Americanizing Appalachia: Mountain Reform and the Pursuit of a White American Identity, 1890-1933


ACLS Fellowship Program


Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society


"Americanizing Appalachia" explains how and why a tangled mix of educators, public health officials, white supremacists, and eugenicists placed mountain whites in their crosshairs in the early twentieth century. It analyzes mountain reform as part of the Americanization movement and as a response to concerns about a weakened color line to show how Americans came to see Appalachians’ reform as critical to a larger project of creating a homogenous white democracy. Although reformers were unable to decide if the region was a racial and civic reserve of pure-blooded Anglo-Saxons or a eugenically dangerous conglomerate of degenerate “white trash,” they collectively agreed that mountain whites’ social and cultural reform mattered– not only for the region’s, but for the nation’s, future.