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A Darkness at Dawn

A Darkness at Dawn: Appalachian Kentucky and the Future

Copyright Date: 1976
Edition: 1
Pages: 90
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  • Book Info
    A Darkness at Dawn
    Book Description:

    Outspoken Appalachian writer Harry M. Caudill analyzes the exploitation and decline of the eastern Kentucky mountain lands, which have rendered "no people in the nation...more forlorn than the Appalachian highlanders in our time." Frontier attitudes, a strong attachment to the land, and isolation have produced in Appalachia a backwoods culture which made its people susceptible to an outside exploitation of their resources that has perpetrated on them a passive society largely dependant on relief.

    But the times, says Mr. Caudill, are changing. A growing world population and global industrialization have created a drastically altered situation in eastern Kentucky. The area's resources of energy are essential to the progress and well-being not only of the nation but also of the world; and the world is prepared to court the favor of the people who control these resources and is prepared to pay the price demanded by those owners. Mr. Caudill makes an eloquent plea for Kentuckians to reclaim the resources that lie in their mountains and to demand their fair share of the wealth generated by those resources. If they are willing to do this, the state and especially the people in eastern Kentucky can have a bright and prosperous future. But they can delay no longer. They must break the mold of passivity and take destiny into their own hands.

    An attorney in Whitesburg, Kentucky,Harry M. Caudillis the author of such well-known books asNight Comes to the Cumberlands,Dark Hills to Westward, andMy Land is Dying.

    The Kentucky Bicentennial Bookshelf is a celebration of two centuries of the history and culture of the Commonwealth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5027-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
    (pp. 1-10)

    Every person and society is a product of two factors, genes and culture. The workings of each is still poorly understood if, indeed, it is understood at all. A culture—the subconsciously and deeply ingrained “truths,” mores, prejudices, biases, superstitions, and preferences that link a people together—can bind as surely as shackles of steel. But as those bonds are forged slowly over many generations so they outlast steel, enduring until their origins are lost in the shadowy mists of a common beginning. In Kentucky, folk memories go back to Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland, but these were only way...

    (pp. 11-25)

    The backwoods culture that was thus set down within the enshielding hills had certain strengths that have endured tenaciously to the present despite the assaults of television, the automobile, and a whole series of socially revolutionary traumas. The first was a sense of place, a strong attachment to familiar valleys with their meandering creeks and cliff-capped hills. The land makes such an attachment easy because the terrain is varied and, to one who looks closely, displays countless distinguishing features. It is a friendly environment with adequate rain, gentle winters, and cool summers. The hills shoulder storms away, and until the...

    (pp. 26-37)

    Grown complacent and prosperous in seven fat years, mining companies were stunned as nearly half their markets vanished within a three-year span. Loaded gondolas piled up at the tipples, then were sold for less than cost. Price-cutting garnered orders that merely deepened the distress. Expenses had to be reduced and always precarious safety precautions were curtailed. The industry declared war on the United Mine Workers of America and, in a decade of new strife, managed to drive the half-starved men out of the union and into the pits at less than half their former wages. Many operations allowed Workmen’s Compensation...

    (pp. 38-61)

    The mission schools and church-supported colleges have educated countless youths who otherwise would have continued in the old rut of ignorance and poverty. In one respect, however, these schools, like the public schools, have been calamitous: they have educated their students for the outside world rather than for the building of prosperity and well-being at home. They have, as a rule, given a glimpse of distant urbia, and the graduates have taken their diplomas to areas already surfeited with the well trained while their homeland suffers from a chronic lack of educated brains. Schools at all levels have been guilty...

    (pp. 62-68)

    Arnold Toynbee has written that the Appalachian highlanders are the Western world’s prime example of a people who faced a great challenge and surrendered to it. He may be right, but it is not too late to turn back and face the old challenge again, this time with new resolve and fresh insights. If we do rise to that challenge and enlarge our aspirations the mountain may come to Mahomet after all. In our own time, or soon thereafter, Swiss tourists may hike through our Appalachian woodlands and Swiss industrialists may maintain accounts in famous banks not far from Crummies...

    (pp. 69-79)

    In other years Kentucky and its highland people could offer plausible sounding excuses for the backwardness of the Cumberlands. It was said that the region lacked arterial highways and the state lacked funds to build them. Schoolhouses were few and inadequate, and there were not enough teachers. Isolation had generated such palpable ignorance as to make the population immovable. Too many people and an unregenerative agriculture bound them to rural poverty and made sound land use impossible. There was so much hardwood timber in America that the eastern Kentucky lumber markets were doomed to perpetual depression. The coal industry was...

  9. A Suggested Bibliography
    (pp. 80-82)