November 25, 2002

On Appalachia

The Appalachian Regional Commission was created by Congress in 1965 to "support economic and social development in the Appalachian Region". It provides the definitive definition of the region, stating that it encompasses 13 states, and covers 410 counties. It encompasses 23 million people, including all of West Virginia and parts of twelve other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Appalachia covers a 200,000 square mile region, and is said to 'follow the spine of the mountains for 1000 miles', but even a casual look at the ARC map shows that the long, thin backbone of mountains accounts for only the eastern border of the 'region'.

In 1965, one in three Appalachians lived in poverty. The area has been stereotyped by characters in the Sunday comics and in the media from Snuffy Smith to the Dukes of Hazard. Many people still hear "Dueling Banjos" reflexively when they drive speeding past ramshackle mountain cabins that in places cling to marginal homeplaces along the margins of I-81 as it courses up the Great Valley of early western migration.

The people of the region have been categorized generally as dirt-poor, hard-core rural, inbreed, ignorant, reclusive and backward. How this area came to be 'poor backwoods' and associated with these negative characteristics, deserved or not, is something that I will likely gain a better understanding of if I persist in this exercise.

But it is the mountains that snake along the length of the Appalachian region, and from which the region derives its name, that are at the center of my care. I have lived in or near them all my life, and they are the substrate upon which my story could be laid out. I have been "Appalachian" all my life. I am just now starting to acknowledge how deeply these roots go to anchor me to the ancient rock under my feet.

Posted by fred1st at November 25, 2002 06:12 AM

the foxfire books say it best - and we still do the old-fashioned hog butcherin here on the farm - this year - otta be in January sometime.

Posted by: connie at November 25, 2002 09:27 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?