United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture, and Enlightenment to America

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Few places in the United States confound and fascinate Americans like Appalachia, yet no other area has been so markedly mischaracterized by the mass media. Stereotypes of hillbillies and rednecks repeatedly appear in representations of the region, but few, if any, of its many heroes, visionaries, or innovators are ever referenced.

Make no mistake, they are legion: from Anne Royall, America's first female muckraker, to Sequoyah, a Cherokee mountaineer who invented the first syllabary in modern times, and international divas Nina Simone and Bessie Smith, as well as writers Cormac McCarthy, Edward Abbey, and Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck, Appalachia has contributed mightily to American culture — and politics. Not only did eastern Tennessee boast the country's first antislavery newspaper, Appalachians also established the first District of Washington as a bold counterpoint to British rule. With humor, intelligence, and clarity, Jeff Biggers reminds us how Appalachians have defined and shaped the United States we know today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this pleasing if imperfect study, Biggers (editor of No Lonesome Road) argues that the roots of American politics and culture are found not in Philadelphia or New York, but in Appalachia. The North Carolina Patriots, who declared themselves free of British rule long before Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, anticipated America's revolutionary, republican spirit. And if you thought the antislavery movement was born in Boston, think again. In the early 19th century, Appalachians John Rankin and Benjamin Lundy advocated emancipation; indeed, Lundy was largely responsible for winning William Lloyd Garrison to the cause. Finally, noting the importance of the Highlander Folk School in training civil rights activists, Biggers credits Appalachia with significantly advancing the cause of school desegregation. Biggers has a tendency to overwrite (Nina Simone "celebrated a Cherokee great-great-grandmother, a Scotch-Irish elation torn into her maternal past..."). Still, this attempt to rescue Appalachia from its reputation as a backwater is likely to be a hit in the region it lauds. Map. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593761516
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,023,658
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning of The United States of Appalachia, and In the Sierra Madre. He has worked as a writer, radio correspondent and educator across the United States, Europe, India and Mexico. His award-winning stories have appeared on National Public Radio, Public Radio International and in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, among others. He splits his time between Tucson and Illinois. His website is: www.jeffbiggers.com

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Table of Contents

Preface     xi
Prologue: Rank Strangers     1
The Trail of Words     25
The First Washington, D.C.     45
Down from the Mountain     67
The Emancipators     81
All the News That's Fit to Print     103
The Great American Industrial Saga     135
We Shall Overcome     169
Epilogue: We Are All Appalachians     195
Acknowledgments     213
Bibliographic Notes     215
Index     227
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2007

    Marvelous yet imperfect

    An incurably compassionate and a region that has breathtaking cruelty, Appalachia is a land that seems simple with simple but has rich history and a deceiving face (including the people.) The people are very proud, and they deserve to be proud, as this very good book illuminates about a land in which hardy immigrants and Cherokee sometimes fought and loved each other literally. I am an Appalachian and 1/16 Cherokee, so I am very biased for this region. It is the epitome of the country, producing some of the greatest writers in recent memory such as Pearl S. Buck, Cormac McCarthy, Barbara Kingsolver, Thomas Wolfe, and Mark Twain (who was conceived and influenced by the twang of the Appalachian near the Illinois-Missouri Ozark border) and so many others. The civil rights movement and the playing out by the labor unions I had never knew about but I didn't out, because if there is one thing in them hills you do expect it's uncertainty and complexity. Never underestimate us. We started the American Revolution after all! Read here!!! And yes, I have all my teeth and I can read or reed, depending on your prejudices. Only thing Biggers doesn't go in great detail about is the role of the Cherokee, perhaps the most powerful tribe in commerce and warfare after the Sioux.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2006

    American History You Never Learned In School

    Simply put, this book is a marvel. Jeff Biggers has done a tremendous job pulling the ugly stereotype off Appalachia, only to expose a magnificent culture comprised of innovators, fighters and geniuses of all stripes. It's an important book, especially in light of the coal industry's doggedly determined efforts to eliminate Appalachian culture by eliminating the Appalachians themselves. 'The United States of Appalachia' will surprise you, inform you, amuse you and, at the end of it all, make you feel all the better for having read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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