Literacy in the Mountains
Community, Newspapers, and Writing in Appalachia
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
After the 2016 presidential election, popular media branded Appalachia as "Trump Country," decrying its inhabitants as ignorant fearmongers voting against their own interests. And since the 1880s, there have been many, including travel writers and absentee landowners, who have framed mountain people as uneducated and hostile. These stereotypes ultimately ward off potential investments in the region's educational system and skew how students understand themselves and the place they call home.
Attacking these misrepresentations head on, Literacy in the Mountains: Community, Newspapers, and Writing in Appalachia reclaims the long history of literacy in the Appalachian region. Focusing on five Kentucky newspapers printed between 1885 and 1920, Samantha NeCamp explores the complex ways readers in the mountains negotiated their local and national circumstances through editorials, advertisements, and correspondence. In local newspapers, community action groups announced meeting times and philanthropists raised funds for a network of hitherto unknown private schools. Preserved in print, these stories and others reveal an engaged citizenry specifically concerned with education. Combining literacy and journalism studies, NeCamp demonstrates that Appalachians are not -- and never have been -- an illiterate, isolated people.
"NeCamp counters an extensive historical narrative of Appalachian illiteracy by documenting the rich literacy practices revealed in the archives and the deeply complex, rhetorically savvy strategies in which Appalachian writers engaged. With its impressive analysis of historical uses of literacy, Literacy in the Mountains makes a significant addition to the fields of Appalachian and literacy studies." -- Sara Webb-Sunderhaus, coeditor of Rereading Appalachia: Literacy, Place, and Cultural Resistance
"Marshaling detailed evidence, Literacy in the Mountains rejects claims of exceptional illiteracy in the southern mountains -- claims that are being repeated with malice to this very day. Author Samantha NeCamp's brilliant exploration of print cultures long ignored makes invaluable contributions to scholarship in both writing studies and Appalachian studies, illuminating what the two fields can gain by sharing a critical perspective on literacy in the rural United States." -- Peter Mortensen, coauthor of Imagining Rhetoric: Composing Women of the Early United States
"NeCamp's incisive and lively analysis responds to media portrayals of Appalachia as a foil to the presumed good taste, good sense, and critical literacy of the rest of the US. Mining community newspapers from turn-of-the-twentieth-century Appalachian Kentucky, she reveals the long history of nuanced politics, commitment to schooling, and valued reading and writing practices in the region. NeCamp makes a critical contribution to the complex histories of literacy in a region so often stereotyped as illiterate." -- Kim Donehower, coeditor of Rereading Appalachia: Literacy, Place, and Cultural Resistance
"Pointing to the clear and abundant evidence of a high level of engagement between readers and their respective community publications, NeCamp paints a picture of an informed, intelligent and definitely not illiterate Appalachian population at a time when they were becoming widely known as anything but." -- Corbin News Journal