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air date: 12/05/12 3:00 AM
At the turn of the 20th century, the phonograph and the radio exposed the mountain people to new influences, and took mountain music across America. Stars like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family began making records. And it was a radio program at WSM in Nashville, Tennessee, that gave birth to the Grand Ole Opry. But times were hard, and Appalachia fell into an economic depression even before the rest of the country. President Roosevelt's New Deal was a great boon to the region. The TVA brought electricity into the mountain hollers; the WPA and the CCC offered jobs and built infrastructure. Roosevelt was a hero in Appalachia, and many wondered how they would have survived without the New Deal. World War II took many young people from the mountains. After the war, underground mines were mechanized, and miners were laid off. Throughout the 1950's, people flocked to the big cities in search of work. For those who tried to stay home, it became harder to hold on to their land. State and federal governments claimed property for dams; family farmsteads were flooded, and more people moved away. It was one of the largest internal migrations in American history, and left many Appalachian people displaced in an urban world. The War on Poverty in the 1960's again sent federal aid into Appalachia. But television and magazines showed painful images of hunger and poverty, reinforcing the stereotype of the poor hillbilly. The nation still has a need for coal, and methods have been found to produce it more cheaply and efficiently. In the 1950's, it was strip-mining, and for the past thirty years it has been a process that opponents call "mountain-top removal."
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