Music in Appalachia

I believe that music is a huge part of life.  It has emotion, invokes thought, sends messages, and in this case, can describe a geological area.  Bill Malone’s chapter “Music” describes the influence, types, and popularity of music in Appalachia.  He says that music had more “magical appeal” than anything else in Appalachia.  While I agree with this, he also says that there is not such thing as Appalachian music, just a bunch of vocal styles made by separate musicians in Appalachia.  I do not think this is true.  I think that Appalachian musicians as a whole contribute to the culture and the way of life in Appalachia.  I believe it is more than just music, it is a way for these “mountaineers” to express themselves and tell their story to the rest of the world who may not know anything about Appalachia at all.  It gives Appalachians the opportunity to talk about their region in their own way.  Malone also mentions that folk music is a big part of Appalachia, and it is liked by young and old.  I think this is a different, yet intriguing, concept that such different generations like the same type of music.  Where I grew up, older people listened to completely different music than younger people.  Older people listened to music that was popular when they were younger, while we listened to music that was popular then.  Malone goes into detail of how Appalachian music has changed over different time periods from folk music, to ballad singing, to blues.  “However, bluegrass found a receptive audience among mountain people, especially those who had relocated to the working-class sectors of Detroit, Cincinnati and other southern Ohio industrial towns, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.”   I think that Bluegrass music was what really shaped the style of music for Appalachia.   It brought people together, while they listened to music that was something they could relate their lives to.  The song “Boys ‘Round Here” by Blake Shelton is a good representation of Appalachian music to me.  He sings about “red dirt roads”, country living, trucks, etc.  I think that music in Appalachia has actually helped people view the area in different ways.  While music has been a huge influence in the region, do other stereotypes of Appalachia overshadow the power of music?


Straw, Richard Alan., and Tyler Blethen. High Mountains Rising: Appalachia in Time and Place. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2004. Print.

Merchandising the Mountaineer


This week we read multiple different articles.  The one that stuck out to me the most was “Merchandising the Mountaineer”.  It talked about how photographs and articles had perpetuated the negative views of Appalachia.  Muriel Sheppard wrote a book named “Cabins in the Laurel”, with photographs shot by Bayard Wootten.  Wootten did not depict Appalachia as how it really was in his photos. Sheppard had a preconception of Appalachia that it was a “folk” society of pioneers where people just “sang songs and practiced folk traditions”.  Sheppard wrote about Appalachia not really knowing what it was really like, then Wootten gave visuals that seemed to almost oppose the text.  All of the photos showed the poverty and “uncivilized” looking areas of Appalachia.  “The only building shown is the court house which dominates the photo and the corner of a general store.  Yet the image that dictates the character of the photo is not the telephone pole indicating modern communication or the sign in the window the the courthouse denoting the National reemployment Office, but the buckboard and team of horses parked at the side of the courthouse.”  This quote really shocked me because it showed how biased Wootten must have been.  He was continuing the stereotypes of Appalachia through pictures that were not intended to show otherwise.  It was also mentioned that the two towns Wootten shot photos in were not very large, and made to look even smaller.  He made the towns look like there was one road, not many people, and few things going on around the town.  He photographed an Appalachian school building that had only one school room with a caption saying “Appalachia takes education seriously”.  This almost seems to be mocking Appalachia, because the picture made it look as if Appalachia lacked education and did not place emphasis on the importance of school.  Gender roles was also a theme in the photos.  Women were photographed doing their domestic housework while men were shown doing the agricultural and more difficult work.  He tried to show Appalachia as a place that had not advanced in any way and was lacking technology, education, and culture.  None of this is true to Appalachia.  Sheppard went back to Appalachia, North Carolina specifically, to write the other side of the story, and show the area for how it actually was.  In my opinion, people like Wootten are the ones that continue to fuel the fire of the Appalachian stereotypes today.

McKnight, B. L. (2013, August). Whose Agenda Is It, Anyway? Documentary Burdens, Community Benefits. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from
Watkins, C. A. (n.d.). Merchandising the Mountaineer.

Feuding in Appalachia


This article is called “Feuding in Appalachia” and gives an overview of the progression and formation of a stereotype in Appalachia.  “Modern American images of feuding are defined by the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s; that is, we assume feudists to come from a specific class- the uneducated, rural poor- and to inhabit a specific place- the mountains of southern Appalachia.”  Before Hatfield-McCoy’s, feuding was thought to occur only between the upper class and “respectable” middle class citizens.  After the Hatfield McCoy feud, negative stereotypes began to form.  Later, there was a shift and multiple feuds began to break out in Kentucky.  The newspapers, specifically the New York Times and The Courier, had a huge guiding hand to the development of American views during this time.  The headlines of the New York Times began to shift views from “southern violence” to “Kentucky violence”.  They reported that this violence breaking out was due to their political problems and racial issues.  As time went on, the stereotype began to really take form.  In 1885, mountaineers living in poverty began to be picked out as the center of “family feuding”.  After two murders in tow Appalachian countries Bell and Harlan, Kentucky, for the first time, was accused of “producing” individuals who had “defective character traits”.  This is a completely unsupported claim, mainly because violence is everywhere, but because the newspaper was reporting it in a certain area, that’s where everyone thought violence was.  The Times essentially shaped the present day stereotype about Appalachians.  In an article, they said Appalachian mountaineers are more “savage, degraded, and lawless then other Americans”.  The Courier that was not as judgmental towards Appalachians said that they just needed to have a better legal system and economic system.  Later, The Courier changed their opinion, and said Appalachian mountaineers were savages and needed to establish a church and become more “civilized”.  A story written by John Fox had the largest impact of American views on southern Appalachians.  His story portrayed Appalachian people as murderous savages that lived in extreme poverty.  In this story, Fox essentially dehumanized them and separated them from the rest of the culture.  All of these negative stereotypes of Appalachians seem to be built solely on over exaggerations and stretches of the truth.  The newspapers, stories, politicians, etc. during this time period all focused on the negativity of Appalachia.  When everything you see in the media discusses one opinion with no other views, most of society will adopt the same views without knowing the full story.

Pudup, M. B., Billings, D. B., & Waller, A. L. (1995). Appalachia in the making: The mountain South in the nineteenth century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.


Ghosts, Boundaries, and Names

This reading is called “Ghosts, Boundaries, and Names” by John Alexander Williams.  It is about the boundaries of Appalachia and surrounding areas, how they formed, and how they have changed over time.  “…studies of the folk arts or folk artists have concluded that Appalachia is home to a distinctive and important regional variant of American culture.”  This article gives information and multiple examples of how Appalachia has helped influence and form American culture.  At first, the only real distinct landmarks were highways, such as I-81.  I-81 connected the Caroline Piedmont, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and some of Mississippi.  Other less distinct paths such as the Carolina Road allowed people to travel and move around Appalachia.

I-77 was later built, allowing immigrants to expand and explore further.  Max Meadows is right off an I-77 exit and is known as “one of the oldest landmarks” in this area.  The Max Meadows land has fertile soil for farming, large forests, and “ridge-and-valley” provinces that is well known to Appalachia today.  The log house that resides in Max Meadows is said to be “the most enduring symbol of Appalachia” because it shows how important the travelers work and determination to make a life, in addition to the abundant forests, was to the development of Appalachia.

In the areas that are now Appalachia, people were known as “mountain people”, making things for themselves, using their natural resources, and living off the land.  I believe this is a huge characteristic of Appalachia today.  As Appalachia began to take form, it became a huge mining region, causing wealthy companies to buy out the land, and force the Natives living there to leave.  In many instances, the Native Americans claimed hunting lands and refused to let the Europeans settle there, sometimes leading to bloody battles over the land.  Many natives to Appalachian land got moved and forgotten, while white settlers gained all the money and power.

Particularly in my hometown, there are not a whole lot of “ghost” boundaries.  I live in a very well developed town without much open land.  The land that is left, is mostly being developed.  I see the prominence of ghost boundaries in my hometown mostly with small forested areas that have been “claimed” by developers who may want to build on the land.

A big issue addressed in this article is that Appalachia has no real “agreed-upon boundaries”.  This makes it difficult for historians to attempt to look at Appalachia as one region.  Most people agree that the word “Appalachia” usually means in the mountains or highlands, even though a huge part of it goes right through the Great Valley.  Eventually, parts of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina were established as Appalachian territory.  While the boundaries and even pronunciation of Appalachia varies all over the country, it is agreed upon that Appalachia represents a very important cultural aspect of America.


“What City Do You Consider to Be the Capital of Appalachia? (commute To, Metro) – General U.S. – Page 3 – City-Data Forum.” What City Do You Consider to Be the Capital of Appalachia? (commute To, Metro) – General U.S. – Page 3 – City-Data Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Sept. 2016.

Williams, John A. Ghost, Names, and Boundaries. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.