Various History

Celebrating the History of Appalachia
May 7, 200612:28 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

The birthplace of entertainers (Lucille Ball), musicians (Patsy Cline) authors (Cormac McCarthy) and scholars (Henry Louis Gates Jr.), Appalachia offers a rich slice of American history. But it is often steeped in mythic lore and stereotyped as backward, uncultured and poor.
Two new books seek to change these perceptions. The United States of Appalachia, by Jeff Biggers, and The Encyclopedia of Appalachia, co-edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, both try to get past the negative associations and bring the historical and cultural achievements of the region to the foreground.


A scene from an Appalachian church, 1984.
David Turnley/Corbis

Excerpt: The Encyclopedia of Appalachia Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, editors

The hillbilly is the dominant icon of Appalachia. Asked to list images related to Appalachia, those with limited knowledge of the region inevitably cite the hillbilly. Worldwide, the hillbilly image is consistently a lanky, black-bearded, white male who lives in a cabin in the mountains with an outhouse out back. He wears a battered slouch hat, totes a shotgun and a jug of moonshine, and holds little regard for the law, work, cleanliness, or book learning. He has loose morals and is decidedly dangerous. The word hillbilly is believed to have first appeared in print in the United States in 1900 in a New York Journal article describing the "hill-billie" as "a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him." In the 1930s, the icon was solidified through the hillbilly characters of Paul Webb's Mountain Boys cartoons in Esquire magazine, Al Capp's Li'l Abner, and Billy DeBeck's Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. These characters and their cartoon-world antics forever etched the hillbilly caricature into popular culture.

Festivals, Folk
The modern folk festival was born in Appalachia. Although the term folk festival had been used previously for a few cultural display events, it became fully established in the national consciousness when four prominent festivals were created between 1928 and 1934. The first three, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, the American Folk Song Festival held near Ashland, Kentucky, and the White Top Folk Festival in southwest Virginia, all focused on Euro-American, Appalachian culture. Only the last, the National Folk Festival, was not held initially in Appalachia and was not monocultural in content.

Birth Lore
Appalachian lore about the reproductive cycle has been at its core an oral tradition held by women, and its overriding theme is the mortality of mother and child. Birth lore is an expansive category of folk belief and practice related to fertility, conception, abortion, pregnancy, birth, infancy, and the supernatural. Most of these beliefs cannot be tracked to an original source; rather, they are often a mixture of European tradition, Native American practices, and African slave culture. Beliefs vary regionally, reflecting concentrations of Scots-Irish, German, and Dutch settlements, though some themes are recurrent. Kinship within Appalachia is strong and vividly represented by the community of women who come together during the birth of a child. Historically, and even at times in contemporary Appalachia, rural childbirth practices have included not only the presence of a midwife or attending doctor, but also women who tend to household needs before, during, and after the birth of the child. Men can also play important roles in this process, even in some communities in the past filling the role of the midwife, but most birth lore beliefs and practices are passed down through generations in the community of women.

Dried Apple Stack Cake
The dried apple stack cake is a distinctive southern Appalachian cake. Called by names such as apple stack cake, Confederate old-fashioned stack cake, and Kentucky pioneer washday cake, the apple stack cake is many layered, low in fat, and not sweet. It is made with layers of stiff cookielike dough flavored with ginger and sorghum and spread with a sweet, spiced apple filling. When served, the cake is tall, heavy, and moist.
Just as the word Appalachia is generally pronounced Ap-pa-LATCH-a in the southern mountains, but more commonly Ap-pa-LAY-cha in the rest of the country, so too is there some dispute over the origin of the name given to the region. Legend has it that Hernando de Soto or members of his 1539 expedition named the Appalachian Mountains. Surviving accounts of the de Soto expedition, however, offer no evidence that the conquistador or his companions intended to designate the eastern mountain chain for the Apalachee Indians, whom they encountered far to the south in what is now northern Florida. The first European contact with the Apalachee had been made by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's expedition in 1528 in the vicinity of Tampa Bay, Florida. One derivation of the name argues that in the Muscogee language apala means "great sea," and combined with the personal participle chi, apalache means "those by the sea."

Colonial Survivals in Appalachian Speech
Contrary to the popular view that it is Shakespearean in character, Appalachian folk speech is much closer to the language of colonial America. It has preserved a record of colonial speech unequaled in any other American region, largely due to Appalachia's relative physical isolation during much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Differing agreement patterns between subject and verb (as in "We went to hunt for the horses which was lost"; "Snails is large and common"; and "Two files was demanded by the Indians"), which were once standard usage in the north of England and in the Scottish Lowlands, were also common in the writings of colonial America. Such constructions appeared in the speech of Appalachian natives well after their disappearance from mainstream American English.


An 1800-page list of the terms, people and places of Appalachia.

Celebrating the History of Appalachia
May 7, 200612:28 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

Excerpt: The United States of Appalachia Jeff Biggers

Beyond its mythology as a quaint backwater in the American imagination, Appalachia also needs to be embraced for its historic role as a vanguard region in the United States.
Vanguard Appalachia? The very word—vanguard—conjures up a plethora of images, though none in Appalachia. It’s Thomas Jefferson at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia; it’s George Washington plotting his campaign at Yorktown. William Lloyd Garrison, the great New England abolitionist, was in the vanguard of the antislavery movement; his transcendentalist Boston neighbors stood in the forefront of nineteenth-century American literature. The New York Times, in an era of yellow journalism, typified the vanguard press; the Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City provided the nation’s music innovators with its hallowed stage. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the front of the civil rights movement, would be its modern political symbol. Expatriate Gertrude Stein might be its literary icon.
These are all reasonable examples, of course. And yet, would you believe me if I said an Appalachian preceded, led or influenced every one of these historic events or gatherings? That years before Jefferson completed the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, a backwoods settlement had already stunned the British Crown with its independence as a "dangerous example for the people of America." That an alliance of Southern Appalachian insurgents orchestrated their own attacks on British-led troops and turned the tide of the American Revolution. That a humble band of mountain preachers and writers published the first abolitionist newspaper in the nation and trained the radical Garrison. That a Cherokee mountaineer invented the first syllabary in modern times. That a back-hills young woman astounded the Boston literary circles in 1861, with the first American short story of working-class realism to be published in the Atlantic Monthly. That a young publisher from Chattanooga actually took over the New York Times and set its course for world acclaim. That the "high priestess of soul" put a spell on an audience at the Village Vanguard in 1959, with her blend of folk, jazz, gospel, country, and Bach-motif riffs she had learned in her Southern Appalachian hamlet. That a self-proclaimed "radical hillbilly" galvanized the shock troops of the civil rights movement and returned an African spiritual and labor song as its anthem. That the first American woman ever awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature was recognized for her family memoirs of West Virginia as much as for her literary contributions to the Far East.
Few regions in the United States confound and fascinate Americans like Appalachia. No other region has been so misrepresented by the mass media. Four paradoxical images have enjoyed incredible staying power: pristine Appalachia, the unspoiled mountains and hills along the Appalachian Trail, notwithstanding centuries of warfare, the wholesale destruction of the virgin forests by the timber industry, and the continual bane of strip mining; backwater Appalachia, home of the "strange land and peculiar people" in thousands of stories, novels, radio and TV programs and films, even though the region has produced some of the most important writers, artists, scientists, and politicians in the country; Anglo-Saxon Appalachia, once defined by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as a mountain region of "white natives," despite its role as a crossroads of indigenous cultures and vast immigrant and African American migrations for centuries; and pitiful Appalachia, the poster region of welfare and privation, the haggard faces greeting Charles Kuralt on CBS News on Christmas 1964, regardless of the tremendous wealth generated by the mountain range’s mineral resources, timber, and labor force in the mines, mills, and factories, and today’s tourist industry.

In his best-selling analysis of the Buffalo Creek mining dam disaster in the 1970s, Everything in Its Path, eminent Yale sociologist Kai Erikson captured these stereotypes in an enduring judgment of Appalachian mountain culture: "It helps breed a social order without philosophy or art or even the rudest form of letters. It brings out whatever capacity for superstition and credulity a people come endowed with, and it encourages an almost reckless individualism."
For most readers, the blood-curdling acts of Appalachian man’s inhumanity to civilized man in the mountains, replete with inbred banjo pickers, violent feuds, moonshine, sexual deviltry, and miasmic gorges, have been put to rest. We are savvy enough to refrain from uttering "hillbilly" in mixed company. Li'l Abner, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Hee Haw, and The Andy Griffith Show are out; best-selling authors Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Frazier, Homer Hickam, and Robert Morgan are in. Sure, bizarre and offensive portrayals of Appalachians occasionally take place—during the research and writing of this book, CBS talent scouts combed the Southern mountains for corncob-piped rubes to participate in a proposed reality-TV show based on The Beverly Hillbillies; Abercrombie & Fitch dressed their manikins with a "West Virginia, It’s All Relative" T-shirt; and a horror film, Wrong Turn, featured a promo about "six young people who find themselves being hunted by inbred cannibals in the woods of West Virginia" — but we’ve come a long way from the time of literary critic H. L. Mencken, who openly discussed reducing the birthrate of "inferior orders, for example, the hillbillies of Appalachia."
Still, the region’s fame or infamy has forced writers and critics to dwell on what has been done to Appalachia, rather than what Appalachia has contributed to the world. For every Deliverance and its sodomites, we are quick to recall The Waltons in our collective memory, or more recently, the best-selling novel and Oscar-nominated Cold Mountain film. Or, in more tragic terms, for every Private Lynndie England, the defamed cigarette-lipped scapegoat of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, who hails from Fort Ashby, West Virginia, there is a heroic Private Jessica Lynch, from Palestine, West Virginia, molded into the image of Sergeant Alvin York, the Tennessee mountaineer and America's most famous soldier.
Appalachia, as author Wallace Stegner once remarked about the American Southwest, has been more a process than a place. Some critics would even say it has become an invention of its own. Sociologist Allen Batteau once voiced a common feeling that "Appalachia is a creature of the urban imagination." Since the first Spanish conquistador was informed of its existence in 1528 by distant tribes in Florida, Appalachia has certainly bewildered its explorers and inhabitants with its boundaries, its mystical forests, and its meaning.
But Appalachia does exist, both as a range and as a region. Beyond any singular culture, however, any "real Appalachia," the region has also endowed the nation with an enduring and conflicting treasury of innovations and innovators. That treasury, though, is rarely viewed beyond the surface or a few honorable exemplars — high lonesome singers and banjo players, black-faced coal miners, wizened front-porch storytellers — trotted out every so often to represent the entire region. Appalachian author Jim Wayne Miller once recounted an old tale about flat-boaters who traversed the Tennessee River at night, passing house after house with a "great fire burning, people dancing, always to the same fiddle tune." The boatmen didn’t realize they were caught in the "Boiling Pot" eddy, going in circles around the same house and its unchanging scene, unaware of the region’s greater wonders hidden in the forests like ginseng.
This is Appalachia’s best-kept secret: Far from being a "strange land with peculiar people," the mountains and hills have been a stage for some of the most quintessential and daring American experiences of innovation, rebellion, and social change.

This book is an attempt to get off that flatboat and enter another part of Appalachia, or, in fact, we should say Southern Appalachia, that mountain spine and its valley tributaries that trundle along the eastern and Southern states from northern Alabama to southwestern Pennsylvania. (The Appalachian Regional Commission actually defines Appalachia from southern New York to northern Mississippi.) It is not a definitive history of the region; instead, it is a portrait of a hidden Appalachia on the cutting edge, full of revolutionaries and pioneering stalwarts, abolitionists, laborers, journalists, writers, activists, and artists overlooked among the lineup of conventional Appalachian suspects.
Putting aside the banjos and pot-lickers, casting aside both the wearisome slurs and sentimental postcards, and taking a break from recounting the evil deeds done unto mountaineers, this book seeks to show how a remarkable procession of Appalachian-born innovators have gone from these hills, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, to find and shape the great America of our discovery.


Author Jeff Biggers brings the history and accomplishments of an often misunderstood region to life in his book The United States of Appalachia

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Byron Herbert Reece was born in 1917 at the foot of Blood Mountain in North Georgia. In 1935 he was admitted to Young Harris College, about 18 miles from his home, but had to leave to help out on the farm. When admitted he had already had some success publishing poetry in national publications. He attended sporadically from 1935 until 1940, but failed to graduate because of his refusal to take either mathematics or French.
He returned to the farm and wrote more poetry with increasing success in publication. In late 1943 Dutton agreed to publish a volume of poetry titled “The Ballad of the Bones.” By January 1946, the book was in its third printing and the mountain farmer found himself in increasing demand as an author. From 1946 until 1954 he published 4 volumes of poetry and 2 novels.
Byron Herbert Reece’s health began to fail and with it went much of his desire to write. The farm that was so central to him when he was younger became a burden, and he became ill with the tuberculosis that plagued his parents.
He entered a sanitorium in 1954 to control the TB, creating additional financial and emotional hardships. He relied on Guggenheim Fellowships and other grants to writers to cover his expenses rather than farming. He turned to teaching as well, spending terms at Emory, UCLA and finally returning to Young Harris College, too ill to continue to support himself by farming.

On June 3, 1958, with his final papers graded and neatly stacked and Mozart’s Piano Sonata in D playing on the phonograph, Reece shot himself in the diseased lung. He was not yet 41 years old.


"He was at work in the field. The sweat ran in trickles down his back and cascaded from his eyebrows into his eyes. The world was still and bright and fiery in the blaze of a July noon. He rested between the plow handles behind the mare. Sweat traced little rivers down the legs of the mare and dripped into the damp new-plowed ground between the corn rows.
The blades of the corn waved a little at the height of the mare’s back, they moved a little to the wind that came through them, diluted by each row of corn as it crossed the field. The wind was as active as a young pup in the sedge at the field’s edge. By the time it reached him it was like the warm and fetid breath of a dying animal.
As if it were the appointed time for her to come he looked up and saw Old Nance, his mother’s friend, hurrying toward him from the road. She came with her old ambling gait toward him down a corn row. He began to unhitch the traces. It seemed that he would faint from the heat and lie on the cool earth where the plow had turned up the dampness that dwelt below the surface of the soil.
He would escape the news bearer from the road. Old Nance, Old Nance who had been with his mother lying sick in her room. But he took the mare by the bridle and met her on the way."

From “Better a Dinner of Herbs” by Byron Herbert Reece


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Crazy laws still on the books

Better get started on putting that hitching post up outside your office building in Knoxville, TN. It’s still the law.
Virginia law forbids bathtubs in the house; tubs must be kept in the yard.
In Nicholas County, WV, no member of the clergy is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit during a church service.
A Kentucky statute says: “No female shall appear in a bathing suit on any highway within this state unless she is escorted by at least two officers or unless she be armed with a club.” Later, an amendment proposed: “The provisions of this statute shall not apply to any female weighing less than sixty pounds nor exceeding 200 pounds; nor shall it apply to female horses.”
In Forest City, NC you must notify City Hall before entering the town.
Cross-dressing in the town of Ironton, OH is not allowed and will send you to jail.
One is forbidden from eating juicy watermelons at the Magnolia Street Cemetery in Spartanburg, SC.
While in Huntsville, AL if you see someone in an animal control officer uniform, that means by law the person is in fact an animal control officer.
In Cumberland, MD you may not bring missiles to a playground.
It’s illegal to eat chicken with a fork in Gainesville, GA.



Christmas was the only day we had oysters

I detested oysters and perhaps that is why I remember this part of the day. I often sat in the kitchen and watched my father fix these oysters, dipping them in an egg mix and then coating them with cracker meal.

We did not have the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey. We had chicken because we raised most of our food. We also had ham but that was “store bought.” I remember how my father loved ham and oysters. But then, my father loved food. All year long, our cookie jar was never empty and pies and cakes were plentiful. It was on Christmas that we made Jell-O. I remember sitting a huge bowl of red Jell-O in the snow on Christmas morning. By dinnertime, it was set and this was the favorite dessert of all the siblings because we rarely had this fun food.

In that day, all our neighbors were also what you call economically disadvantaged by today’s standards. But oh, how rich we were. There was love and happiness and while my parents had worries about caring for us I am sure, it did not trickle down to us. We lived in a blind world of false security where everything was all right. And come to think of it, it usually was. We had food and warmth, and most of what we needed. Everyone worked, with even the smallest children having chores to do. Weren’t we so fortunate?

Maxine Corbett
Richwood, West Virginia
December, 2004

Ho Ho Ho!

During the Great Depression of the 1930s the Coca Cola Company created the image of Santa Claus that persists to today. Coke hired a Chicago artist to create a Christmas advertising campaign. The artist, Haddon Sundblom, produced a new archetype for Santa Claus. America during the Great Depression needed a hearty symbol of happy consumerism, and Sundblom gave him to us. The now famous Santa is no fairy tale pixie. He looks like a kindly uncle who enjoys his work. He raids the refrigerator and takes time to play with the family dog.


Traveling this holiday season?

Grab yourself an atlas or a map and whatever you do, drop by and say hello to the folks in:

Big Ugly, WV
Bucksnort, TN
Bugscuffle, TN
Bugtussle, KY
Bumpass, VA
Chicken Gizzard, KY
Croaker, VA
Crum, WV
Crummies, KY
Defeated, TN
Difficult, TN
Do Stop, KY
Duck Town, TN
Finger, TN
Frogtown, VA
Goochland, VA
Goosepimple Junction, VA
Gum Neck, NC
HooHoo, WV
Looneyville, WV
Lost City, WV
Monkeys Elbow, KY
Mousie, KY
Mud Lick, KY
Mutt, VA
Nameless, TN
Nitro, WV
Nuttsville, VA
Odd, WV
Oddville, KY
Ogle, KY
Only, TN
Ordinary, VA


Paw, WV
Pinch, WV
Rabbit Hash, KY
Smartt, TN
Spring Lick, KY
Static, TN
Sweet Lips, TN
Tick Bite, NC
Toast, NC
Typo, KY
War, WV
Whynot, NC
Yum Yum, TN
Out of Frame: Regional Stereotypes in Photography
Date: December 19, 2015 By Lou Murrey

Earlier this year, a photo essay published by Vice Magazine titled “Two Days in Appalachia” provoked controversy over the portrayal of the region in the media. The images were made in the photographer Bruce Gilden’s signature style, using a harsh flash and zooming in on his subject to an almost-uncomfortable and unflattering degree. The piece solicited a strong online debate, with some commenters objecting that the photographs perpetuated a derogatory stereotype and narrow view of the region, and others defending the artistic merits of the work. To understand why Gilden’s photographs caused such an outcry from some people living in the region, it is important to have an understanding of the history of Appalachian imagery.
The late 19th century and early 20th century saw the re-discovery of culture and resources in the Appalachian Mountains by the rest of the country. Missionaries, industrialists, scholars, writers, photographers and the like perceived these wild and untouched mountains as America’s last frontier, to be used for the coal beneath the ground and the lumber on its hillsides, or a chance to preserve the last remnant of “Pioneer America.”
Child-labor advocate Thomas Robinson Dawley selected photographs of families in western North Carolina and East Tennessee in his 1912 unofficial government-report-turned-book, The Child that Toileth Not, to highlight the ignorance, lawlessness and immorality of the mountain people as a justification for industrialization. Northern missionaries and educators flooded into Appalachia, determined to preserve and enhance the lifestyle of the hard-working, hand-hewn and independent mountain people who still spoke in Elizabethan tongue.
Simultaneously, colorful stories appeared in the well-established Atlantic Monthly magazine that characterized the people in Appalachia as uneducated moonshiners and hillbillies, designed to entertain urban readers.
This era of re-discovery resulted in two polarizing and anglo-centric stereotypes that have continued to represent Appalachia: that of the wizened but simple mountaineer on the verge of extinction, and his brother, the poor, ignorant and sometimes dangerous hillbilly.
Bayard Wootten’s photographs for Muriel Early Sheppard’s 1935 book, Cabins in the Laurel, present the Appalachian people as ignorant and unindustrialized. Wootten’s portraits and Sheppard’s writing omit any evidence that industrialization or broader American culture had ever reached Southern Appalachia, when in fact the railroads had been running lines through the region since the 1850s. Appalachian State University history professor Ralph E. Lentz wrote that while Cabins in the Laurel was well-received by critics outside of western North Carolina, the subjects of the book were less than pleased to be presented as “backward, illiterate, drunken hicks.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Appalachian photography is also commonly associated with the image of the dignified and wise but simple mountaineer, who is the last of his kind. Photographer Doris Ulmann’s beautiful and nostalgic portraits for the 1937 book Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands echo this sentiment. When Ulmann arrived in western North Carolina in 1932, she would ask her subjects to change out of their normal clothes and into their old-time linsey-woolsey clothing to look the part of the “Appalachian mountaineer.”
It is worth noting that with the arrival of the railroad came the Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue; so even though people in the mountains were unable to afford all the amenities of modern life, many were aware of and able to follow the fashion of the day. But in Ulmann’s images of the Appalachian people, bonneted and barefoot women spin wool and churn butter and old men wield handmade tools.
“Ulmann consciously sought those people who fit the Appalachian stereotype because she believed they were a disappearing species in modern, 20th century America,” Lentz writes.
The photographer’s desire to collect and preserve the traditional Appalachian mountaineer, while well-intentioned, produced a popular assumption that to be considered Appalachian you had to be isolated and of Scotch-Irish or English descent. Even the magnificent landscape photographs made by George Masa to advocate for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the 1920s tell the story of a geography so remote there was nary a sign of human life in the mountains. In reality, hundreds of people were displaced from their homes in order to build the national park.
These narratives depict Appalachia, for better and for worse, as an isolated land of poverty, backwardness, fierce religiosity and tradition. This singular view became the standard for representation of the region in the canon of popular culture. While the images are certainly rooted in elements of truth, they often fail to represent residents of Appalachia as people from differing racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds with a full spectrum of emotions and experiences.
Additionally, photographs that continue to just show one view of the region, like the ones that appeared in “Two Days in Appalachia” piece, suggest the culture in Appalachia does not differ from hill to holler to city. This kind of homogenization of an entire region establishes a rigid set of criteria for what it looks like to be Appalachian, denying many people their sense of belonging to the area. As Affrilachian poet and social media activist Crystal Good implored on her Facebook page in response to the photo essay, “Ain’t I Appalachian too?”
There have been photographers both before and since the discovery of Appalachia who have made meaningful, authentic work that represents the complexities of the region. These photographs, until recently, lacked the sensationalism to make it into the media.
The advent of social media has provided an opportunity to look at Appalachia through a wide-angle lens. Increased access to the internet and websites like Instagram and Facebook have broadened the diversity of images and stories coming from the region.
Contemporary movements include the “Affrilachian Artists Project,” which aims to build community among artists of color living in and inspired by the mountains, the Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project’s Appalachian Love Story campaign which encourages individuals to share their own photographs and stories using the hashtag #appalachianlovestory, or the “Looking at Appalachia Fifty Years After the War on Poverty” project created by Roger May. All around Appalachia there are photographers engaged in a dialogue to change and expand perception of the region, allowing folks to declare ‘hey, I’m Appalachian too.’

Lou Murrey is a photographer from western North Carolina. Her work has appeared in The Sun Magazine, the North Carolina Folklore Journal, and the Looking at Appalachia Project. She was the photographer and co-creator of The Blue Ridge Farm Book with Blue Ridge Women and Agriculture. Lou Murrey’s work can be found at and on instagram at lnmurrey.

Doris Ulmann, “Maggie Lewis and Wilma Creech, Pine Mountain, KY,” 1934

Broadening our view of Appalachia
Compiled by Melanie Harsha, Lou Murrey and Molly Moore


Ed Shepard has owned a gas station in the town of Welch, W.Va., for over sixty years. A prominent local figure, Shepard is depicted in the mural behind him. Spangler says, “He was telling me what was in place in the county when it was a boomtown when he was a young man. He was telling me the stories of his town and he was so proud of it.” Visit, Instagram @ClaytonSpangler


Zhada Johnson holds a chicken at Gardens United’s Pisgah View Peace Garden, a community growing space that raises awareness of healthy eating and creates jobs for a public housing neighborhood in West Asheville, N.C. Etheredge consciously tries not to perpetuate visual stereotypes of the region. “I don’t think that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to portray something, but you must have a moral compass.“ Learn more at


In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in the United States and images of Appalachia became its poster child. Fifty years later in 2014, Roger May, a photographer with roots in Kentucky and West Virginia, started a web-based project in which he asked photographers to submit images that explore the diversity of the region and expand the visual narrative. The project takes place on an annual basis, and photos must be taken within one of the 420 counties designated as Appalachia by the Appalachian Regional Commission. May makes an effort to say that he is “making” rather than “taking” photographs, because making a photograph invites the subject to be a part of the creation of the image. “Whether it was coal, mineral rights, or images, the people in Appalachia have already had enough taken from them.” Visit, Instagram @LookingAtAppalachia


This image of two clogging dancers at Plott Fest in Haywood County, N.C., was a Culture Finalist in the 10th Annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition. The competition, now in its 13th year, recognizes images of “the unique character, people, places, and pursuits that distinguish the Southern Appalachians.” “It’s real people and real landscapes,” competition coordinator Rich Campbell says. “I really feel like it’s important to try to create a collection that is authentic.” Vist


In fall 2014, students at Vine Middle School in Knoxville, Tenn., created a book documenting the community history of their school. The youth took photos of their current experiences, drew maps highlighting their neighborhoods’ strengths and interviewed community members. The project was facilitated by the grassroots organization KnowHow, which supports leadership development and community engagement among young people through youth-led programs in the arts and media. Learn more at

Broadening our view of Appalachia
Compiled by Melanie Harsha, Lou Murrey and Molly Moore


Youth Night is one of the most anticipated events at the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention. ”It’s important for me to be part of the community,” says Jarrett, who works for the Virginia Folklife Program, a cultural heritage organization that showcases images of the region. “I would happily sacrifice a great photograph for a great relationship in a community.” Learn more at, Instagram @patjarrett


“My goal is to present the people I was photographing without a political rhetoric,” King states, “just to present these people as they are and to strip away all these ideas that people put on them just to show that they are ordinary people just like the rest of us living here in Appalachia just doing their thing.” The day after this picture was taken a person called the police station to report that two “Mexicans” were seen impersonating officers and stealing the cop car, King says. “It just reiterates the point of my project.” Learn more at, Instagram @mgking_


“Nitro,” a project originally about the company Monsanto, focuses on a small West Virginia town. “After spending time in the town and meeting with residents and activists,” Fowler states, “I began to realize that at its heart it’s a story about Appalachia.” Referring to this photograph of Stormy walking home from school, Fowler says, “For me, this image was an important reminder of the cultural shift that’s taking place in the region as the economy begins to diversify away from coal and chemical manufacturing.” Learn more at, Instagram @kateelizabethfowler

History Of Black Mountain

Black Mountain, North Carolina, is a small town in the western part of the state located just 13 miles from Asheville. This town was home to Black Mountain College, one of the most respected and renowned art colleges in the United States. Now serving as a museum and arts center that honors the history of the college and the town, this popular tourist destination has a past worthy of that museum.

Black Mountain, North Carolina, is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, right under the peak of Black Mountain, which it's named for. This town is on the far western part of the state, by Cherokee National Forest and only 13 miles from the city of Asheville. The town is also less than 30 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that runs through both North Carolina and Tennessee.

The land where Black Mountain now sits originally was settled by the Cherokees. After the American Revolutionary War, Col. Samuel Winslow Davidson settled in the area and was one of the earliest pioneers to begin a settlement that would become Black Mountain. The town was on a natural route for pioneers heading west, and so it thrived throughout the decades and centuries to follow.

The College
Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 by John A. Rice and was a radical college that was centered around the idea that arts are a critical and indispensable part of a student's liberal arts education. The college was owned and operated by the faculty, who shared with students in the work for upkeep, from cooking to washing dishes, to tending the gardens. The school shut down in 1957, but its influence on the town and on arts in general is recognized to this day.

Impact of the Arts
The impact of the arts still remains in Black Mountain and the surrounding areas. The town was mentioned in a 2007 "New York Times" article as a "haven for the arts." There are many art galleries, poetry readings and other cultural events in the town. Nearby Asheville is home to Warren Wilson College, considered one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation.

Famous Ties
There are many famous ties to the Black Mountain area. Some of the people who were members of the Black Mountain College Board of Directors included scientist Albert Einstein and poet William Carlos Williams, and famous artists who worked as professors included painters such as Willem and Elaine de Kooning. Author Thomas Wolfe was born in neighboring Asheville, North Carolina, and singer Roberta Flack was born in Black Mountain, and she become a Grammy winning singer.

Black Mountain Firehouse

The Black Mountain Fire Department was created in 1912 in response to a devastating fire that destroyed most of the town’s buildings along Sutton Ave. across the street from the train depot.
In 1920, the volunteer firemen solicited the townspeople for funds to build a firehouse, and in 1921, Asheville’s premiere architect, Richard Sharp Smith, designed and built the building that now houses the Swannanoa Valley Museum.


The architecture set a model for other buildings in downtown Black Mountain built in the 1920s that today give the community its “small town, old-time charm.”
The fire house served the town for 63 years, but was vacated in 1984 when the Fire Department moved to new quarters on Montreat Road. The Town of Black Mountain leased the building to the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s governing board in 1989, and gave them the deed in 2000.

Located in the Historic District of Black Mountain, the building is listed both locally and nationally as a contributing building in the Black Mountain Downtown Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Swannanoa Valley Museum considers the building its most important artifact. Recently, structural work was completed and a new 50-year roof was installed to protect the historic structure from further deterioration and to restore the façade to the original Richard Sharp Smith design.

Further work is needed to renovate and upgrade the interior, and plans call for additions that will more than double the Museum’s space. To that end, the Museum is engaged in a Capital Campaign to raise funds to complete the project.

Richard Sharp Smith (1852-1924)

The young English architect Richard Sharp Smith, designer of the 1921 Black Mountain Fire House, came to the area in 1889 in the employ of famed New York architect Richard Morris Hunt. Hunt, a personal friend of George W. Vanderbilt, had designed Vanderbilt’s Buncombe County mansion, Biltmore House, and he assigned Smith to serve as the supervising architect for the project.


Upon Hunt’s death in 1895, Smith served as Vanderbilt’s resident architect for six years before opening his private practice in Asheville. Smith designed much of Biltmore Village, and by the end of his first decade in private practice, he was recognized as Asheville’s most prominent architect.

In 1906, Smith took on partners Ralph and Albert Heath Carrier, forming the firm of Smith and Carrier. For the next 18 years, the firm designed and built many private homes as well as the Legal Building, the Masonic Temple, the Chapel for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and the Young Men’s Institute (YMI) building in downtown Asheville.

The Black Mountain Fire House is one of only two remaining structures designed by Smith and Carrier in the Swannanoa Valley, the other being the gymnasium/pool addition to the Terry Estate, InTheOaks.

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-----sparked a memory-------------
Long ago, (when i was young, life was fun, and the world was beautiful) while stationed at Ft. Ritchie, I used to volunteer for the Appalachian plantings. (Mostly in West Virginia)and most guys didn't want that duty,
What I remember (circa 1969-70)
Beautiful country, scary hairpinned switchback roads, pretty women, ...
2 plantings stand out in my memory
...One, as the ncoic handed the flag to the dead guys mom, she spit in his face and threw the flag on the ground-------poor bastard lost it, and lost the ability to think and command---I had to take charge and get the guys back on the bus. (We weren't welcome there)
...At the other end of the spectrum, everyone was delighted that the dead guy was dead----they all seemed to believe that "he had gone to a better place". The hearse was a grey 57 cadillac with hay in the back left over from it's previous alternate use. They invited us to a feast complete with moonshine---I convinced the ncoic that refusing the invitation would be taken as a grave insult, great feast, good cheer, sanity prevailed and we didn't let the driver anywhere near the moon.