Ian C. Hartman argues that fantasies about white Appalachian residents influenced the demise of the War on Poverty and of post-World War II liberalism. His tantalizing thesis forces one to think about the visible treatment—and obscured uses—of the rural poor in the halls of power. Though its parts do not fit seamlessly together, In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett: Race, Culture, and the Politics of Representation in the Upland South skillfully connects several threads to highlight the links between race and region.
The first three chapters fuse topics that have inspired monographs and journal articles: "local color" writers' construction of hillbillies, Theodore Roosevelt's pronouncements on racial integrity, Indiana's eugenic sterilization campaign, the contours of Buckv. Bell(1921), and culture workers' investments in folk festivals. Hartman shows how literature, biological science, missionary work, and policy making spoke the same language, with minor differences in inflection. When Hartman makes the jump to the 1950s and 1960s, in chapter 4, he brings together conversations that have largely buzzed in different corners of the room. The symbolic duo that animates the first half of Hartman's study—hardy Anglo-Saxon pioneers and lounging brutes without ambition—reappears as the subject of the media's and federal government's rediscovery of Appalachian poverty. The journalism of the New York Times's Homer Bigart, John F. Kennedy's Area Redevelopment Administration, and the exposés of Michael Harrington and Harry Caudill all adopted an image of white mountain men in need of intervention. Those projects were popular enough to give Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson some executive clout, but support for the Great Society waned when white voters felt cheated by governments that were assisting African Americans instead of (white) mountaineers. We can measure the rise and fall of that electoral support, Hartman hints, via the sudden popularity of televised rural comedies and their abrupt departure by 1972.
This summary hardly captures the scope of the book, but it suggests how Hartman's connections expose the arbitrary nature of regional stereotypes, racialist conceptions, and us-versus-them thinking. There is a slight problem with tone in the book, indicating that some of the hand-wringing has been read back into the material. Hartman is so focused on ferreting out contradictions that he forgets his own counsel about expecting inconsistencies in discourse. He [End Page 471] organizes the book around dilemmas that officials tried to resolve, but it is not clear that they saw those problems as anything more than garden-variety policy issues. Every problem did not have to be an existential crisis, even if the rhetoric used to advocate for legislation featured a staggering amount of hyperbole.
Hartman fills the book with curious contradictions, embarrassing inconsistencies, and cascading paradoxes, but it is not always clear where the emphasis on confusion leads. If by referencing the Anglo-Saxon roots of Appalachian residents, poverty warriors presented a before-and-after portrayal of vigor and stagnation, does that mean that they feared decline of the "stock" in, say, 1962? Moreover, late 1960s fears of black violence might have been a political reaction to perceived weaknesses in Democrats' domestic platform, but did decision makers and voters really believe that racial health was threatened by mountaineers migrating to Detroit? It seems that the biological malaise framework of the early-twentieth-century thinkers did not persist. The changes that occurred between 1920 and 1960 prompted a conceptual move from worry over the "defective" to disdain for the "shiftless." The latter still supplies a negative view of the Appalachian poor, but it relies on a different understanding of what they represented. To Hartman's credit, this does not scuttle the book. Even if nostalgia-laden poverty analyses did not replicate eugenic theories, revealing these through lines broadens our view of how the geographically marginal became politically marginalized.