Settlement Schools in Kentucky Discussion/ Feb 1998


Settlement Schools in Kentuckyn Discussion/ Feb 1998



Query From Karen L. Cox 12 Feb 1998

One of my students is working on a research paper about settlement schools (and the women who helped found them) in eastern Kentucky, specifically the Pine Mountain School. Could list members please suggest secondary source material regarding the general topic of settlement schools? You may respond to her directly at: Thanks.


From Anne V. Mitchell 13 Feb 1998

See David Whisnant, _All That is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region_(UNC Press, 1983), which includes excellent analysis of early 20th century settlement schools in Appalachia and the women who ran them (focusing especially on the Olive Dame Campbell and the John C. Campbell Folk School in NC and the Hindman Settlement School in eastern KY).

From Genie Potter 25 Feb 1998

...Professor Mitchell recommended Whistnat's book to you--in KY it is considered a biased and controversial view. I have just published a book, _Kentucky Women_, and would like to suggest that you also read a new book, _Quare Women_; Rhonda England's dissertation "Voices From History of Teaching;" Jas. Green's dissertation, "Progressives in Kentucky Mountains;" back issues of Journal of Appalachian Studies; Alan Bateau's _Invention of Appalachia_. For a different twist on the settlement schools (not houses), I suggest that you also look at Katherine Pettit's Pine Mountain Settlement School at Pine Mtn., Ky and Alice Slone's Lott Creek Settlement School in Cordia, KY--in addition to Hindman.

From Darlene Wilson 27 Feb 1998

Re: genie potter's comment " Ky it is considered a biased and controversial view."

I just finished course work at the University of Kentucky, graduate program in history, and Whisnant's book is *not* considered to be biased or controversial there--in fact, it is still the standard text on the 'missionary impulse' gone awry in southern Appalachia. The only people I've ever encountered who consider Whisnant to be biased were those who still think that the people of eastern Kentucky circa 1880 were 'ignorant' and in need of a 'civilizing' influence. But that is hardly the 'position' of Kentucky, per se, or its professors at its main university.

From Genie Potter 05 Mar 1998

Re: reply from Darlene Wilson on Whisnat:

Wilson is correct in pointing out that some people in KY believe in Whisnat's theory--I should not have said "people in KY" implying "all Kentuckians." Appalachia is complex and probably a lifetime occupation. But I still believe that he is controversial here-I subscribe to people like Garry Barker who writes in his book, _Notes From A Native Son_: "When David Whisnat dug through records and published _All That Is..._, his indictment of the cultural manipulation of Appalachia by some of our foremost individuals and institutions, he earned instant hatred from much of the world that still effectively manages that subculture. Whisnat said 'bad things about good people,' about music, crafts, and educational philosophies imposed on a people by essentially well-meaning missionaries during the early [sic] of this century."

When I was at Hindman in summer '96, there was a young woman from CA doing dissertation on settlement schools--Wilson might know her name because they presented at same Appalachian Studies Conference in '97 - I did not keep my program. Deborah Blackwell, grad student at U of Ky finished dissertation on Pettit, Frost and Stone in 1997. A woman at Pine Mtn. Settlement School named Millie Mahoney is now acting as archivist to process Petitt's papers--she worked there when Pettit was alive--left to care for her mother--returned many years later after retirement. She presents an interesting viewpoint--well worth talking to.

From Darlene Wilson 07 Mar 1998

Re: Genie Potter's quote from Garry Barker book...

...First of all, let me offer a gentle corrective to Ms. Potter's misspelling--it is David *Whisnant*, not Whisnat.

Secondly, let me remind the List that I didn't say that Whisnant's interpretation was uncontroversial--in fact, Whisnant invites controversy in the work under discussion, _All That is Native and Fine_, and in his other major work on Appalachia, _Modernizing the Mountaineer_. I do, however, believe that _All That is Native..._ is still the starting place for anyone trying to understand the debate about the settlement schools and those who started and/or worked at the schools.

Finally, let me add that I haven't read Mr. Barker's book, only reviews of it, so I can't comment on his lack-of-appreciation for Whisnant. (_Notes From A Native Son: Essays on the Appalachian Experience_ by Garry Baker, U of Tennessee Press, 1995), reviewed by Jim Minick in vol.23, no. 3 (Spring 1996) issue of _Appalachian Journal_.)

I will say, however, there is a long-standing academic schizophrenia about Appalachia and Appalachian Studies which this discussion of settlement schools helps to illuminate. Those who perpetuated the settlement school 'phenomenon' both in and out of Appalachia often operated from an elitist 'standpoint' from whence they saw the need for Americanization, 'enlightenment' and 'culture' to be bestowed upon those sorely lacking in same. To do so, and to raise money for their activities, they emphasized the poverty, ignorance, and 'neediness' of their subjects and denigrated their naturally-occurring 'assets' and cultural traditions as Old-Country relics and useless in a homogeneous America.

The backlash which Whisnant both represents and documents has taken two forms on separate fronts--1) the political 'activism' that waxes and wanes within Appalachian studies; and 2) what I like to call 'the Apple-Butter Set' which seeks to rescue those denigrated traditions and cultural activities and make a profit from it for either themselves or those who 'perform' (music, needlework, crafts,etc.). Unless I am misinformed by the review of Barker's book, he falls into category #2. Whisnant and other critics of the settlement school 'mindset' fall into category #1, always, already bearing the risk of being charged with 'presentism.' Controversy is part and parcel of revisionism; an American or Appalachian history that celebrates the settlement schools without critical inquiry into the motivations of the schools' founders and/or the short-and long-range outcomes of their educational 'programs' is about as useful as hip pockets on a boar hog--offering the illusion of functional utility but upon examination, to be purely ornamental.

From Sarah Case 07 Mar 1998

I was surprised to see myself mentioned! If anyone is interested, I am the student in California working on Appalachian settlement schools. If anyone has any questions on this, please feel free to e-mail me. My work has focused on the Hindman and Pine Mountain Schools, 1900-1925. I'd suggest contacting Deborah Blackwell at U of Kentucky; she's quite knowledgeable on the subject of Kentucky progressivism.