Like the American nation itself, the United States of Appalachia is a broad and diverse collection of thousands of communities scattered across the map — often the residents of its small towns and hollers have very little in common with folks in the neighboring county, whereas at other times the cultural similarities span over 500 miles.
Nevertheless, the term “Appalachian”, which is the third oldest geographic place name in North America, has become a catchphrase to describe a particular region of the country with little thought given as to how broad of a place term such a term incorporates.
To help our friends in the media, who may be unaware of this reality, we have assembled a helpful guide that details “The Seven Distinct ‘Nations’ of Appalachia”, showcasing what makes each one of these places so incredible and different.
As you will see, the borders of these “nations” often have very little in common with state boundaries and were formulated using election data, shared histories, socio-economic identities and natural geography in order to provide the reader with a more accurate guide to understanding the folks in “them thur hills”:
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Photo courtesy: Brett VA Stretching from northeastern Alabama to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the landscape of Agrilachia is unchanged for over 600 miles: cow pastures, cornfields, silos, red barns, cow pastures, cornfields, silos, red barns… All the while, breathtakingly gorgeous blue-walled mountains line either side of this massive valley. These curious formations are known as ridge and valleys and represent some of the most ancient land formations in the entire country."
You won’t find much Appalachian coal in this region, but it is this portion of the Appalachian nation that keeps milk in the refrigerator and steak on your grill… Not to mention the fact that it makes Interstate-81 the hands down most scenic highway in the eastern United States.
Devil Anse Hatfield Family Home to the likes of Devil Anse Hatfield, Loretta Lynn and a countless number of 20th-century labor uprisings, the Appalachian coalfields have served as the poster child for the entire United States of Appalachia for over a century and a half.
Often mischaracterized by outside media as being “hillbillies”, the fine folks of this region have been victims of a countless number of misfortunes over the years, including the basic takeover of their land by wealthy timber and coal barons in the late-1800s. Though guided by an unshakeable faith in God and a neighborly compassion that is seldom seen these days, the people of the coalfields have on more than one occasion been forced to lay down their shovels and pick up their shotguns and rifles in order to demand their basic human rights… and they did so without batting an eye.
In recent years, this region has been plagued by an economic downturn that in some areas rival statistics from the Great Depression. This has helped fuel a drug pandemic that has reached crisis levels in many communities.
Still, the people of what once were the Appalachian coalfields are undeterred. With an unmatched skillset and a grittiness that can’t be found elsewhere, look for this region to come roaring back in the days ahead.
Downtown Roanoke from atop Mill Mountain, photo courtesy: Joe Ravi Islands of liberalism dotting a staunchly Evangelical map, Metrolachia are localities that generally serve as the primary city for the surrounding communities. This is not to say that they are the only localities where liberal ideas may be found, however, they are typically the only places where such ideas are the dominant political voice.
More often than not, these communities are home to a major university and serve as the primary media market for their region.
In many cases, Metrolachia’s residents are newcomers to the area and often these cities are one of the few places in their region that have not lost population over the past decade.
If money is your goal in life, you probably want to move to one of these places, as wages in these blue map dots are often higher than the neighboring counties; however, like all cities, each of these economic hubs have been forced to deal with a number of problems, including downtown decline and inner city poverty — some have dealt with these problems better than others.
The view along Cecil Ashburn Drive in South Huntsville, Alabama Photo courtesy: Nhlarry This is the term used to describe the Appalachian region of the South where you’re not quite in the cotton fields, but you sure ain’t in the coalfields either. Call it an identity crisis, call it Dixielachia, call it what you will, but we’ll just call it beautiful!
With a diverse economy that is not nearly as reliant upon a single industry as many other regions of the United States of Appalachia, many portions of Dixielachia have seen population growth in the face of a mass exodus from several other regions of Appalachia.
Here you’ll find a region that is forward thinking, but at the same time has a healthy respect for tradition and all that is sacred. The bottom line: SEC-Appalachia country is not a bad place to live!
Vermont State House Photo courtesy: GearedBull Shhhh… Don’t tell anybody, but practically all of the Northeast is technically in the Appalachian region! In fact, the Appalachian Mountains even run through France… but that’s a whole ‘nuther story.
Though many of our northern counterparts may describe their homeland as being “App-ah-lay-sha”, we know the truth and that’s all that matters!
Admittedly, Yankelachia is a very broad region we have presented, but for the sake of this article, it serves its point.
Politically speaking, like most of the northeast, the region leans to the left, with the exceptions being southwestern New York State and regions of Maine which have gone for the Republican Presidential candidate in all of the past three elections.
Meanwhile, approximately 20,000 libertarians have signed a pledge to move to the State of New Hampshire, in order to make the state a stronghold for libertarian ideas in what is being called the Free State Project. Signers of the agreement have within five years of February 2016 to move to the state, so we’ll have to wait and see where this one goes.
With a growing Federal government, Yankeelachia has in recent years extended its borders, invading many of Virginia’s Agrilachia communities.
Photo courtesy: Alf van Beem
Geographically serving as one of the smallest Appalachian regions, the area known locally as “Pennsylvania Wilds” is distinct and proud part of the Keystone State whose history, heritage and daily activities are unique from other localities in Pennsylvania and the nation.
Unlike the rest of the primarily agrarian Commonwealth, the region we call “Pennsylachia” has served as an energy producer for over a century.
It was here that oil was first discovered in the United States and with maps names that include places such as Oil City and Oil Creek, it’s no wonder that the region once served as America’s primary source of petroleum.
Pennzoil and Quaker State have both relocated their headquarters elsewhere, but the region’s influence can be spotted in the names of these products.
In recent years, the energy industry in this part of Appalachia has been on the comeback – a trip down the curvy roads of “Pennsylachia” will reveal this in the number of work trucks visible.
With 513,175 acres of national forest lands, deer hunting, hiking, and outdoor recreation are huge in this beautiful mountain wonderland.
The crown gem of the Appalachian nation, the Great Smoky Mountains have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the mountains of this region suffered from massive deforestation, leading the United States Congress to charter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934. Today, the park serves as the most visited national park in the world and is dissected by the Maine to Georgia Appalachian Trail.
Getting its name, “Smoky” from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance.
Tourism is the name of the game in a number of these localities, with Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg serving as the capital cities of this All-Appalachian distFrict.
The region also boasts of the highest point east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, as well as a mountain shadow that appears in the form of a black bear two times a year.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" (http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2017/03/notes-and-references-for-discussion-e.html). Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."