Appalachia, Part 2 Of 2
June 11, 2022
The Appalachian dialect is a dialect of Midland American English known as the Southern Midland dialect, and is spoken primarily in central and southern Appalachia. The Northern Midland dialect is spoken in the northern parts of the region, while Pittsburgh English (more commonly known as "Pittsburghese") is strongly influenced by Appalachian dialect. The Southern Appalachian dialect is considered part of the Southern American dialect, although the two are distinguished by the rhotic nature of the Appalachian dialect. Early 20th century writers believed the Appalachian dialect to be a surviving relic of Old World Scottish or Elizabethan dialects. Recent research suggests, however, that while the dialect has a stronger Scottish influence than other American dialects, most of its distinguishing characteristics have developed in the United States.
For much of the region's history, education in Appalachia has lagged behind the rest of the nation due in part to struggles with funding from respective state governments and an agrarian-oriented population that often did not see a practical need for formal education. Early education in the region evolved from teaching Christian morality and learning to read the Bible into small, one-room schoolhouses that convened in months when children were not needed to help with farm work. After the Civil War, mandatory education laws and state assistance helped larger communities begin to establish graded schools and high schools. During the same period, many of the region's institutions of higher education were established or greatly expanded. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, service organizations such as Pi Beta Phi and various religious organizations established settlement schools and mission schools in the region's more rural areas.
In the 20th century, national trends began to have more of an effect on education in Appalachia, sometimes clashing with the region's traditional values. The Scopes Trial—the nation's most publicized debate over the teaching of the theory of evolution—took place in Dayton, Tennessee, in southern Appalachia in 1925. In spite of consolidation and centralization, schools in Appalachia struggled to keep up with federal and state demands into the 21st century. Since 2001, a number of the region's public schools were threatened with loss of funding due to difficulties fulfilling the demands of No Child Left Behind.
Appalachian music is one of the best-known manifestations of Appalachian culture. Traditional Appalachian music is derived primarily from the English and Scottish ballad tradition and Irish and Scottish fiddle music. African-American blues musicians played a significant role in developing the instrumental aspects of Appalachian music, most notably with the introduction of the five-stringed banjo—one of the region's iconic symbols—in the late 18th century. Another instrument known in Appalachian culture was the Appalachian dulcimer which, in a practical way, is a guitar-shaped instrument laid on its side with a flat bottom and the strings plucked in a manner to make alternating notes.
In the years following World War I, British folklorist Cecil Sharp brought attention to Southern Appalachia when he noted that its inhabitants still sang hundreds of English and Scottish ballads that had been passed down to them from their ancestors. Commercial recordings of Appalachian musicians in the 1920s would have a significant impact on the development of country music, bluegrass, and old-time music. Appalachian music saw a resurgence in popularity during the American folk music revival of the 1960s, when musicologists such as Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Ralph Rinzler traveled to remote parts of the region in search of musicians unaffected by modern music. Today, dozens of annual music festivals held throughout the region preserve the Appalachian music tradition.
Early Appalachian literature typically centered on the observations of people from outside the region, such as Henry Timberlake's Memoirs (1765) and Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (1784), although there are notable exceptions, including Davy Crockett's A Narrative of the Life of Davy Crockett (1834). Travellers' accounts published in 19th-century magazines gave rise to Appalachian local color, which reached its height with George Washington Harris's Sut Lovingood character of the 1860s and native novelists such as Mary Noailles Murfree. Works such as Rebecca Harding Davis's Life in the Iron Mills (1861), Emma Bell Miles' The Spirit of the Mountains (1905), Catherine Marshall's Christy (1912), Horace Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders (1913) marked a shift in the region's literature from local color to realism. The transition from an agrarian society to an industrial society and its effects on Appalachia are captured in works such as Olive Tilford Dargan's Call Home to the Heart (1932), Agnes Sligh Turnbull's The Rolling Years (1936), James Still's The River of Earth (1940), Harriette Simpson Arnow's The Dollmaker (1954), and Harry Caudill's Night Comes to the Cumberlands (1962). In the 1970s and 1980s, the rise of authors like Breece D'J Pancake, Dorothy Allison, and Lisa Alther brought greater literary diversity to the region.
Along with the above-mentioned, some of Appalachia's best known writers include James Agee (A Death in the Family), Anne W. Armstrong (This Day and Time), Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter, The Unforeseen Wilderness: An Essay on Kentucky's Red River Gorge, Selected Poems of Wendell Berry), Jesse Stuart (Taps for Private Tussie, The Thread That Runs So True), Denise Giardina (The Unquiet Earth, Storming Heaven), Lee Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies, On Agate Hill), Silas House (Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves), Wilma Dykeman (The Far Family, The Tall Woman), Keith Maillard (Alex Driving South, Light in the Company of Women, Hazard Zones, Gloria, Running, Morgantown, Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes, Looking Good) Maurice Manning (Bucolics, A Companion for Owls), Anne Shelby (Appalachian Studies, We Keep a Store), George Ella Lyon (Borrowed Children, Don't You Remember?), Pamela Duncan (Moon Women, The Big Beautiful), David Joy (Where All Light Tends to Go, The Weight of This World), Chris Offutt (No Heroes, The Good Brother), Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain, Thirteen Moons), Sharyn McCrumb (The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter), Robert Morgan (Gap Creek), Jim Wayne Miller (The Brier Poems), Gurney Norman (Divine Right's Trip, Kinfolks), Ron Rash (Serena), Elizabeth Madox Roberts (The Great Meadow, The Time of Man), Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward Angel, You Can't Go Home Again), Rachel Carson (The Sea Around Us, Silent Spring; Presidential Medal of Freedom), and Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle).
Appalachian literature crosses with the larger genre of Southern literature. Internationally renowned writers such as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy have made notable contributions to the American canon with tales set within Appalachia. McCarthy's Suttree (1979) is an intense vision of the squalidness and brutality of life along the Tennessee River, in the heart of Appalachia. Other McCarthy novels set in Appalachia include The Orchard Keeper (1968) and Child of God (1973). Appalachia also serves as the origin point for the kid, the protagonist of McCarthy's Western masterpiece Blood Meridian. Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, is on the borderlands of what is considered Appalachia, but his fictional Yoknapatawpha should be considered part of the region. Almost all of the fiction which earned him the Nobel Prize is set there, including Light in August and Absalom, Absalom.
Folklore and legends
Appalachian folklore has a strong mixture of European, Native American (especially Cherokee), and Biblical influences. The Cherokee taught the region's early European pioneers how to plant and cultivate crops such as corn and squash and how to find edible plants such as ramps. The Cherokee also passed along their knowledge of the medicinal properties of hundreds of native herbs and roots, and how to prepare tonics from such plants. Before the introduction of modern agricultural techniques in the region in the 1930s and 1940s, many Appalachian farmers followed the Biblical tradition of planting by "the signs", such as the phases of the moon, or when certain weather conditions occurred.
Cherokee folklore continues to influence storytelling in the Appalachians, including depictions and characteristics of regional animals. As told by Eastern Band Cherokee and western North Carolina storyteller Jerry Wolfe, these creatures include the chipmunk, also known as "seven stripes" from an angry bear scratching him down the back—four claw marks and the spaces in between making seven—and the copperhead who sneaks and thieves his way into becoming venomous.
Appalachian folk tales are rooted in English, Scottish, and Irish fairy tales, as well as regional heroic figures and events. Jack tales, which tend to revolve around the exploits of a simple-but-dedicated figure named "Jack", are popular at story-telling festivals. Other stories involve wild animals, such as hunting tales. In the industrial areas of western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia the composite Joe Magarac steelworker story has been handed down. Regional folk heroes such as the railroad worker John Henry and frontiersmen Davy Crockett, Mike Fink and Johnny Appleseed are examples of real-life figures that evolved into popular folk tale subjects. Murder stories, such as Omie Wise and John Hardy, are popular subjects for Appalachian ballads. Ghost stories, or "haint tales" in regional English, are a common feature of southern oral and literary tradition. Ghost stories native to the region include the story of the Greenbrier Ghost, which is rooted in a Greenbrier County, West Virginia, murder.
Several urban legends and horror stories have been rooted in the Appalachia region. Since the 1960s the Point Pleasant, West Virginia, legend of Mothman has originated and been explored in popular culture including the 2002 film The Mothman Prophecies loosely retelling the original tale. Since the 1910s, reports of glowing orbs around the Brown Mountain ridgeline in North Carolina have been the subject of paranormal theories including the ghost of slaves or Cherokee tribal warriors. Known as the Brown Mountain lights, the story has been adapted in popular culture, including an episode of the 1990s sci-fi drama The X-Files. The infamous story of the Bell Witch haunting in Tennessee has influenced several major films of the horror genre, including Poltergeist, The Blair Witch Project, and the Paranormal Activity series.
Urban Appalachians are people from Appalachia who are living in metropolitan areas outside the Appalachian region. In the decades following the Great Depression and World War II, many Appalachian residents moved to industrial cities in the north and west in a migration that became known as the "Hillbilly Highway". Mechanization of coal mining during the 1950s and 1960s was the major source of unemployment in central Appalachia. Many migration streams covered relatively short distances, with West Virginians moving to Cleveland and other cities in eastern and central Ohio, and eastern Kentuckians moving to Cincinnati and southwest Ohio in search of jobs. More distant cities like Detroit and Chicago attracted migrants from many states. Enclaves of Appalachian culture can still be found in some of these communities.
In the 1940s through the 1960s, Wheeling, West Virginia, became a cultural center of the region because it had a clear-channel AM radio station, WWVA, which could be heard throughout the entirety of the eastern United States at night. Although Pittsburgh's KDKA was a 50 kilowatt clear channel station that dated back to the early 1920s (as well as spanning all the East Coast in signal strength), WWVA prided itself on rural and farm programming that appealed to a wider audience in the rural region. Cincinnati's WLW also was relied on by many in the central and northern areas of Appalachia.
In the southern part of the region, WSB-AM Atlanta and WSM-AM Nashville, flagship of the Grand Ole Opry, were major stations for the region's population during the 20th century, and remain strong in the sub-region.
The economy of Appalachia traditionally rested on agriculture, mining, timber, and in the cities, manufacturing. Since the late 20th century, tourism and second-home developments have assumed an increasingly major role.
While the climate of the Appalachian region is suitable for agriculture, the region's hilly terrain greatly limits the size of the average farm, a problem exacerbated by population growth in the latter half of the 19th century. Subsistence farming was the backbone of the Appalachian economy throughout much of the 19th century, and while economies in places such as western Pennsylvania, the Great Valley of Virginia, and the upper Tennessee Valley in east Tennessee, transitioned to a large-scale farming or manufacturing base around the time of the Civil War, subsistence farming remained an important part of the region's economy until the 1950s. In the early 20th century, Appalachian farmers were struggling to mechanize, and abusive farming practices had over the years left much of the already-limited farmland badly eroded. Various federal entities intervened in the 1930s to restore damaged areas and introduce less-harmful farming techniques. In recent decades, the concept of sustainable agriculture has been applied to the region's small farms, with some success. Nevertheless, the number of farms in the Appalachian region continues to dwindle, plunging from 354,748 farms on 47 million acres (190,000 km2) in 1969 to 230,050 farms on 35 million acres (140,000 km2) in 1997.
Early Appalachian farmers grew both crops introduced from their native Europe as well as crops native to North America (such as corn and squash). Tobacco has long been an important cash crop in Southern Appalachia, especially since the land is ill-suited for cash crops such as cotton. Apples have been grown in the region since the late 18th century, their cultivation being aided by the presence of thermal belts in the region's mountain valleys. Hogs, which could free range in the region's abundant forests, often on chestnuts, were the most popular livestock among early Appalachian farmers. The American chestnut was also an important human food source until the chestnut blight struck in the 20th century. The early settlers also brought cattle and sheep to the region, which they would typically graze in highland meadows known as balds during the growing season when bottomlands were needed for crops. Cattle, mainly the Hereford, Angus, and Charolais breeds, are now the region's chief livestock.
The mountains and valleys of Appalachia once contained what seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of timber. The poor roads, lack of railroads, and general inaccessibility of the region, however, prevented large-scale logging in most of the region throughout much of the 19th century. While logging firms were established in the Carolinas and the Kentucky River valley before the Civil War, most major firms preferred to harvest the more accessible timber stands in the Midwestern and Northeastern parts of the country. By the 1880s, these stands had been exhausted, and a spike in the demand for lumber forced logging firms to seek out the virgin forests of Appalachia. The first major logging ventures in Appalachia transported logs using mule teams or rivers, the latter method sometimes employing splash dams. In the 1890s, innovations such as the Shay locomotive, the steam-powered loader, and the steam-powered skidder allowed massive harvesting of the most remote forest sections.
Logging in Appalachia reached its peak in the early 20th century, when firms such as the Ritter Lumber Company cut the virgin forests on an alarming scale, leading to the creation of national forests in 1911 and similar state entities to better manage the region's timber resources. Arguably the most successful logging firm in Appalachia was the Georgia Hardwood Lumber Company, established in 1927 and renamed Georgia-Pacific in 1948 when it expanded nationally. Although logging in Appalachia declined as the industry shifted focus to the Pacific Northwest in the 1950s, rising overseas demand in the 1980s brought a resurgence in Appalachian logging. In 1987, there were 4,810 lumber firms operating in the region. In the late 1990s, the Appalachian lumber industry was a multibillion-dollar industry, employing 50,000 people in Tennessee, 26,000 in Kentucky, and 12,000 in West Virginia alone. By 1999, 1.4 million acres were extinguished as a result of deforestation by natural resource industries. Pollution from mining processes and disruption of the land ensued numerous environmental issues. Removal of vegetation and other alterations in the land increased erosion and flooding of surrounding areas. Water quality and aquatic life were also affected.
Coal mining is the industry most frequently associated with the region in outsiders' minds, due in part to the fact that the region once produced two-thirds of the nation's coal. At present, however, the mining industry employs just 2% of the Appalachian workforce. The region's vast coalfield covers 63,000 square miles (160,000 km2) between northern Pennsylvania and central Alabama, mostly along the Cumberland Plateau and Allegheny Plateau regions. Most mining activity has been concentrated in eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania, with smaller operations in western Maryland, Tennessee and Alabama. The Pittsburgh coal seam, which has produced 13 billion tons of coal since the early 19th century, has been called the world's most valuable mineral deposit. There are over 60 major coal seams in West Virginia, and over 80 in eastern Kentucky. Most of the coal mined is bituminous, although significant anthracite deposits exist on the fringe of the region in central Pennsylvania. About two-thirds of Appalachia's coal is produced by underground mining, the rest by surface mining. Mountaintop removal, a form of surface mining, is a highly controversial mining practice in central Appalachia due to its negative impacts on the environment and health of local residents.
In the late 19th century, the post-Civil War Industrial Revolution and the expansion of the nation's railroads brought a soaring demand for coal, and mining operations expanded rapidly across Appalachia. Hundreds of thousands of workers poured into the region from across the United States and from overseas, essentially overhauling the cultural makeup of eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania. Mining corporations gained considerable influence in state and municipal governments, especially as they often owned the entire towns in which the miners lived. The mining industry was vulnerable to economic downturns, however, and booms and busts were frequent, with major booms occurring during World War I and II, and the worst bust occurring during the Great Depression. The Appalachian mining industry also saw some of the nation's bloodiest labor strife between the 1890s and the 1930s. Mining-related injuries and deaths were not uncommon, and ailments such as black lung disease afflicted miners throughout the 20th century. After World War II, innovations in mechanization (such as longwall mining) and competition from oil and natural gas led to a decline in the region's mining operations. Environmental restrictions, such as those placed on high-sulfur coal in the 1980s, brought further mine closures. While with annual earnings of $55,000, Appalachian miners make more than most other local workers, Appalachian coal mining employed just under 50,000 in 2004.
Coal mining has made a comeback in some regions in the early 21st century because of the increased prominence of Consol Energy, based in Pittsburgh. The Quecreek Mine rescue in 2002 and continuing mine subsidence problems in abandoned coal mines in western Pennsylvania as well as the Sago Mine disaster and Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia and other regions have also been highlighted in recent times.
The manufacturing industry in Appalachia is rooted primarily in the ironworks and steelworks of early Pittsburgh and Birmingham, and in the textile mills that sprang up in North Carolina's Piedmont region in the mid-19th century. Factory construction increased greatly after the Civil War, and the region experienced a manufacturing boom between 1890 and 1930. This economic shift led to a mass migration from small farms and rural areas to large urban centers, causing the populations of cities such as Birmingham, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina, to swell exponentially. Manufacturing in the region suffered a setback during the Great Depression, but recovered during World War II and peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. However, difficulties paying retiree benefits, environmental struggles, and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 led to a decline in the region's manufacturing operations. Pittsburgh lost 44% of its factory jobs in the 1980s, and between 1970 and 2001, the number of apparel workers in the Appalachian region decreased from 250,000 to 83,000 and the number of textile workers decreased from 275,000 to 193,000.
U.S. Steel, founded in Pittsburgh in 1901, was the world's first corporation with more than a billion dollars in initial capitalization. Another Pittsburgh company, Alcoa, helped establish the nation's aluminum industry in the early 20th century, and has had a significant impact on the economies of western Pennsylvania and east Tennessee. Union Carbide built the world's first petrochemical plant in Clendenin, West Virginia, in 1920, and in subsequent years the Kanawha Valley became known as the "Chemical Capital of the World". Eastman Chemical, also established in 1920, is Tennessee's largest single employer. Companies such as Champion Fibre and Bowater established large pulp operations in Canton, North Carolina, and Greenville, South Carolina, respectively, although the former was dogged by battles with environmentalists throughout the 20th century.
One of the region's oldest industries, tourism became a more important part of the Appalachian economy in the latter half of the 20th century as mining and manufacturing steadily declined. In 2000–2001, tourism in Appalachia accounted for nearly $30 billion and over 600,000 jobs. The mountain terrain—with its accompanying scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities—provide the region's primary attractions. The region is home to one of the world's most well-known hiking trails (the Appalachian Trail), the nation's most-visited national park (the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), and the nation's most visited national parkway (the Blue Ridge Parkway). The craft industry, including the teaching, selling, and display or demonstration of regional crafts, also accounts for an important part of the Appalachian economy, bringing (for example) over $100 million annually to the economy of western North Carolina and over $80 million to the economy of West Virginia. Important heritage tourism attractions in the region include the Biltmore Estate and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina, Cades Cove in Tennessee, and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. Important theme parks include Dollywood and Ghost Town Village, both on the periphery of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The mineral-rich mountain springs of the Appalachians—which for many years were thought to have health-restoring qualities—were drawing visitors to the region as early as the 18th century with the establishment of resorts at Hot Springs, Virginia, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and what is now Hot Springs, North Carolina. Along with the mineral springs, the cool and clear air of the range's high elevations provided an escape for lowland elites, and elaborate hotels—such as The Greenbrier in West Virginia and the Balsam Mountain Inn in North Carolina—were built throughout the region's remote valleys and mountain slopes. The end of World War I (which opened up travel opportunities to Europe) and the arrival of the automobile (which changed the nation's vacation habits) led to the demise of all but a few of the region's spa resorts. The establishment of national parks in the 1930s brought an explosion of tourist traffic to the region, but created problems with urban sprawl in the various host communities. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, states have placed greater focus on sustaining tourism while preserving host communities.
Poverty in Appalachia
Poverty had plagued Appalachia for many years but was not brought to the attention of the rest of the United States until 1940, when James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a book that documented families in Appalachia during the Great Depression in words and photos. In 1963, John F. Kennedy established the President's Appalachian Regional Commission. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, crystallized Kennedy's efforts in the form of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which passed into law in 1965.
In Appalachia, severe poverty and desolation were paired with the necessity for careful cultural sensitivity. Many Appalachian people feared that the birth of a new modernized Appalachia would lead to the death of their traditional values and heritage. Because of the isolation of the region, Appalachian people had been unable to catch up to the modernization that lowlanders have achieved. In the 1960s, many people in Appalachia had a standard of living comparable to Third World countries'. Lyndon B. Johnson declared a "War on Poverty" while standing on the front porch of an Inez, Kentucky, home whose residents had been suffering from a long-ignored problem. The Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 stated:
The Appalachian region of the United States, while abundant in natural resources and rich in potential, lags behind the rest of the Nation... its people have not shared properly in the Nation's prosperity.
Since the creation of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in 1965, the region has seen dramatic progress. New roads, schools, health care facilities, water and sewer systems, and other improvements have brought a better life to many Appalachian residents. In the 1960s, 219 counties in the 13-state Appalachian Region were considered economically distressed. Now that list has been cut by more than half, to 82 counties, but these are "hard-core" pockets of poverty, seemingly impervious to all efforts at improving their lot. Martin County, Kentucky, the site of Johnson's 1964 speech, is one such county still ranked as "distressed" by the ARC. As of 2000, the per capita income in Martin County was $10,650, and 37% of its residents lived below the poverty line.
Like Johnson, President Bill Clinton brought attention to the remaining areas of poverty in Appalachia. On July 5, 1999, he made a public statement concerning the situation in Tyner, Kentucky. Clinton told the enthusiastic crowd:
I'm here to make a simple point. This is the time to bring more jobs and investment to parts of the country that have not participated in this time of prosperity. Any work that can be done by anybody in America can be done in Appalachia.
The region's poverty has been documented often since the early 1960s. John Cohen documents rural lifestyle and culture in The High Lonesome Sound, while photojournalist Earl Dotter has been visiting and documenting poverty, healthcare and mining in Appalachia for nearly forty years. Another photojournalist, Shelby Lee Adams, has been photographing Appalachian families and lifestyle for decades.
Tax revenue and absentee land ownership
In 1982 a seven-volume study conducted by the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force was issued by the Appalachian Regional Commission which investigated the issue of absentee land ownership. The study covered 80 counties in six states approximating the area designated "Southern Appalachia" as defined by Thomas R. Ford's 1962 work. The states selected were Alabama (15 counties), Kentucky (12 counties), North Carolina (12 counties), Tennessee (14 counties), Virginia (12 counties), and West Virginia (15 counties).
In its summary the report stated that "over 55,000 parcels of property in 80 counties were studied, representing some 20,000,000 acres of land and mineral rights..." It found that "41% of the 20 million acres of land and minerals...are held by only 50 private owners and 10 government agencies. The federal government is the single largest owner in Appalachia, holding over 2,000,000 acres." The study found that the extractive industries, i.e., timber, coal, etc., were "greatly underassessed for property tax purposes. Over 75% of the mineral owners in this survey pay under 25 cents per acre in property taxes." In the major coal counties surveyed the average tax per ton of known coal reserves is only $.0002 (1/50th of a cent). The government-held lands are tax exempt, but the government makes a payment in lieu of taxes, which is usually less than the normal tax rates.
"Taken together, the failure to tax minerals adequately, the underassessment of surface lands, and the revenue loss from concentrated federal holdings has a marked impact on local governments in Appalachia. The effect, essentially, is to produce a situation in which a) the small owners carry a disproportionate share of the tax burden; b) counties depend upon federal and state funds to provide revenues, while the large, corporate and absentee owners of the regions's resources go relatively tax-free; and c) citizens face a poverty of needed services despite the presence in their counties of taxable property wealth, especially in the form of coal and other natural resources."
In 2013, a similar study that concentrated solely on West Virginia found that 25 private owners hold 17.6% of the state's private land of 13 million acres. The federal government owns 1,133,587 acres in West Virginia, 7.4% of the total state acreage of 15,410,560 acres. In 11 counties the top ten absentee landowners own 41% to almost 72% of the private land in each county.
Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) was created by the U.S. Congress in 1965 to bring poor areas of the 13 U.S. states of the main (southern) range of the Appalachians into the mainstream of the American economy. The commission is a partnership of federal, state, and local governments, and was created to promote economic growth and improve the quality of life in the region. The region as defined by the ARC includes 420 counties, including all of West Virginia; counties in 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia; and also eight cities in Virginia, where state law makes cities administratively separate from counties. The ARC is a planning, research, advocacy and funding organization; it does not have any governing powers.
The ARC's geographic range of coverage was defined broadly so as to cover as many economically underdeveloped areas as possible; it extends well beyond the area usually thought of as "Appalachia". For instance, parts of Alabama and Mississippi were included in the commission because of problems with unemployment and poverty similar to those in Appalachia proper, and the ARC region extends into the Northeastern states, which are not traditionally considered part of Appalachia culturally (though a "northern Appalachia" identity has emerged in recent times in parts of both NY and PA, particularly in rural areas). More recently, the Youngstown, Ohio, region was declared part of Appalachia by the ARC due to the collapse of the steel industry in the region in the early 1980s and the continuing unemployment problems in the region since, though aside from Columbiana County, Ohio, the Youngstown DMA isn't traditionally or culturally considered part of the region. The ARC's wide scope also grew out of the "pork barrel" phenomenon, as politicians from outside the traditional Appalachia area saw a new way to bring home federal money to their areas. However, former Ohio governor Bob Taft has stated, "What is good for Appalachia is good for all of Ohio."
Transportation has been the most challenging and expensive issue in Appalachia since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 18th century. With the exception of the October 1, 1940, opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the region's mountainous terrain continuously thwarted major federal intervention attempts at major road construction until the 1970s. This left large parts of the region virtually isolated and slowing economic growth. Before the Civil War, major cities in the region were connected via wagon roads to lowland areas, and flatboats provided an important means for transporting goods out of the region. By 1900, railroads connected most of the region with the rest of the nation, although the poor roads made travel beyond railroad hubs difficult. When the Appalachian Regional Commission was created in 1965, road construction was considered its most important initiative, and in subsequent decades the commission spent more on road construction than all other projects combined.
The effort to connect Appalachia with the outside world has required numerous civil engineering feats. Millions of tons of rock were removed to build road segments such as Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River Gorge at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line and U.S. Route 23 in Letcher County, Kentucky. Large tunnels were built through mountain slopes at Cumberland Gap in 1996 to speed up travel along U.S. Route 25E, which acts as a regional arterial connecting Appalachia to the East Coast and the Great Lakes regions. The New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, completed in 1977, was the longest and is now the fourth-longest single-arch bridge in the world. The Blue Ridge Parkway's Linn Cove Viaduct, the construction of which required the assembly of 153 pre-cast segments 4,000 feet (1,200 m) up the slopes of Grandfather Mountain, has been designated a historic civil engineering landmark.
Depictions of Appalachia and its inhabitants in popular media are typically negative, making the region an object of humor, derision, and social concern. Ledford writes, "Always part of the mythical South, Appalachia continues to languish backstage in the American drama, still dressed, in the popular mind at least, in the garments of backwardness, violence, poverty, and hopelessness." Otto argues that comic strips Li'l Abner by Al Capp and Barney Google by Billy DeBeck, which both began in 1934, caricatured the laziness and weakness for "corn squeezin's" (moonshine) of these "hillbillies". The popular 1960s Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies on television and James Dickey's 1970 novel Deliverance perpetuated the stereotype, although the region itself underwent so many changes after 1945 that it scarcely resembles the comic images.
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, and other early 20th-century novels of John Fox Jr., set in the Appalachian town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and surrounding areas, gave readers an image of frontier life in Appalachia and were made into popular films. Fox himself graduated from Harvard and was a bon vivant newspaperman in New York City. He returned home to the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee to write his stories because of poor health.
Big Stone Gap also is the setting for the early 21st-century Big Stone Gap series by Adriana Trigiani.
The motion pictures Coal Miner's Daughter (based on the life of noted country singer Loretta Lynn), Where the Lilies Bloom and Songcatcher attempt an accurate portrayal of life in Appalachia which stresses the tensions between Appalachian traditions and the values of urbanized America.
Songcatcher takes place in rural Appalachia in 1907 and features the "lost" ballads of the Scots-Irish brought over in the 19th century and a musicologist's quest to preserve them.
Stranger With A Camera is a documentary film from Appalshop about the representation of Appalachian communities by outsiders in film and video.
The 1972 film Deliverance takes place in southern Appalachia. The film perpetuated extremely negative stereotypes.
Large-format photographer Shelby Lee Adams, himself a son of Appalachian emigrants, has portrayed the Appalachian family life sympathetically in several books.
Appalachian Spring is the name of a musical composition by Aaron Copland and a ballet of the same name by Martha Graham. Copland did not intend for his music, which he composed for Graham and which incorporates Shaker melodies, to have an Appalachian theme. Graham gave the work its name; her ballet told the story of a young couple living on the frontier in western Pennsylvania.
English composer Frederick Delius wrote a theme and variations entitled Appalachia; he first composed this music, subtitled "Variations on an Old Slave Song with final chorus", in 1896.
Alan Hovhaness in 1985 composed a tone poem named To the Appalachian Mountains (Symphony no. 60).
Author Catherine Marshall wrote Christy, loosely based on her mother's years as a teacher in the Appalachian region. The novel was highly popular and became the basis of a short-lived television series of the same name in 1994.
The novel Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver explores the ecology of the region and how the removal of the predators, wolves and coyotes, affected the environment.
Some comic strips often featured Appalachia, especially "Li'l Abner" by Al Capp (1909–1979). Inge notes that this comic strip, which ran 1934–77, largely ignored religion, politics, blacks and the Civil War, but instead focused its humor on the morality of Dogpatch, examining its memorable and often eccentric people who typically relied on violence to control the social order, and held deep to their faith in land, home, self-sufficiency, and antipathy to outsiders. Arnold finds that starting with World War II Capp increasingly emphasized sex and violence.
The fictional television program Justified is set in the eastern hills of Kentucky in and around Harlan County and was filmed in the Pittsburgh area originally.
"Face of Appalachia" is a song that appeared first on the album Tarzana Kid by John Sebastian in 1974. The song, co-written by Sebastian and Lowell George, was described by Joel Canfield as follows: "Sebastian's lyrics weave a heart-rending picture of an old man's struggle to impart his childhood memories to his grandson; memories of places and people who no longer exist; of an era long gone." Cover versions of the song have been recorded by Valerie Carter (1977), Wendy Matthews (1992) and Julie Miller (1997)
The fourth track of Chelsea Wolfe's album Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs is "Appalachia".
Much of the popular book series The Hunger Games is set in "an area that used to be called Appalachia" which is referred to in the book as District 12. Much of the surroundings and culture reflect present-day Appalachia, such as reliance on coal mining as an industry.
The video game Fallout 76 takes place in Appalachia.
The podcast "Old Gods of Appalachia" uses horror to examine Appalachian culture as well as the darker corners of its history.
'Appalachia' as the United States
In 1839 Washington Irving proposed to rename the United States "Alleghania" or "Appalachia" in place of "America", since the latter name belonged to Latin America too. Edgar Allan Poe later took up the idea, and considered Appalachia a much better name than America or Alleghania; he thought it better defined the United States as a distinct geographical entity, separate from the rest of the Americas, and he also thought it did honor to both Irving and the natives who the Appalachian Mountains had been named after. At the time, however, the United States had already reached far beyond the greater Appalachian region, but the "magnificence" of Appalachia Poe considered enough to rechristen the nation with a name that would be unique to its own character. However, Poe's popular influence only grew decades after his death, and so the name was never seriously considered.