Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945

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In Uneven Ground, the author Ronald D. Eller narrates the economic, political, and social change of Appalachia after World War II. He writes “persistent unemployment and poverty set Appalachia off as a social and economic problem area long before social critic Michael Harrington drew attention to the region as part of the “other America” in 1962.”(pp.2) Some of the structural problems stated by Eller include problems of land abuse, political corruption, economic shortsightedness, and the loss of community and culture; personally view the economic myopia as being the most daunting. Arguing flaws in the expansion of Appalachia’s postwar economy, Eller responds this led to “growth without development”. With the coal industry flourishing among soaring markets and technological innovation, our region experienced a weakening out-migration, an increase in absentee land ownership, environmental devastation, agricultural collapse, rising unemployment, and limited non-resource extraction economic development. My interest would be in the loss of community and culture. Growing up in Appalachia I deem myself to be “qualified” in addressing this problem. Knowing we still participate in a lot of what is old tradition and culture, we also accept things as our culture today that was viewed as destructive before. Appalachians still live off the land and are good at making a lot out of a little. But we also rely on the coal industry today and engage in that as part of our regions culture. In Appalachia “unemployment, poverty, and welfare dependence became a way of life in communities throughout the region.”(pp. 28) With economic and social problems worsening after the years of the depression an estimate of almost 1.2 million residents moved out of the Appalachian region. This left only about 6 percent of the mountain population employed full-time in agriculture. With not only agricultural jobs declining the coal mines, like today, has been on its own turmoil in unemployment. In the...
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