Giving the overview of a region is a hard thing to do. Where do I even begin. There is so much going on with the Appalachia.
The past is as good of a place to start as any. A moment in time that defines the region more than any other is the Industrial Revolution, and the growing need for coal. Coal has been the center of this region since it was discovered there. In HUM 1704 at Virginia Tech we read readings about coal, and watched documentaries like “Mine Wars” to get a better understanding of what mining did to the region.
Many would assume that because mining coal brought money into the region that it has had a lasting positive affect. Not many would agree with you on this. Back during the Industrial Revolution coal companies took advantage over the regions desperate need to jobs. The companies would trap coal workers in the company town and put them in debt so they could not leave. Because of the mistreatment of the workers, many small revolts took place, and lives were lost due to this setup. The mistreatment of miners back in the day has not been the only negative affect on the region. The coal companies have been destroying the land and stopping any other form of economic growth. One term that came up a lot during HUM 1704 was “Growth without Development”. This term perfectly describes the economy in the Appalachia. They go with cycles of booms and busts based on the countries need to coal and oil at the time, this does not build infrastructure within the region, and lacking sustainable infrastructure leads to a region that does not develop.
A main problem the region has to deal with is stereotypes. If you asked most people outside of the Appalachia what the Appalachia was like, you would probably hear something about whiteness, hicks, and drug abuse. Sure there is some truth behind most stereotypes, these are not as true as most think. Yes it has a high percentage of whites, but it is not 100% white like some think. The region also has some cities, it is not hick. And there is some methamphetamine and oxy abuse, that we did some reading one, but everyone in the region does not do it. The Appalachia just has a bad wrap with the rest of the country, so it has obstacle to overcome because of those preconceptions.
It is impossible to cover the whole region in a short blog post, for example I was not able to talk at MTR (Mountain Top Removal), or the soul of the region, or the art that comes out of it. But coal and stereotypes play cover a large portion of knowledge everyone should have if they want to understand the Appalachia a little better.
I had always heard that Blacksburg had a fresh local farmers market but had no clue where it was, and did not really look into it all that much. But this was a good excuse to go find out more about it. I tried going earlier in the month, but unfortunately it is only opened twice a week, so my schedule did not always work out with the timing. But this one particular Wednesday, I got done with classes and all my work early, so I was able to go out and visit the market. And I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.
I had never been to a farmers market before, so this was new to me. I convinced one of my friends to come with me, because I did not want to go alone. But after getting there, I did not feel awkward, or like an outcast at all. Everyone was so friendly! The atmosphere was so fun and festive. It was nice to walk around and see all the colorful fresh produce, and talk with some of the local growers.
I did not get to buy anything, because I did not bring my wallet, but next semester I would like to go back and buy fresh produce to bring home and cook with.
One thing that farmers markets push hard is the “buy local campaign” and I never really thought about why people should do that. But after visiting the Blacksburg Farmers Market I understand the “buy local” initiative more. And I plan on buying more local produce in the future.
Next time I visit the farmers market, I don’t think I will need to bring a friend, because I will feel more comfortable going again. I will also definitely bring money so I can buy yummy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Overall, I can not wait to visit again next semester. I would also highly recommend anyone living around the Blacksburg area to go and visit this Farmers Market, because it is definitely worth the experience.
On November 24th I went to Carol Lee Donuts on North Main Street at 7 am. The time I went is important because going at that time gave me a different experience. It showed me the other half of Blacksburg. After living here for over a year I thought that almost everyone living here were somehow related to the college. I thought this because everywhere I went I only saw college students. The places I went to eat had students, the places I hung out only had students, and the places I stay and sleep in only have students. So I had not been exposed to anything else. But going to Carol Lee Donuts at 7 am changed my view. Everyone I saw out that early were older. I saw older couples out on an early morning walk on my way to the shop. The only others inside the donut shop were elderly. It introduced me to the other side of Blacksburg. There is a large retired community that lives here in Blacksburg. This experience is one of the few things I could have done to witness this. If I went out later in the day, I may not have witnessed this side of the community.
At first I did feel a little bit like an outsider, because I was the youngest person I saw out at that time by a few decades. I felt like I didn’t have anything in common with the older members of this community, but that changed. While waiting in line to order, I started talking with a couple that was ahead in me in line and while talking with them I no longer felt like an outsider. I realized during our conversation that just living together in Blacksburg ties us together. As a student at Virginia Tech I feel as though I am a member of the Hokie community, and leaving in Blacksburg makes you a part of that community too, I learned. So even though I felt out of place at first, that changed.
In class we learned a lot about how many times a person’s preconception of an area can be wrong, especially if they have not witnessed that area personally. And I found this to be the case here. I assumed because most my activities related to the college and I only interacted with students that the whole community was this type of person. But after immerging myself in the real community, I learned otherwise.
oDawn was happy when her parents left so she could go to concerts (pg. 139)
oDawn talks about Willet for the first time (pg. 3)
“Willet Bilson sounded about my age. He sounded like someone I would like to talk to” (Gipe 3).
oWhy was music such a release for Dawn? How did her relationship with Willet Bilson affect her interaction with music?
oDawn’s Grandpa likes an older kind of music (pg. 142)
Types of music
oHippie music or punk
oHippie music: John Lennon, the Beatles, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Neil Young
How music affects culture
oHow does music affect Dawn?
Key Theme: Dichotomy between commercial and local music
Local music has a larger focus on connecting people through experience. Dance halls and folk instruments create an extremely kinetic environment that serves to establish social ties between individuals. It’s tied into religious gatherings as well as secular meetings. It is very much ingrained into the social fabric of the Appalachian region.
Commercial music is not necessarily tied to social gatherings. Therefore, it often seeks to create feelings of nostalgia for folk music or completely deviate from local mountain music. Radio and CDs pander to a completely different audience of people. They can target specific groups of people, such as youth seeking more rebellious sounds like rock, rap, and punk.
Appalachian Myth: All music from the region is folk / bluegrass
How does music become an influential part of Dawn’s life?
What effect does music have on the Appalachian culture?
How did Dawn use music as an escape from the negative parts of her life?
What was the effect of local music in the novel? Do you see the effects of local music in blacksburg or your hometown?
In class we got into groups and gathered supplies to make “coal flowers” (pictured above is an example of what is supposed to look like). Our bowls of concoctions were supposed to turn unto these beautiful blue-green and pink masses. My group must have had the measurements off, because after 24 hours our bowl of random stuff, was still just that, a bowl of random stuff.
Now, it is hard to pull something away from this fun in-class project because my group’s flower didn’t blossom, but I can take something away. The first thing I can take away is how beautiful coal can be (seriously, that picture above is super cool to look at).
The second thing I can take away from this, is a stretch, but a valuable lesson: seemingly unrelated things can make something beautiful. By unrelated things, I relate that to people. When different people get together, wonderful things happen. We put a man on the moon; and not with a bunch of the same people from the same place, we gathered people from all over. NASA gathered people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, and we put a man on the moon. On a smaller scale, people get together and make beautiful group art, and create wonderful things every day. On a note related to the Appalachian region, neighbors pair up with environmental lawyers trying to help the region from coal companies. It would be easy to argue that lawyers and some locals from the Appalachia are very different, but together they can help something beautiful: the environment and peoples’ homes. I doubt this lesson was the point of this project, but it’s not hard to learn this lesson from it.
Food for thought: Are there any other lessons (stretch as far as you want) that you can learn from this project? Can they relate to the Appalachia?
If given 40 million dollars I would invest in renewable energy. Renewable energy is the future. and it can solve multiple problems. Renewable energy can slowly, overtime, replace the coal industry which is destroying the region, and it can create new jobs.
The coal industry has slowly been destroying the region, not just environmentally, but economically as well. There have been countless studies on the detrimental effects to the environment that coal mining, especially mountain top removal, has done to the Appalachia; whether that be slurry, polluting the water supply, or hurting the environment. These issues are discussed in many works, including the article “Show me where to put my fishing pole” and in the documentary Harlan County USA. These works, and countless others, record account of locals to the area talking about their displeasure with the side affects of coal mining. Helen Lewis suggests this begins by talking to the people to find out what is needed, and by switching to renewable energy can help solve some of these problems because we can slowly decrease our dependence on coal.
Renewable energy solutions are big projects that would create a lot of new jobs. The first thing I would build is a hydroelectric dam. The dam would cost around 20 million dollars to build, but it is the most effective renewable energy source. This construction would need a lot of jobs to help build and maintain the dam. After the dam, I would use my remaining 20 million to build windmills across the region, priced at, according to windustry.org, 2 to 3 million dollars a piece.
40 million is not near enough to completely change the region for the better, but it is definitely a start. By investing in the infrastructure of renewable energy we can start to change the Appalachia for good. We can “keep the lights on” another way.
Pictured below are examples of the renewbale energy I would like to use.
“One important consequence of mining was that it did not open up the mountains. The isolation of the area went beyond just physical isolation; it now included social isolation. The inability of the indigenous population to cope with those representatives of the coal industry and the many fraudulent land deals that were made with the local people stand as bold evidence of antagonistic relationships,” (Lewis 17).
Discussion question about this quote: How does mining, mountain top removal specifically, create social isolation in a region? Does it create social isolation between neighbors? or just inhabitants against the coal company?
My answer: Mining divides a community in so many ways. It can create social isolation by separating the community through opinion. Half the community with opinion A will remove themselves from the other half of the community with opinion B. Since mountain top removal is such a heated debated within a community (The two arguments being that it destroys the environment, and the other being that is keeps the lights on) it creates social isolation. Because of that, it creates more social isolation within the community and between neighbors than between the community and the coal companies.
In Bill Malone’s chapter in High Mountains Rising titles “Music” he states that, “No concept in American life has had a more magic appeal than Appalachian music,” (Malone 114). I have never thought about it deeply, and even if it may be slightly exaggerated, I mostly agree with it. The Appalachian is viewed in such a romantic way from the entirety of the United States. All the music that comes out of the region is mostly about the region itself. Where a lot of other music, like rap or rock, is never really about a place. Bluegrass Music and folk music is very proud genre of music.
People are interested in this genre because largely they are interested in the region. Below is one of my favorite songs by Old Crow Medicine Show demonstrating a song that talks about the region.
Why does this music genre focus so much on the homeland (The Appalachia), when other, more successful, music genres don’t?
In Charles Alan Watkins’ writing “Merchandising the Mountaineer” he writes about how anything can be misrepresented. He specifically talks about a publishing company who sold books on the Appalachia. Even though the book began as an accurate depiction of the region, the company ran into financial issues and faced the fact that if they did not sell more books, they would run out of business. Their solution to this problem were pictures. The company realized that the northern readers of their book wanted to see the Appalachia depicted as an isolated mountain land. The book depicted in its’ pictures an isolated region with few inhabitants and this gave the region a reputation that was not completely truthful.
I am from Yorktown Virginia, which is famously known for the final battle of the revolutionary war where the British surrendered to the Colonists. That is the most famous, and probably will always be the most famous thing to ever happen in Yorktown. The only reason anyone actually visits my town is to see family, or the historic battle fields or historic buildings. I don’t blame them, the historic part of Yorktown is beautiful:
If you just Googled: “Yorktown Virginia” the only pictures that would come up is of the Historic side of Yorktown. I love that part of my hometown, and I am proud of it, but realistically, that is only a fractional part of Yorktown. these images make Yorktown look old, and most would imagine that everything in Yorktown is old. But it is quite the opposite. Yorktown is mostly an upper middle class white town, that is very privileged and is slowly but surely building all sorts of new buildings and adding lots of new technology. I am proud of what images would pop up on google if you looked up my hometown, but it does not accurately represent most of Yorktown.
This week in class, a large topic of discussion was the Civil War and its effects on the Appalachian Region. Throughout the discussion and the readings we learned the Civil War was an exceptionally hard time in the Appalachia. Gordon B. McKinney pointed out all the hardships in his chapter in High Mountains Rising called “The Civil War and Reconstruction”. He stated that, ” [In] The years between 1860 and 1877… Political, social, and economic life underwent enormous changes…” (McKinney 46). The states in the region underwent physical change too. Virginia was split in two when the mountaineers in north western Virginia did not want to succeed from the Union, so they broke away from Virginia to form West Virginia.
Another big shift in the Appalachia was slavery. A myth is that people in the Appalachia did not own slaves, but this is not the fact. The slaves that Appalachians did own, were taken away after the Civil War and it struck the economy hard. The region still has not fully recovered from the economic hit from the lose of slavery.