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people’s cultural heritage in appalachia (1971) Editors’ Note: This essay deals with the longtime grassroots traditions of protest in the Mountain South. It first appeared under the title “The Heritage of Appalachian People” in the May–June 1971 issue of Mountain Life and Work. It was reprinted as a pamphlet by the Appalachian Press in July 1971. Sometimes references to the cultural heritage in the Appalachian South mean merely the quaint mannerisms, Elizabethan word pronunciation, “old fellerism .” Or our beautiful folk ballads, songs, music, tall tales, lore, quilt-making, and other arts and crafts may be included.All of these certainly are part of our heritage and should justly be considered. The folk songs, ballads, music, tales, and such grow out of the subsoil of folk living the hope and hurt, the sorrow and longing of our people. All of these are part of it, but not all. We believe a true understanding of our history will help to explain not only our songs and music,but that understanding works both ways. Our songs and music help us to understand the heritage from which they sprang, our people , problems, why we developed differently from the rest of the South, and where we may be able to go in the future.Our purpose is toward a more meaningful appreciation that may help in solving current problems and enriching that culture. Brief Background Pre–Civil War The history of Southern Appalachia has a peculiar content and quality which, in so many ways, set it apart from the South and the rest of the nation. Some causes for this, no doubt,are due to the cultural origins of the original settlers. They came largely from a background of old country rebellion against repressive economic, social,political,and religious suppression. They were predominantly from Celtic origins. Further influences grew from the nature of historical developments in relation to conditions and institutions in the New World. These conditioning 01.Prose.1-blnk 96/West 12/2/03, 11:48 AM 72 selected prose 73 influences in the Old World and developing events in the New created a Southern Mountains sub-culture, clearly distinguishing it from that prevailing in the old South of which it was a geographical part. These differences centered mainly around issues of political and religious independence, freedom , and slavery. I will not here go into any great detail, but may I say that years of research in Southern Appalachia’s history and cultural heritage have enabled me to document everything contained here, and much more. The purpose here is a brief index to what is meant by Southern Appalachia’s peculiar role in American history. Independence, self-government, the freedom of man have always more or less had a place in American ideology. Because of certain specific influences, it was in theAppalachian South that these issues were first most strongly raised and acted upon. The old Regulators of North Carolina at the Battle of the Alamance fought unsuccessfully against the exploitative taxes and dictatorial rule of the royal governor Tyron before the American Revolution. Taking refuge across the Smoky Mountains into what was later to be east Tennessee,they participated in setting up the first self-governing community in the NewWorld. There at Watauga72 was written and adopted the first constitution for selfgovernment by American-born men.A little later,from these southern mountains , three “declarations of independence” were written and advocated for adoption before the eventual Jefferson document. It was here in this mountain South that the sharpest issues of slavery were joined, as the modern abolitionist movement was born and cradled in infancy, toward a growth leading to the Emancipation Proclamation and the freeing of four million Black chattels . Here the first newspaper in America wholly dedicated to abolishing slavery was published (The Emancipator, Jonesboro, Tennessee, 1820). William Lloyd Garrison of New England was only 10 years old when these southern Appalachians were organizing their manumission societies and launching the Intelligencer and Emancipator.73 And it was here in the mountain South that the gentle Lundy came (after the death of Emancipator editor Embree) to labor and sweat and shed his tears as he struggled to print his Genius of Universal Emancipation on the mountain abolitionist press. It was also Lundy who after three years in Jonesboro moved his operation to Baltimore to be more in the mainstream, and on a speaking trip to Boston met and influenced Garrison to become an active abolitionist...


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