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Episode #102

series: Appalachians

air date: 12/05/12 2:00 AM

The story of Appalachia is about the struggle over land. In the 1830's the growing nation set its sights on land that was still owned by the Indians. President Andrew Jackson, himself a son of Appalachia, ordered the removal of the Cherokee from their mountain homes and marched them to settle in what is now Oklahoma. Slavery and other social and economic differences were widening the gap between the American north and south. There were fewer slaves in the hilly Appalachian region than in plantations farther south, but the mountains would become a fierce Civil War battleground. Members of the same family fought for the Union and for the Confederacy. It was a time of violence and chaos, leaving scars on mountain life for years to come. After the Civil War, industrialization came to Appalachia. Railroads were built, forests were cut, and outside owners bought up the land. During the boom, a conflict between two timbering families, the Hatfields and the McCoys, was called a `blood feud' and turned into legend. Outsiders created the stereotype of a stupid, violent hillbilly, an image that was seriously damaging to the people of Appalachia. But timbering and coal mining brought jobs to the region. Through the early part of the 20th century, men left their farms for a regular wage, but they found their lives controlled by the coal companies. The United Mine Workers tried to organize, but it was resisted by the owners, often with violence. Resentments grew, and exploded in a series of devastating strikes known as the "great coal wars". Through their struggles, the people of Appalachia held on to their love of land and family. Music continued to have great meaning for them, and they often adapted old, traditional ballads into songs that told the story of their lives in America.

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