What is Appalachia?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Though it has no official boundaries, Appalachia is generally a section of the United States delineated by regional, cultural, and historical aspects particular to that region. It stretches along the Appalachian mountains from southern New York State to northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. While the Appalachian mountain range extends all the way up to Canada and only as far as Alabama, Appalachia is not strictly defined by geography. Its boundaries are defined by particular customs, dialect, etc. rather than by geographic features.

The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, most notably the Algonquian and the Cherokee. European settlers began inhabiting the area in the 18th century, causing clashes between the settlers and the Native inhabitants of the area. European settlers to the area were considered to be quite rugged, living in an unforgiving area of wilderness and other difficulties. As the United States began to form as a union, settlers of Appalachia were known as hearty, rugged frontiersman opposed to taxes and coastal elites. They often participated in armed revolts, such as the Whiskey Rebellion.


Education has historically been a struggle in Appalachia. Issues with state funding have contributed to this struggle, as has the general sentiment in the region that formal education had little practical purpose. Conditions improved in the 20th and 21st centuries, but states in Appalachia still struggle to keep up with national education initiatives, particularly the No Child Left Behind act of 2001. This has caused further problems in terms of funding for public schools in the area.

The primary industries through much of the existence of Appalachia have been logging and mining, and with those professions came high paying jobs. Unfortunately, those jobs were only temporary, and abject poverty was and continues to be a serious problem throughout the region. For much of the 20th Century, Appalachia was considered to be on par with many third world countries in terms of living conditions.

Because of its wild terrain, history in logging and mining, Native inhabitants, and its rich Scots-Irish history, Appalachia is home to distinct styles of literature, music, folklore, and other customs. Much of the folklore and literature that comes from the area is steeped in religious themes, ghost stories, settlement stories, and other themes applicable to the hard life common in the Appalachians. Perhaps most well-known among the Appalachian style and culture is its music, which is derived from the English and Scottish ballad style. African-American blues music also had a significant impact on the evolution of Appalachian music; bluegrass, country, and old-time music all evolved out of the Appalachian tradition.


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Why do we feed so many overseas kids when my Appalachian children still go hungry?

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