decades following the Civil War. The place and its people have long been seen as backwards and 'other' because of their perceived geographical, social, and economic isolation. These essays, by fourteen eminent historians and social scientists, illuminate important dimensions of early social life in diverse sections of the Appalachian mountains. The contributors seek to place the study of Appalachia within the context of comparative regional studies of the United States, maintaining that processes and patterns thought to make the region exceptional were not necessarily unique to the mountain South. The contributors are Mary K. Anglin, Alan Banks, Dwight B. Billings, Kathleen M. Blee, Wilma A. Dunaway, John R. Finger, John C. Inscoe, Ronald L. Lewis, Ralph Mann, Gordon B. McKinney, Mary Beth Pudup, Paul Salstrom, Altina L. Waller, and John Alexander Williams

Excerpt

DWIGHT B. BILLINGS MARY BETH PUDUP ALTINA L. WALLER

Appalachia first entered American consciousness as a distinct region and people in the decades immediately following the Civil War when popular writers such as Will Wallace Harney began to describe the "strange land and peculiar people" of the southern Appalachian mountains in the pages of popular periodicals such as Lippincott's Magazine, Harper's, and the Atlantic Monthly. Between 1870 and 1900 scores of articles, both fiction and nonfiction, were published that pictured ways of life in the highland South as vastly out of step, culturally and economically, with the progressive trends of industrializing and urbanizing nineteenth-century America. Such articles gave rise to a distinct genre of local color fiction that both exploited and tried to explain the strangeness of mountain life. In turn, the fiction and travelogues of popular writers such as Mary Noailles Murfree in Tennessee and James Lane Allen and John Fox, Jr., in Kentucky influenced more scholarly descriptions of the region that were written by early social scientists such as geographer Ellen Churchill Semple and sociologist George Vincent. Effects of these early influences on thinking and writing about Appalachia are still felt today.

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