History Channel to air Appalachia special this Sunday

Posted by | September 21, 2007

Usually there’s no homework here at the Appalachian History blog, but see that nifty poll over to the right there? Well, I’d like to invite you to put that little baby to use over the next several days! Tell our community what you thought of ‘Hillbilly: The Real Story.’

Here’s what the History Channel has to say upfront about the film—

“Hosted by actor and country music singer Billy Ray Cyrus, this two-hour special brings America’s mythic and misunderstood southern mountain people to life and reveal their pivotal but little known role in forming the nation and forging the American character. Ever since they first arrived in the southern mountains 300 years ago, the hillfolk of Appalachia have been seen as a group apart, often mocked and misunderstood.

“They have been portrayed in the media as hillbillies and backwoods buffoons or as romanticized heroes of lost innocence and virtue. But none of those stereotypes hit the mark. That’s because behind the clichés is a much more intriguing reality: these are a people who embody the very characteristics we hold most dear as a nation. They’re hard-fighting, freedom-loving, fiercely independent and faithful — willing to stand up for what they believe is right, no matter what the cost.

“Theirs is a story of true courage and grit, bloodshed and mayhem. Of overcoming the hard times and loving the fast times. It’s the story of a people who grew as tough and resilient as the Appalachian mountains themselves.

“HILLBILLY: THE REAL STORY takes the viewer on a sweeping 300-year journey from the violent border wars of the Scottish lowlands to the rough and tumble Appalachian stock car races of the 1950s. Along the way Billy Ray Cyrus will tell stories of: the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, when a ragtag bunch of mountain men emerged from the hills to whip the British Army and turn the tide of the American Revolution;

“the saga of the Appalachian moonshiners’ deadly cat and mouse game with the Federal revenuers and the dramatic tale of the most famous American folk hero of whom you’ve probably never heard – moonshining outlaw Lewis Redmond; the building of the epic Clinchfield Railroad into the Appalachian mountains – one of the costliest railroads in dollars and lives ever built;

“the largest civil insurrection since the Civil War — the Battle for Blair Mountain in the violent West Virginia coalfields in 1921, when a self- proclaimed Redneck Army of 10,000 coal miners fought for their right to organize; the First Family of stock car racing — the Fabulous Flocks, 3 outlaw bootlegging brothers from a hell-raising family who went on to pioneer modern stock car racing; the century-long fight of the snake handling churches of Appalachia for the right to practice their deeply-held religious beliefs;

“the TVA Fontana Dam, whose construction by the hard working and patriotic hillfolk in 1942 helped win a World War half the world away; and Popcorn Sutton, the legendary moonshiner and mountain man who, at age 74, keeps defying the law by producing his centuries-old recipe for homemade whiskey in clandestine stills in the mountains…. and who, after 60 years of moonshining, is still paying the price for his convictions with new criminal convictions.”

Let’s see if they get it right!

Show runs:

September 23 8:00 PM
September 24 12:00 AM
September 27 8:00 AM
September 27 2:00 PM

One Response

  • Glen Icanberry says:

    I know that I’m late in seeing this documentary, but it is excellent! In particular Billy Ray Cyrus did a fine job of narrating and hosting. The story of United Mine Workers and the struggle for basic dignity and the right to organize was extremely moving. As a railroader, I appreciate the sacrifices that American union men and women won for future generations of American. The proud people of Appalachia have contributed mightily to the American labor movement.

    Related to the coal industry the building of the Clinchfield Railroad was also very well done. In railroad histories, difficult early construction happened elsewhere, and all too often consumed the lives of the laborers brought in the construct right of ways. I find the railroad histories fascinating.

    I was also particularly moved by the Christian roots and morals of Appalachia, kept alive by the many small churches. The snake handling is not something most of us would choose to demonstrate religious freedom or our beliefs. But at least we share a common belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. Personally I believe in being born again, and in particular all that goes with John 3:16. Handling poisonous snakes is not necessary for dedicating your life to Christ. But in a country of religious freedom these people have a right to do so, at their own risk. At least they are not trying to force their beliefs on others, or kill “infidels,” as unfortunately some radical, misinformed-informed followers of the Koran are doing.

    The point is the people of Appalachia are good Americans, likely mostly good Christians, and this documentary effectively presents their noble history.

    Glen Icanberry
    Redlands, CA

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