“These Big-Boned, Semi-Barbarian People”: <i>Creation of the Myth of Violent Appalachia and Its Consequences, 1878–1890</i>

Bruce E. Stewart

in Moonshiners and Prohibitionists

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780813130002
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135670 | DOI:
“These Big-Boned, Semi-Barbarian People”: Creation of the Myth of Violent Appalachia and Its Consequences, 1878–1890

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The stereotype of Appalachia as “the home of the hunter, the moonshiner, and the beasts of the forest” began during the antebellum period and would gain widespread acceptance among northern and southern townspeople after the Civil War. In the 1870s, journalists and local colorists portrayed mountain whites as both violent and savage as a means to highlight the cultural superiority of urban, middle-class Victorians and to celebrate modernity and progress. They used moonshiners as a symbol of what was wrong with Appalachia and proposed that only industrialization could change the behavior of mountain residents. To salvage their reputation in the media, urban highlanders blamed the people of the countryside, farmers who refused to adopt the new customs and mores of an industrialized, modernized Appalachia. By doing so, however, they had unwittingly helped create and perpetuate the region's negative image.

Keywords: North Carolina; Appalachia; local color writing; cultural hierarchy; urban middle-class citizens; moonshiners; industrialization

Chapter.  7395 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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