The vast Appalachia region stretches across 13 states and is home to more than 23 million people, yet it may be the least understood culture in America. Appalachia has existed for generations as a region apart, isolated physically and culturally by its rugged mountains. The ethnically diverse Appalachian people — including many of the country's first immigrants — played a profound, and often overlooked, part in the nation's history and cultural and economic development. THE APPALACHIANS is a comprehensive historical and cultural overview of this distinctive region. This three-part series documents the unique legacy, courage, character, arts and culture of the central and southern Appalachian people. The film includes the work of outstanding Appalachian historians and scholars, writers and musicians, including Ricky Skaggs, Loretta Lynn and traditional folk artists from the region.
Appalachia was America’s first frontier. The Appalachian mountains include the Alleghenies, the Cumberlands, the Blue Ridge and the Great Smokies. It is an ancient range, rugged and beautiful. For centuries, it was home to many Indian tribes, including Shawnee, Choctaw, Creek and Cherokee.
The story of Appalachia is about the struggle over land. In the 1830’s, the growing nation set its sights on land that was still owned by the Indians. President Andrew Jackson, himself a son of Appalachia, ordered the removal of the Cherokee from their mountain homes and marched them to settle in what is now Oklahoma.
At the turn of the 20th century, the phonograph and the radio exposed the mountain people to new influences, and took mountain music across America. Stars like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family began making records. And it was a radio program at WSM in Nashville, Tennessee, that gave birth to the Grand Ole Opry.