The Proud AppalachianJan 16, 2006 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in MusicThe Bottom Line The Appalachian Americanâ€™s are a region of fiercely loyal people who honor and respect those who walked before us.
As many of you know, I am from the south, born and raised in the hills of east Tennessee. Tennessee is a long, narrow state with three distinct dialects, which only a true Tennessean's ear can hear. Our word pronunciation may sound the same to someone who wasn't born here, but if you put three different people from these three different regions in the same room together, and if you listen to each one separately, you would soon discern the difference.
It's my intention to give a very brief summary, with some help, on the extensive history of southern Appalachia. A college degree in history would be needed to delve into our past issues related to education, health care, housing, job training, transportation, environmental quality, civic participation, etc., that changed the lives of the many people who found themselves deeply mired in poverty with no way out. I don't have that degree, but I do have a keyboard where short, stubby fingers can pass along a few revealing sentences about a region, some would say, were best forgotten.
History states in the late 1960's, there were several major poverty pockets in the United States; the migrant labor areas, Indian reservations, inner city, ghettos, the Ozarks, and the hills of Appalachia.
Our country started focusing on education for all age and cultural groups by funding federal programs, educational research and development. Today, more and more money is poured into education and while the money improved education in rural communities for the "disadvantaged" child (considered a "child of poverty"), it has not been equal to the amount of money cities and counties of the more affluent received. Does this mean the child in an affluent county is superior to one in a rural county?
Teachers do not receive the same salary, even though their degree's, years of teaching and experience are the same, as a teacher from a "richer" county. My husband has been a teacher for over thirty years. He has ninety hours above his master's degree but his professional teaching certificate only credits him with forty-five of those hours. He also qualified in the Career Ladder program; later abolished, leaving new teachers who entered the field unable to join. His salary does not meet the salary of a teacher with the same credentials in our "richer" counties. Does this mean the teacher in an affluent county is superior to one in a rural county?
Adding a few more thoughts to the pot:
The American Indian, with the lowest economic position of any minority group, has suffered longest and hardest from the whites. Personal, genealogy research lead me to this fact as my great-grandmother was a Cherokee Indian from east Tennessee.
Taken from Glossary of Appalachian history, culture, folk lore, plants, and ...
The Cherokee referred to themselves as the Ani-Yunwiya or "real people" and were a tribe of the northern Iroquois in Ontario, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that traveled south along the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains to settle eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, western North Carolina and Virginia, Southern West Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Alabama. Called the Entarironnen (mountain people) or Oyatageronon (cave people) by their northern brethren, regional tribes were referred to as Upper, or Overhill, Middle, and Lower depending upon their locality in relationship to the Appalachian Mountains. Their principal talwas or towns were located along the Little Tennessee and at the headwaters of the Savannah, Hiwassee, and Tuckaseegee Rivers.
Appalachia, the original American frontier, which extends from Pennsylvania to Alabama, continues to have its land and people exploited. We are a land rich in coal, timber, sandstone, natural gas, water, and some of the most magnificent scenery on the continent, and yet, we are still held behind in education and continue to endure the "amusement" of our sister states.
"An older view of Appalachia attributes poverty to isolated folks with a "culture of poverty" that needed to "better themselves." Negative images of Appalachian life, popularized by Kentucky authors and others, perpetuated this view that persists in various forms to this day. Although popularized during the 1960's, these views are rooted in many writings from 1870-1920's. Regardless of how Appalachians viewed themselves, popular depictions painted Appalachians as "our contemporary ancestors", a "remnant of white pioneer culture" that continued to survive the "retarded frontier." Even the popular documentaries of Appalachian feuds depicted an uncivilized and violent people, and hid the fact that the feuds occurred predominantly between the educated, rich, and powerful people in Kentucky." *
Strip mines, coal mines all added up to the rape of our frontier and leaving behind gaping holes, brown and yellow streams that were once rich with fish, now contain trash, and mocking us. For some, the prime source of income is a government check, social security, welfare, and aid to families with dependent children (AFDC). The average adult had a 6th grade education, three-fourths of the children who start school drop out before they complete 12th grade. Tuberculosis, silicosis, and infant mortality were high. Many families lived in a sad economy of food stamps and subsistence.
The Appalachian's were drowning. Congress passed a variety of measures designed to bring the "invisible" poor some share of the affluence that most American's took for granted.
New roads, medical facilities, surplus food (resulting in fewer obvious signs of malnutrition), training programs, all had an affect upon Appalachia. Pride and respect found its way into our homes.
Even with this pride and respect, people still lived in poverty. Graduating students were still behind the national norm on standardized tests. Training programs brought new skills and confidence, children who had once gone hungry, now had hot meals in school but we still sit in the "back of the bus" living in a rich country that spouts NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.
1) Dilapidated housing
2) Obsolete sanitation
3) Retarded education
4) Lack of decent medical attention
5) Self-image distorted due to lack of family interaction
6) Politically invisible
The above are just a few, a very few, of the ties that bind together a child living in poverty. Growing up in poverty leaves a child with a strong feeling of fatalism, helplessness, dependence and inferiority. Many American's don't want to believe we have children still living in poverty or on the edges. I suggest they take a trip through rural America and leave their glasses at home.
Living in Appalachia, those who control local government end up with all of the wealth and see to it that those with no power are segregated, marginalized, and ignored. Its' social institutions (schools, county government, etc) just don't work and democracy doesn't have a chance. What few good jobs there are in the region goes to those "who know somebody" while the outs couldn't get a decent job even if they have a college degree. In job poor communities in Appalachia, patronage and family connections are the key to success. Could this be another reason why the poor in Appalachia lost the war on poverty? There seems to be no clear-cut reason as to "why" the war was lost, there are lots theories but nothing concrete.
Ten Values Common to Appalachians
by Loyal Jones, scholar and co-founder of the Berea College Appalachian Center
1. Individualism, Self-Reliance, Pride - most obvious characteristics; necessary on the early frontier; look
after oneself; solitude; freedom; do things for oneself;
not wanting to be beholding to others; make do
2. Religion, values and meaning to life spring from religious sources; fatalistic (outside factors control
one's life, fate, believe things happen for a reason and
will work out for the best); sustains people in hard times
3. Neighborliness and Hospitality, help each other out, but suspicious of strangers; spontaneous to invite people for a meal, to spend the night, etc.
4. Family Solidarity or Familism, family centered; loyalty runs deep; responsibility may extend beyond immediate family; "blood is thicker than water".
5. Personalism, relates well to others; go to great
lengths to keep from offending others; getting along is
more important than letting one's feelings be known; think in terms of persons rather than degrees or professional reputations
6. Love of Place, never forget "back home" and go
there as often as possible; revitalizing, especially if a
migrant; sometimes stay in places where there is no hope of maintaining decent lives
7. Modesty and Being Oneself, believe one should
not put on airs; be oneself, not a phony; don't pretend to be something you're not or be boastful; don't get above your raising
8. Sense of Beauty, displayed through folksongs, poems, arts, crafts, etc., colorful language metaphors, e.g. "I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs."
9. Sense of Humor, seem dour, but laugh at ourselves; do not appreciate being laughed at; humor sustains people in hard times
10. Patriotism, goes back to Civil War times; flag, land, relationships are important; shows up in community celebration and festivals
Our problems were complicated by the long-standing existence of both stylized and misleading orthographic representations in regional and local color fictional writing and popularized distortions of "hillbilly talk" found in pamphlets obtainable at roadside tourist stops or in newspaper cartoons. These preexisting orthographic distortions have their own well established semiotic meanings in popular culture that evoke highly negative images of lazy, poor, ignorant, and intellectually challenged individuals.
As John John R. Buchtel from Ohio, Founder of Buchtel College, later changed to University of Akron, wrote:
Please, don't write me off because my grammar may be different from your own. I may pronounce my e's as short i, my o's as ya's or short u's. The verb context of my sentences may be out of order, and I may have silent h' s at the beginning of the words I speak such as him or here. I may say "Cumear" for come here. I may say "all" for oil or "tar" for tire, or "woish" for wash, and "er" for o such as in "mater" (tomato) and "tater" (potato). I may ask you for a mango meaning a green bell pepper instead of meaning a tropical Mango south of the equator fruit.
You may misinterpret my meanings of my sentences because of the way I word them. For a very simple example, the phrase "Please wash the tar off." Tar could mean three different things, tar as in blacktop, tar as in tire, or tar as in tower. This is not a lack of intelligence, and it is not a speech impediment! It is just a language, a language all its own. Does it cause some misinterpretations? It can. This is a language that is continuing to evolve for the generations still living in these areas. Education is helping, but instead of being demeaned students should be made aware of this language, the history of this language, and made to feel proud of it.
Who Really Gets Mountain Money
The above link gives information on a "six-month investigation of spending by the Appalachian Regional Commission". I recommend reading it to find out the results.
Appalachia desperately needs reform. In America, the greatest nation of all, we should tend to our children living in poverty, and our elderly should not have to choose if they are to eat this month or buy medicine.
When you have been born in a region of great beauty, mountain magic, in the heart land of America, it blends with your very soul and it's for this reason, most of us cannot leave our roots and transplant ourselves. We are one with our land, our rivers, our streams, our mountains, and as we gaze out at the majestic beauty before us, it's as the song says, "We reach out and touch the hand of God".
*Jim Huebner from the Mennonite Central Committee
Thanks for reading!
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