Textual Reproduction of Ethnicity in the Kanawha Valley: The 1974 Textbook Controversy Revisited
The 1974 textbook controversy in Kanawha County, West Virginia, (re)produced white Appalachian ethnicity for the post-civil rights era. This reproduction of Appalachian ethnicity was not necessarily an intended consequence of the thousands of protesters who opposed the adoption of a new “language arts” curriculum for secondary education. Nor was it the motivating cause. Looking back on the conflict from the distance of nearly thirty years, from the intellectual perspective of a Ph.D. in English language and literatures, and as a former student enrolled in the Kanawha County school system at the time, I see that the very definition of “the (Appalachian) people” was being re-made, despite intentions or motivations. It was being reproduced textually and politically according to shifting norms of race relations, gender roles, sexual mores, and class stratification. This project, which combines oral history, critical studies of ethnicity, and feminist analysis of primary resources, is an attempt to share my unique perspective on the conflict.