Academic department under which the project should be listed

History & Philosophy

Faculty Sponsor Name

Katherine Perrotta

This project involved archival research.

Project Type

Poster

Abstract (300 words maximum)

The area of East Tennessee that lies between the Appalachian and Cumberland Mountains is called the Cumberland Plateau. This area reaches from Chattanooga to Bristol. Many people not from this region label it as redneck, back-woods, or hillbilly. Many don’t consider it to be a place that holds modern values, such as conservation and education. Through archival research, I will study this area during the Great Depression to explore how this place’s reality is different.

During one generation, the Plateau changed from a place defined by isolation and limited education to a hub of scientific research and a major provider of green energy. My family’s historical narrative reflects the Plateau’s narrative throughout this change. This change can be traced back to events taking place during the Great Depression. My great-grandfather was a farmer, but all his children were scientists, engineers or nurses. The forces that helped change for my family were the same forces leading changes in the Plateau. To better understand these forces, I examine how New Deal programs during the Great Depression like the TVA, the CCC, and the PWA changed and influenced the Plateau.

How did an isolated mountain community change from primarily uneducated farmers to chemists and engineers? How did they go from having no power to a provider of green energy? Does the credit belong to the community, or to the programs that helped it? These questions might help us understand how to help impoverished, isolated communities today.

Key words:

- Cumberland Plateau

- Great Depression

- New Deal

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The People of the Cumberland Plateau: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

The area of East Tennessee that lies between the Appalachian and Cumberland Mountains is called the Cumberland Plateau. This area reaches from Chattanooga to Bristol. Many people not from this region label it as redneck, back-woods, or hillbilly. Many don’t consider it to be a place that holds modern values, such as conservation and education. Through archival research, I will study this area during the Great Depression to explore how this place’s reality is different.

During one generation, the Plateau changed from a place defined by isolation and limited education to a hub of scientific research and a major provider of green energy. My family’s historical narrative reflects the Plateau’s narrative throughout this change. This change can be traced back to events taking place during the Great Depression. My great-grandfather was a farmer, but all his children were scientists, engineers or nurses. The forces that helped change for my family were the same forces leading changes in the Plateau. To better understand these forces, I examine how New Deal programs during the Great Depression like the TVA, the CCC, and the PWA changed and influenced the Plateau.

How did an isolated mountain community change from primarily uneducated farmers to chemists and engineers? How did they go from having no power to a provider of green energy? Does the credit belong to the community, or to the programs that helped it? These questions might help us understand how to help impoverished, isolated communities today.

Key words:

- Cumberland Plateau

- Great Depression

- New Deal