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From Daniel Boone to the Beverly Hillbillies: tales of a “fallen” race, 1873-1968

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Title: From Daniel Boone to the Beverly Hillbillies: tales of a “fallen” race, 1873-1968
Author(s): Hartman, Ian C.
Director of Research: Barrett, James R.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Roediger, David R.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Barrett, James R.; Burton, Antoinette; Espiritu, Augusto; Oberdeck, Kathryn
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): United States history race whiteness culture politics racism Appalachia poverty liberalism public policy War on Poverty progressive reform
Abstract: Since the earliest days of European settlement, the Appalachian Mountains emerged in lore as the manly frontier setting where such figures as Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket, Kit Carson, Andrew Jackson, and others carved out the wilderness and forged a nation. Theodore Roosevelt went so far as to proclaim that these men and their progeny comprised a “Kentucky race” and a “backwoods race” that at once embodied the allegedly supreme biology of the Anglo-Saxon coupled with the cultural exigencies that accompanied frontier life, notably the masculine and violent subjugation of Native lands and people. The formation of this uniquely pure American identity then evolved from an Anglo-Saxon racial identity that encompassed the valor and violence of frontier masculinity. But just as the Southern Mountains or according to some, the first Western Frontier, was celebrated for its racially desirable descendants it also emerged in the cultural imaginary as an impoverished breeding ground of “hillbillies” and “white trash.” Today, the word “Appalachia” conjures the competing and irreconcilable images of manly, frontier independence on the one hand, and unrivaled levels of poverty and deprivation on the other. This dissertation thus poses one rather deceptively simple question: what happens when the nation’s supposedly strongest and most biologically advanced race fail to live up to a set of cultural expectations? Chapter 1 explores the cultural and racial identity that developed in Appalachia while Chapter 2 argues that the world’s first sterilizations laws – passed in Indiana in 1907 – responded to the pervasive fear of poor white Kentuckians who had migrated to the state. In chapter 3, I examine Virginia’s infamous Racial Integrity Act in the 1920s and 1930s as a means to secure the purity of the state’s Appalachian people. Chapter 4 reconsiders 1960s liberalism as still another movement rooted in white uplift. Finally, the dissertation’s final chapter and conclusion details the transition from white uplift to Black incarceration. The study thus displays several attempts at salvaging Daniel Boone out of the biological detritus and devolution of an impoverished and allegedly morally troubled population of hillbillies. When it becomes clear that these attempts are no longer viable, a new strategy emerges that brings to bear the force of the state as a regime of carceral control.
Issue Date: 2011-08-26
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/26370
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Ian C. Hartman
Date Available in IDEALS: 2013-08-27
Date Deposited: 2011-08
 

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