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Uneven Ground

Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945

Ronald D Eller
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Uneven Ground
    Book Description:

    Appalachia has played a complex and often contradictory role in the unfolding of American history. Created by urban journalists in the years following the Civil War, the idea of Appalachia provided a counterpoint to emerging definitions of progress. Early-twentieth-century critics of modernity saw the region as a remnant of frontier life, a reflection of simpler times that should be preserved and protected. However, supporters of development and of the growth of material production, consumption, and technology decried what they perceived as the isolation and backwardness of the place and sought to "uplift" the mountain people through education and industrialization.

    Ronald D Eller has worked with local leaders, state policymakers, and national planners to translate the lessons of private industrial-development history into public policy affecting the region. In Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945, Eller examines the politics of development in Appalachia since World War II with an eye toward exploring the idea of progress as it has evolved in modern America. Appalachia's struggle to overcome poverty, to live in harmony with the land, and to respect the diversity of cultures and the value of community is also an American story. In the end, Eller concludes, "Appalachia was not different from the rest of America; it was in fact a mirror of what the nation was becoming."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7320-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. “How America Came to the Mountains”
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
    Jim Wayne Miller
    (pp. 1-8)

    Americans have an enduring faith in the power of development to improve the quality of our lives. At least since the late nineteenth century, we have associated progress toward the attainment of a better society with measures of industrial production, urbanization, consumption, technology, and the adoption of modern education and cultural values. Early in the twentieth century, we assumed that movement along the road to the good life was best left to the engine of private enterprise, but after the Great Depression and World War II, government played a larger role in assuring economic growth and incorporating minorities into the...

    (pp. 9-52)

    There was more than a little sarcasm in the reply of Harriette Arnow’s fictional character to the soldier whose car she had stopped on a Kentucky mountain road during World War II. The upper Cumberland area, like most of Appalachia, was still an overwhelmingly rural place, rich in natural beauty and the cultural heritage of the frontier, but it had become a paradox on the American landscape, a rich land inhabited by a poor people. A region of small farms and scattered villages, Appalachia had been swept up by the tidal surge of industrialization that engulfed the United States in...

    (pp. 53-89)

    The winters of 1959 and 1960 were unusually harsh in Appalachia, bringing additional burdens to an already hard-pressed land. The destruction of the record flood of 1957 could still be seen in many mountain communities, and a national recession only deepened the economic crisis in the hills. Throughout central Appalachia, hundreds of displaced coal miners faced the specter of expired unemployment benefits and dwindling food supplies. Heavy snows and subfreezing temperatures resulted in several deaths from starvation and exposure. Kentucky governor Happy Chandler declared an emergency in eastern Kentucky and initiated a modest relief effort, but state resources were inadequate...

    (pp. 90-128)

    It is difficult to separate the War on Poverty from the effusive confidence that permeated American society in the 1960s. Faith in the ability of economic expansion to produce abundance and a more equitable, just society seemed inherently logical. For a generation that had overcome the Depression, conquered fascism, and harnessed unprecedented technology, the future was brimming with opportunity. Lyndon Johnson hoped to tap this energy for change to extend the promise of American abundance to everyone, even those marginalized by race and class in urban ghettoes and by the accident of birth in rural places like Appalachia. Although much...

    (pp. 129-176)

    Controversy surrounded the War on Poverty from the beginning. In Appalachia, as in the nation’s inner cities, the crusade kindled the flames of long smoldering dissent and eventually sparked a backlash of resistance from the old power brokers. Along with the civil rights movement and later the Vietnam War, the struggle to end poverty unmasked profound social divisions in America and in Appalachia.

    Early popular enthusiasm for the campaign concealed a society of disparate values and competing conceptions of the American dream. Even the scholars and bureaucrats who designed the antipoverty program disagreed over the causes of poverty and the...

    (pp. 177-220)

    The modern American faith in technology and growth was nowhere more evident than in the programs of the ARC. Just as the OEO attempted to alleviate Appalachian otherness by modernizing mountain culture, the ARC sought to bring the promise of a modern economy to the mountains. Confidence in American capitalism and faith in science, technology, and public planning convinced most postwar policy makers that growth produced prosperity and that economic expansion could be managed to create better communities. For the designers of the legislation that created the ARC, the construction of “developmental” highways, vocational schools, health facilities, and other public...

    (pp. 221-260)

    In the heart of the mountains and along the northern and southern fringes of the region, the new Appalachia and the old survived side by side. During the years since the War on Poverty and the creation of the special program for Appalachian development, some communities had prospered and grown, while others had languished and declined. Everywhere the region’s people were drawn into the web of a more modern and complex world. Growth centers and hollows alike had developed a greater dependence on the national economy and culture, although some communities had benefited from government-sponsored programs more than had others....

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 261-283)
    (pp. 284-297)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 298-328)
  16. Illustrations
    (pp. None)