Thursday, March 1, 2012

Appalachia in Black and White


Appalachia. 

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.


Here are some more statistics from various sources:
  • 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.]



































10 comments:

  1. Loved this! Thanks Jen, the photo's are amazing!

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    1. Sandi, glad you like them. I really enjoyed doing the research for this one!
      xoxo

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  2. Beautiful, Jen. I'm from a county seat in Ohio, on the very edge of Appalachia, and my dad is from one of those hollers in West Virginia. I think that much of my "make it yourself" mentality stems from watching my grandparents, sew, weld, tie, glue, hammer and engineer what they HAD to make what they NEEDED. Thank you for seeing the tenacity and strength of a very misunderstood group. I have my own images of my hometown on my blog-- also in black and white and also posted with love. The images are of buildings in a depressed downtown area, but I talk about the people and the people are the same as I see here. http://www.curiouspebble.com/2011/07/zanesville-in-black-and-white.html.

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    1. Thank you, Julianna. I know I replied to this the other day on my phone. Guess it didn't "take". Hmph.

      I enjoyed looking through your post, and blog. I am also pleased to see that my post hit a happy spot with you. I was careful not to cater to any prejudices people hold against Appalachia.

      xoxo

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    2. Oops! Now I see my reply. Oh well, I had more to say anyway. ;)

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  3. Sandi, Julianna, I'm glad you liked the post. The pictures are so beautiful and moving, aren't they?

    Julianna, I looked at your post. How lovely! That y-shaped bridge is too cool! I miss my home as much as you miss yours, though mine doesn't have half the history yours does. Still, it's home.

    xoxo

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  4. Did you notice: the men in the photos are, for the most part, fairly happy or pleasant. The women look defiant.

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  5. Thank you so much for this post. I was born in NE Tennessee and came back after being away for 16 years. My grandfather came from the hollers of West Virginia and the rest from Virginia. The biggest Appalachian archives is set at the university here (ETSU) and they have a program in Appalachian studies at the school. This is a very different area from any that I have lived and I love it!

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    1. Susan, I'm glad the post resonated with you. I can tell you're proud of this beautiful area of our country - and with good reason!
      xoxo

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  6. Sorry for the delay in replying to comments, everyone! I'm slow-but-sure. ;)

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xoxo
jen