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Internal Colony

Defeated and occupied by the Yankee armies in 1865, in the decades thereafter the South became an "internal" colony of the United States. Hordes of carpetbaggers [northerners come south to get rich quick] aided by Southern scalawags [of the sort that would later be denounced as running dog lackies of American imperialism] reduced the former Confederacy to a colony as surely at the Philippines became a colony a few decades later.

Harry M. Caudill, in "Night Comes to the Cumherlands", called the Appalachians "the last unchallenged stronghold of Western colonialism," This is not a new claim. C. Vann Woodward ("Origins of the New South, 1877-1913" Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951) characterized the whole South as a colony suffering from absentee ownership and economic exploitation. Woodward placed the Southern and Appalachian colonialism in this context:

"As the 19th Century drew to a close and the new century progressed through the first decade, the penetration of the South and the Southern Appalachians was begun by Northeastern capital and is continuing at an accelerated rate. The Morgans, Mellons, the Rockefellers sent their agents to take charge of the region's railroads, mines, coke furnaces and financial corporations."

MortalityA systematic account of colonialism was undertaken by Blauner (1969). He made a distinction between classical colonialism and internal cohnialism. The basic difference between these two is that in classical colonialism the colonizer moves in from outside, whereas in internal colonialism the colonizer brings in those colonized. He defined classical colonialism as "domination over a geographically external political unit, most often inhabited by people of a different race and culture; when this domination is political and economic, the colony exists subordinate to and dependent upon the mother country".

Blauner further distinguished colonization as a process and colonialism as a system of relationships that exist between those dominating and those in a subordinate position. It is the process of oppression rather than differences in political and economic structure which is most important.

The value of the Internal Colonialism Model lies in its ability to bring into focus issues of decision-making and control of everyday life that tend to be ignored in the analysis of area problems and consequently in public policy formulation. The other models describe many of the problems and conditions that are the result of domination and exploitation, but they fail to address these things as causal factors.

The South is a region of great contrasts. In an area with great wealth in mineral resources, an area which produced billions of dollars worth of coal in a year, one found great poverty, sub-standard housing, hunger, and poor health. In an area which had an extensive network of railroads, highly sophisticated machinery, industries linked to the largest, most powerful corporations in the world and a non-farm industrialied population, one found low levels of education, a low rate of skilled labor, and a socially and physically isolated people.

Were the people living in this area some type ot cultural throwback? Were these conditions the result of purposive action on the part of a few greedy men wishing to retard future development of the region? The Culture of Poverty Model attributes regional problems to the deficiencies of the people and their culture. The approach suggests that: "Hillbillies" are dumb: They sold their land for fifty cents an acre. Apathetic, fatalistic mountain people won't try to change their situation. Poor health, inadequate diet, ignorance cause the problems. The scum of the cities, the defective or deprived settled the region and developed a defective culture. A backwards and primtive people cannot cope in the modern world.

The Culture of Poverty model is a "Difference" or "Deffiency" model, that involves describing the sub-culture of the South and comparing it with the Greater Society. The accounts describe the customs, values, and style of life in a socio-historical tradition. These studies vary in the degree to which they emphasize the traits as "positive" or "functional" adaptations or as "pathological", disorganized, defeating value systems (Ball 1968). Some emphasize the subcultural traits as obsolete as indicated by such terrns as "Yesterday's People" (Weller 1965), "Contemporary Ancestors" (Williams 1966), or "Arrested Frontier Culture" (Cressey 1953).

While the outsider may become interested in the ways of the nativescollecting quilts, mountain folk tales, and music and speak with appreciation about mountain culture, the native exploiter was more likely to denigrate his own, to speak of laziness and "sorriness," or to speak negatively of a "certain class" of people, especially those on welfare or those who are unemployed. The native colonizers recount stories of the untrustworthiness and unreliability of their workers. Since these small operators often pay even less than minimum wages, they found themselves in competition with welfare programs.

An alternative approach to the Culture of Poverty model is the Colonialism model. This model has also been called the Exploitation model (Valentine 1968). Lesser (1970) and other so-called radical critics of the Culture of Poverty model follow this approach.

Lesser states: "Essentially, their [Culture of Poverty proponentsj argument is that the under-development of the region is a function of Appalachian character rather than the exploitative conditions institutionalized in the region."

With the Exploitation model, however, one describes the Appalachians as a subsociety structurally alienated and lacking resources because of processes of the total economic political system. Those who control the resources preserve their advantages by discrimination. The people are not essentially passive; but these "subcultural" traits of fatalism, passivity, etc. are adjustive techniques of the powerless. They are ways by which people protect their way of life from new economic models and the concomitant alien culture.

The Colonialism interpretation emerged with writers in the Labor Movement in the 1890's and the Populist Movement. In the 1930's in thc midst of labor unrest in the region, such writers as Theodore Dreiser and Malcolm Ross focused on the outside ownership and exploitation of the area (Malcolm H. Ross, Machine Age in the Hills, New York: Macmillan, 1933, and National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, Harlan Miners Speak: Report on Terrorism in the Kentucky Coal Fields, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1932). Drake saw the colonial interpretation continued through the reform movements which arose in the 30's and crystallized in such leaders as the Highlander Folk School.

Dominant outside industrial interests established control, exploit the region, and maintain their domination and subjugation of the region. Appalachia is a good example of colonial domination by outside interests. Its history also demonstrates the concerted efforts of the exploiters to label their work "progress" and to blame any of the obvious problems it causes on the ignorance or deficiencies of the Appalachian people.

There are peoples all over the world who have experienced this sort of "development" and consequently live in conditions similar to those found in the mountains. Thus, they can easily identify with the process described as the colonization of Appalachia.

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Page last modified: 14-10-2017 18:13:54 ZULU