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.


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