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Event in the Library

Dr. Charles Watkins,
professor of cultural and historic preservation

Where Do Hillbillies Come From? : How Jefferson's Yeoman Aristocracy Became Jed Clampett

Mon. Oct. 24, 2011
4:00-5:00 p.m.
McKillop Library

Charles Watkins, Ph.D. People in the southern Appalachians were once part of Thomas Jefferson's yeoman aristocracy, independent farmers who had a genius for self-government, but by the turn of the century east coast intellectuals considered them to be hicks and hillbillies. How this transformation took place is the subject of the talk to be given by Dr. Charles Watkins on Monday, October 24 at 4 pm in McKillop Library.

Watkins, the founding director of the Appalachian Cultural Museum at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC and now professor of cultural and historic preservation at Salve Regina University, says that as America went through a series of massive changes following the Civil War, including urbanization and industrialization, mountaineers were increasingly isolated from the new centers of culture. Movements supported by urbanites, including the Craft and Colonial revivals, identified mountain dwellers as repositories of old ways, primarily on the basis of the retention of older speech patterns and craft skills. One influential university president referred to them as, "our contemporary ancestors." By the 1920's mountaineers had become identified with a material culture universe which included log cabins, quilts, dulcimers and other objects thought at the time to date to colonial times. Federal programs such as the Blue Ridge Parkway helped to solidify these stereotypes which live on in the form of L'il Abner, Jed Clampett and the Duke family.

Dr. Watkins is a graduate of Mars Hill College in North Carolina and holds a doctoral degree from the University of Delaware in American Cultural History and Museum Studies. He was the Director of the Erie Historical Museum in Erie, PA for four years, and before coming to Salve Regina he was director of graduate and undergraduate public history programs and the Appalachian Cultural Museum at Appalachian State University.

A reception will follow Dr. Watkins presentation.