Friday, April 06, 2018

Elizabeth Catte - "What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia"

Elizabeth Catte writes some great stuff. She's Appalachian, and wisely rebutts all of the easy clichés and stereotypes, including Hillbilly Elegy. But not through academic knowledge alone, through actual lived experience. Check out her website here.

At first I was excited about Hillbilly Elegy and the re-emergence of the Scotch-Irish/Scots-Irish 'nation' in the American consciousness. But then I read it and was disappointed. It became the easy 'go-to' for the urban media class scrambling for explanations for the Trump victory. The Scotch-Irish story is far broader, deeper and more important than that.

Rev Robert Fishburne Campbell (1858-1947) of First Presbyterian Church, Asheville, North Carolina, also had some interesting things to say about Appalachian stereotypes, almost 120 years ago. Some he refutes, but others he confirms.

• Here’s a 1901 booklet entitled Classification of Mountain Whites. He suggests that there are three classes of people in the mountains, with the Scotch-Irish being the virtuous and industrious ones. Make of that what you will. 

• Here’s another by Campbell on Mission Work among the Mountain Whites (1899)

• here’s one entitled Some Aspects of the Race Problem in the South from the same year.

There are a few biographies of Campbell online. Like us all, a man of his time, but he seems to have been prominent and influential. Here’s one on It’s important to consider all of the angles, and to be honest about the biases and contexts of the past. We today all have our own biases, even subconscious. As does the media.

Mission work

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Some Aspects of the Race Problem in the South Blog


shannon said...

I’m reading John C. Campbell’s “The Southern Highlander & His Homeland” right now. As far as I know, he is is no relation to the earlier Campbell, but Elizabeth Catte’s book sparked me to look back at it.