Many people have different views on what Appalachia is, I grew up thinking that Appalachia meant people were dirty, poor, illiterate, inbreed and we also called them mountain people. As I grew up I realized that most of the things they went through and had a hard time with, I was dealing with the same problems. So what exactly is Appalachia? Well you will find out as you read on. Appalachia is no longer the land of severe poverty that it was three decades ago, now the poverty rate of one in 15 is close to the national average. The number of adults who have received a high school diploma has also jumped from one out of three to two out of three; and the infant death rate has been cut in half.
Comparing the 391 counties in the Appalachian Regional Commission with counties outside the region that were similar to Appalachian counties in the 1960 s, researchers found that Appalachian counties grew significantly faster than their counterparts. Specifically, overall income in Appalachia grew 48 percent faster; per capita income grew 17 percent faster; and population grew five percent faster. The Appalachian mountaineers have been discovered and forgotten many times. Their primitive agriculture disrupted by foragers and incessant guerrilla warfare, thousands of them straggled out of the mountains in search of food and shelter. Their plight was brought to the attention of President Lincoln, who promised that after the war a way would be found to aid the poor mountain people whom the world had bypassed and forgotten for so long.
The war ended, President Lincoln was assassinated, and so therefore Appalachia was forgotten. Appalachian people are considered a separate culture, made up of many unique backgrounds – Native Americans, Irish, English and Scotch, and then a third immigration of Germans and Poles – all blended together across the region. The mountains also figure into the uniqueness of Appalachia. The mountains kept Appalachia isolated from the rest of the country and from other people’s involvement in their lives that they developed a distinctive culture. (ar ministry.
org) The life in the wilderness and the continuing isolation of Appalachian people has made us different from most other Americans. The Appalachian value system that influences attitudes and behavior is different from the norm, and similar to the value system of an earlier America. Some of our more important values are religion; family solidarity; individualism, self reliance and pride; love of place; modesty and being oneself; sense of beauty; sense of humor; neighborliness; and patriotism. (civic net. org) Coal became the fuel that fired the furnaces of the nation, transforming the Appalachian region socially and economically. Unfortunately mountain people didn’t realize the implications of their mineral wealth.
Many sold their land and mineral rights for pennies an acre to outlanders. Appalachians became laborers rather than entrepreneurs. Coal became a major industry which was extremely sensitive to outside fluctuations in the economy, leading to boom and bust cycles. The industry was controlled by interests outside the region, so that little of the profit remained or was reinvested. Appalachia is often portrayed as an arrested frontier, a geographically isolated subculture, and reservoir of culturally homogeneous. Appalachians are pictured as proud, fiercely independent, and god-fearing southerners.
But in all reality they are portrayed as fighting and feuding, barefooted and backward, ignorant degenerates, downtrodden by centuries of isolation, inbreeding, and poverty. So how was Appalachia discovered? Well Appalachia was prompted in the mid 1870 s by local color writers such as Mary Mur fee and John Fox Jr. who explored in fiction and travel sketches such mountain themes as conflicting Civil War loyalties, moon shining, and feuding. (Billings) Appalachia’s people have been alternately ignored and rescued by government, private, and public social institutions since the early part of this century.
The coal miners, for instance, were fertile recruiting ground for the early union organizers. Later LBJ’s War on Poverty swooped down on the area with all the conviction and conscience a bureaucrat can muster. For the most part, the people of Appalachia have suffered and acknowledged all this with quiet bemusement. The best Appalachian humor deals with outsiders and their attempts to save us. (Wilburn) Appalachia was later defined as a social problem area deserving of uplift by church home missions and private philanthropy by William G. Frost and John C.
Campbell. They were educators and social reformers who’s depiction of Appalachia aw a distinct cultural entity was subsequently reinforced by social scientists seeking to identify and catalog Appalachian sub cultural traits. (Billings. ) Appalachia is also called the southern mountain region as traditionally defined comprises some 112, 000 square miles in the hill and valley sections of Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Maryland. (Shapiro) About 23 million people live in the 410 counties of the Appalachian Region; 42 percent of the Region’s population is rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population.
The Region’s economic fortunes were based in the past mostly on extraction of natural resources and manufacturing. The modern economy of the Region is gradually diversifying, with a heavier emphasis on services and widespread development of tourism, especially in more remote areas where there is no other viable industry. Coal remains an important resource, but it is not a major provider of jobs. (Appalachian Region web ct) Appalachian population in 1910 was estimated to be 5. 3 million and since 1962, Appalachia has been redefined as 80, 000 square miles in the above states except Maryland and South Carolina. The social and economic characteristics of the region are not subject to systematic statement, so despite this diversity, the region has traditionally been viewed as quintessentially poor, but in either case as fundamentally different from the rest of the nation.
“Appalachian America” or “southern highlands” and later Appalachia came to replace the central South in discussions of Appalachia after 1895. In 1920, two parallel tendencies appeared in increasing self-consciousness by Appalachian Americans, manifested in the establishment of regional institutions and in the emerging search for a distinct regional history and culture. Appalachian otherness seemed not so much a matter of being “behind the times” as the result of economic exploitation; and Appalachia, which had once represented America in its seedbed, now came to be American’s victim. (Shapiro) Appalachia is best viewed as a set of heterogeneous rural areas providing people and resources to eastern, Midwestern, and southern cities.
Even though they were stereotyped as isolated and backward, many portions of Appalachia have been heavily industrialized since the late 19 th century providing lumber, coal, oil, gas, textile, and chemical products. It is doubtful that rural mountain culture was distinguishable from that of the rest of the non plantation South. Appalachia was initially settled by the English, Scotch-Irish and German migrants. Few blacks were present prior to the Civil War and despite claims of ethnic homogeneity, industrialization brought diverse ethnic population into the mountains. I guess next would be how the Appalachian Mountains came to be and how they got there.
The summertime escape from the heat of the lowlands, the source of gems and minerals for industry and ‘rock hounds’ and home to increasing numbers of retirees. These are the historical Southern Appalachians shared by the citizens of West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Many have wondered how these mountain ranges that add so much beauty and tranquility to our lives were formed and what this area of the South was like before they existed. (Roll) The story of the Appalachians began nearly 900 million years ago and continues still today. During the Precambrian Era the continents collided to create one supercontinent, this is when the Adirondacks of New York first formed. The continents then split apart and slowly moved away from each other.
Over millions of years these first Appalachians eroded away and the sediments ended up in the widening sea, which was the Atlantic’s ancestor. The movement of continents was not the only major geologic event in the history of the Appalachians. Several glaciers have covered parts of the Northern Appalachians over the last three million years. (Appalachian tales) The mountains have been there ever since and that is how they were formed. So what is Appalachia? Appalachia is no different from any other person in this world.
The people had to struggle just as bad as some of us did, but were criticized because they lived in the mountains or away from other people. They didn’t know that once they sold their land for the oil miners that they would loose everything and eventually be run out from their own homes. They couldn’t help being poor or not being able to go to school and get the proper education like most of us got. So why do we still have these same stereotypes now as they had before? One description was that they walked barefoot and I guess I’m part of the Appalachian region because I walk outside almost everyday barefoot even though I had my thoughts about which Appalachian people were. Appalachia is part of our history that people don’t know much about or they wouldn’t have these stereotypes. Bibliography Billings, Dwight.
University of Kentucky. The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Shapiro, Henry. University of Cincinnati. The Encyclopedia of Southern History. web Herb “What is Appalachia” web H, Kempton.
The Southern Appalachian Mountains web history. htm.