Shenandoah Valley Folklife

Shenandoah Valley Folklife

Shenandoah Valley Folklife

Shenandoah Valley Folklife

Excerpt

Folklife, a familiar concept in European scholarship for over a century, is the sum of a community’s traditional forms of expression and behavior. It has claimed the attention of American folklorists since the 1950s. Each volume in the Folklife in the South Series focuses on the shared traditions that link people with their past and provide meaning and continuity for them in the present, and sets these traditions in the social contexts in which they flourish. Prepared by recognized scholars in various academic disciplines, these volumes are designed to be read separately. Each contains a vivid description of one region’s traditional cultural elements—ethnic and mainstream, rural and urban—that, in concert with those of other recognizable southern regions, lend a unique interpretation to the complex social structure of the South.

Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, the Shenandoah Valley forms a natural corridor from south central Pennsylvania to the western parts of Virginia as well as Tennessee and North Carolina. As one of the nation’s earliest western migration routes this fertile valley has seen successive waves of immigrants all of whom brought with them their own traditions and customs. Shenandoah Valley Folklife is the first comprehensive survey of this rich cultural heritage. Scott Hamilton Suter recounts the history of the valley’s settlement, focusing on early Native American groups and the Germans, Swiss, Scots-Irish, and African Americans who eventually populated the region. He examines legends, musical traditions, traditional crafts, and long-standing religious groups, especially the Old Order Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren, and Baptists. Also included are discussions of architecture, foodways, fairs, and festivals that provide insight into how Shenandoah Valley residents have celebrated their diverse cultural traditions. Through a blending of historical research and contemporary fieldwork, Suter documents the region’s traditional life, including the contributions made by recent immigrants who are adding their own traditions to long-standing customs, and demonstrates that folklife remains a resonant force in the Shenandoah Valley as it prepares to enter the twenty-first century.

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