A Comparative Historical Study of Two Sources Concerning Life in the Southern Appalachian Mountain Region During the Great Depression Era
Leuty, Steven C.
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In response to their readers' demands, the major magazines of the Depression era printed many articles concerning life in the Southern Appalachian Mountain Region. These articles examined many aspects of life in the mountains, and with their common themes, they provided their readers with enough information to form a literary image of what life was like in the mountains. However, comparing the magazine writers’ descriptions with the oral testimonies of some of the residents living in a county within the Southern Appalachian Region during the Depression era revealed many significant similarities and differences. Equally important as pointing out the similarities and differences between the two sources was the task of attempting to explain why the sources compared and contrasted. This analysis revealed a number of the basic problems of making oral histories in general. One explanation why the two sources' accounts of life in the Southern Appalachian region during the Depression era were sometimes similar was that the writers of the magazine articles and the informants of Leslie County, Kentucky, had sometimes seen or experienced the same things. Another explanation was that the two sources somehow influenced each others’ accounts. The differences in the two sources’ accounts also revealed some of the problems in making histories. For example, one explanation posed that what may have been true of the Southern Appalachian Region, in general, may not have been true of one specific county within that larger region. In other words, the size of an area being described may greatly influence the description of that area. The history of a larger area may have more generalizations, while that of a smaller area may more easily avoid generalizations. Another explanation may have been that the informants inadvertently confused the Great Depression with some other time period." A third explanation may be that the magazine writers' accounts were occasionally exaggerated and sensationalized. This explanation revealed a significant problem in writing history because it showed that the sources used by the historian may not always be historically accurate. Finally, in comparing and contrasting the magazine articles and the oral testimonies, this paper has attempted to enhance the knowledge of what life was like in the Southern Appalachian Mountain Region during the Great Depression era while also examining some of the problems in making a history.