Southern Mountain Republicans, 1865-1900: Politics and the Appalachian Community

Southern Mountain Republicans, 1865-1900: Politics and the Appalachian Community

Southern Mountain Republicans, 1865-1900: Politics and the Appalachian Community

Southern Mountain Republicans, 1865-1900: Politics and the Appalachian Community

Synopsis

The mountaineer stereotype--violent people who preserve a traditional lifestyle and vote Republican--has been perpetuated through the years. McKinney found that the impact of the Civil War and the absence of blacks, rather than economic and geographical factors, were responsible for the persistence of Republican voting patterns. Also, mountain Republicanism was the conscious creation of politicians in a five-state region to shape their party to conform to local political conditions.

Originally published 1978.

Excerpt

The study of the history of the people of the Appalachian mountains must be written with great care. the rediscovery of poverty in West Virginia in the early 1960s has created a widespread stereotyped image of the region and its inhabitants. the result is that the historian is tempted to concentrate on those events that help to explain the present situation. This approach to the period between 1865 and 1900 would distort seriously the contemporary southern mountain people's view of their own times and would obscure some important developments. These years were a time of hope for the mountain people, for the promise of industrialization hid many of its consequences. At the same time, the historian must be aware of the developments in the twentieth century and, where appropriate, point out the origins of the tragic social and economic problems that have plagued the area.

All efforts to achieve a balanced approach to Appalachian history are hampered by the absence of scholarly studies of the region's past. Much of the material on the mountain people has been written by advocates who were more concerned about proving a point than about understanding the complexity of the situation. This study itself has changed drastically since it was first conceived. the original outline of the project envisioned a largely statistical study of the political developments in the region. That plan had to be modified because much of the fundamental background of mountain politics remained undiscovered. in addition, few historical investigations of the social life of the mountain people have been undertaken—although Ron Eller at Mars Hill College will shortly complete one. Thus, it was necessary first to construct the basic narrative. Subsequent statistical tests revealed that the mountain people formed a relatively homogeneous ethnic and religious group. This part of the work showed little unexpected information, and much of it became an appendix to the manuscript, rather than its core. As a result the present text represents an effort to relate the political . . .

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