The mountainous land that stretches from New York to Mississippi. These mountains are beautiful and are home to my children's ancestors on both sides. My Mother's family hails from Western Maryland, my husband's parents are both from "the hollers" of West Virginia. I feel at home when I visit the mountains of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. My soul seems to recognize it. It embraces the vast skies, the woods, the undulating skyline, the high and winding mountain roads, the waterfalls, trails, and hollows.
Appalachia has gotten a bad rap. It's not all feuding hillbillies and toothless coal miners. However, as with many stereotypes, the misconceptions about the Appalachian people have some basis in reality.
Half of Appalachia is rural, and over 50 percent of the population lives in those rural areas.1 An article I read uses Mc Dowell, WVA as an example: " ...the poverty rate is 33% with 49.4% of the children living in poverty...Sixty seven percent of the households have no wastewater treatment, allowing 314,000 gallons of untreated waste per day to enter streams and rivers."2 The same article claims "In some areas of Appalachia, as many as 16.8 percent of the homes are classified as substandard. That is, it has more people than rooms and is without indoor plumbing."
On the other hand, Appalachia was the birthplace of its own musical style which eventually gave birth to Bluegrass which arguably is one of the major roots of country music. Appalachian music began as a blend of Scottish and Irish music and added in the banjo, borrowed from African-American blues musicians. This region provided fuel for a nation for years, even as it killed the land and its people. Appalachia isn't only coal, timber, and ski resorts: steel, aluminum, and petrochemical manufacturing all began in the area. And without Appalachia, we'd have no Daniel Boone, Jennifer Garner, The Judds, Dollywood, the Appalachian Trail, or any of these fabulous sayings.
- On average, 20% of the people in the region live below the poverty line (the current national poverty rate for a family of four is $20,650 a year, i.e. $1,720 a month) 3
- Extraction abuses by the coal industry, especially through mountain top removal, has destroyed more than 1,000,000 acres of forests, 500 mountains, and buried over 1,000 miles of streams in the Appalachian region.3
- 1/3 of all of West Virginia's children are born into poverty.3
- The rich coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, and West Virginia are now home to 6 million people, over half of whom live in rural areas, with some counties having less than 25,000 residents. 3
- Appalachia "tends to be heavily forested and rich in natural resources, especially coal, iron ore, and natural gas. There also is a tourism industry in parts of Appalachia, especially in higher elevations, where ski resorts operate during the winter months."4
- Though industry and business did exist in Appalachia prior to the 20th century in such major modern industries like agriculture, large-scale coal mining, and timber, many Appalachianites sold their rights to land and minerals to such corporations, to the extent that 99 percent of the residents control less than half of the land. Thus, though the area has a wealth of natural resources, natives are often poor.5
- The earliest settlers of the area were Irish, German, and Scottish, though the Cherokee Nation lived on the land before that.6
Here are some fascinating reads about Appalachia:
And here is a beautiful Tumblr full of Appalachian imagry.
I'd love for you to take a look at some of the black and white images of Appalachia that I have found...
[as always on this blog, click the picture to find the source of the image.]