East Tennesseans and the Elusive History of an American Region
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The University of Tennessee Press
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Writing this book confirms for me the truth of T. S. Eliot’s often-repeated assertion. Indeed, this book’s most fundamental finding eluded my attention for the first two-thirds of my life. Yet glimpses into the insights offered here were never more than a short walk from my actual and proverbial backdoor. This vantage...
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Many influences opened my eyes to this vision of East Tennessee’s history and have allowed me to present it in this fashion. I am most grateful to a generous Creator. But I hasten to add that I neither presume to understand the fullness of God’s generous designs nor believe that any expression of gratitude for that benevolence is adequate...
Prologue: East Tennessee Insights into Elusive Appalachia
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Mere mention of the word Appalachia evokes images as complex as they are colorful: a landscape beautiful and bucolic, rustic and rugged, scarred and hardscrabble; a people noble and benighted, self-reliant and indolent, independent, ignorant, and impoverished. The inherent contradictions these labels convey...
Part I - Before There Was an Appalachia, 1750–1880
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Ancestors of my two grandmothers were among the earliest permanent European settlers in what is now East Tennessee. As pioneers in the late 1700s, my forebears were among the most celebrated and triumphant players in a powerful myth that Americans cherish. Yet, over the course of two generations, members from both family lines...
1. East Tennessee Beginnings: Cherokee and Pioneer Legacies and the Births of Three Representative Communities
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For countless millennia before my ancestors joined the great human migration into and beyond the Appalachians, today’s East Tennessee was home to a diverse, ever-evolving array of humans. The first epoch in East Tennessee history began when prehistoric nomads arrived at an uncertain date in a misty past, and it ended with the tragic...
2. Mid-Nineteenth-Century Crises: From Mainstream to Margin in East Tennessee
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East Tennesseans experienced extraordinary devastation and miseries from the traumatic events that wracked the United States in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Sectional tensions, secession, and the call to arms in 1861 fragmented an already divided people. The strategic importance of the Tennessee Valley for both Union...
Part II - Appalachia Discovered: Insights from East Tennessee, 1870–1930
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Since the seminal works of Ron Eller and Henry Shapiro, regional scholars have devoted particular attention to the exploitation of regional resources and the array of stereotypes and images popularly associated with Appalachia. Over the years, increasingly sophisticated analyses have refined our understandings...
3. Queen City of the Mountains: Knoxville and the Vision of a New South
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I can only wonder why my great-great- and great-grandfathers, Henry and Luke Banker, moved from Michigan to war-ravaged Knoxville in the late 1860s. Perhaps the multiple misfortunes they experienced in their new home in the years thereafter explain why they left no explanation for a move they may have considered dubious. A report from...
4. New South Realities: East Tennessee’s Hinterlands as Resource Producer for Industrial America
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Cades Cove, as much as any single place, epitomizes the contradictions that make Appalachia so elusive. It is pristine and primitive, extinct yet enduring, remote yet teeming with humanity. As the most visited site in our nation’s most visited national park, Cades Cove is truly one of East Tennessee’s most beloved...
5. Appalachia on Their Minds: East Tennesseans and the Discovery of an American Region, 1875–1925
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In the final decades of the nineteenth century, an array of forces—modernization, industrialization, and urbanization—converged and intertwined to transform the United States and how Americans understood themselves. Longstanding notions of Appalachian isolation to the contrary, these powerful, exciting, and bewildering forces profoundly influenced East Tennesseans and the primary ...
Part III - Appalachia, East Tennessee, and Modern America, 1920–2006
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By the time my parents were born in the twentieth century’s second decade, the term “Southern Appalachia” had two distinct meanings. The map accompanying John C. Campbell’s The Southern Highlander in 1921 offered what became the widely accepted physical definition of the region. Spanning southward...
6. East Tennessee from Bad Times to Good Times (for Some), 1920–1965
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As we have seen, Cades Cove by the early twentieth century had come to typify “traditional Appalachia.” The Cove’s setting and soils, to be sure, were better suited to human habitation than many hardscrabble areas of East Tennessee, but cultural patterns there mirrored many standard “Appalachian” images: simple...
7. Appalachia (Slowly) Awakens: A Regional Overview, 1920–1975
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Although I did not realize it at the time, the three East Tennessee communities that are substages for the regional drama presented here were important to my own upbringing. Of the three, Knoxville bore the most frequent and obvious influence on me. It was my father’s hometown, residence of my paternal...
8. Coming Home to a New Appalachia: The Awakening in East Tennessee’s Hinterlands, 1970–Present
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“Part hoedown, part history lesson, part homecoming celebration”—my extended Banker family took advantage of Tennessee’s HOMECOMING ’86 to plan a long overdue reunion. On the final weekend of June 1986, nearly seventy members of my extended clan gathered on the farm overlooking the forks of the Tennessee and Clinch rivers...
9. The Awakening in East Tennessee’s Leading City and an Ongoing Homecoming, 1970–Present
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I came home to the family farm just outside the small town of Kingston in 1987. For twenty years now, the half-hour drive to and from Webb School on Knoxville’s western outskirts has allowed me to reflect on the issues and concerns that ultimately found their way into this book. Only gradually have I come to realize how...
Epilogue: Reimagining Appalachia and Ourselves
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My personal Appalachian saga affirms T. S. Eliot’s often-repeated assertion, and I hope this book will help other East Tennesseans and Appalachians engage in a similarly fruitful self-discovery. Yet I must confess that coming home has been a gradual, often arduous journey that is still underway. Even the most recent leg of this sojourn, the writing of this book, has consumed...
Notes on Sources
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Page Count: 350
Illustrations: 41 halftones, 2 line drawings, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2010