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Book Review

The United States of Appalachia, by Jeff Biggers

Anyone concerned with the area called Appalachia should read The United States of Appalachia by Jeff Biggers.

Anyone who might lack pride in this area will be pleasantly surprised as this book reveals the area’s startling history of importance that Appalachia has in the history of the United States. Not the least important is Biggers quotation from Washington Irving, creator of one of the area’s most famous characters, Rip Van Winkle, when Irving suggested that the area should be referred to as the United States of Alleghenia or possibly Appalachia.

Author Jeff Biggers weaves a comprehensive tapestry of the area, beginning with “hillbilly” sons and singers, and going on into the proud American history of the place. He adds a touch of Cherokee, and even traces a prominent area family, until opening the curtain on early American battles against the British. Even the legendary Daniel Boone gets involved.

To some extent, Biggers loses his sense of distance and brings the reader into a detailed view of his sources, featuring early newspapers as well as famous journalists. But after this diversion, we are thrust into the cold realities of slavery, emancipation, civil war, and we witness the rise of unions as defenders of common humanity in relationship with the great coal mines, iron mills and cotton mills of the area. On balance, a reader comes away with a strong sense of Appalachia’s past.

Bruce Cook, Ph.D.


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