Monday, August 12, 2013

Shenandoah: The Valley of Sadness - Progressive Bigoted Removal

This month's travel photo is of the Shenandoah Valley from Hawksbill Mountain. While beautiful the valley and mountain range have been the sights of sadness. This is the second part of the series.  The first part dealt with the 1864 Valley Campaign.

The Removal

In the 1920s there was a major push to make a western-style national park (big spaces with plenty of land much like Yellowstone National Park) in the eastern United States.  Geography made the Shenandoah region an excellent fit.  The area was close to the population centers of Washington, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.  

President Herbert Hoover vacationed in the mountains and thus brought national fame to the region.  Local boosters began buying up property.  The park plan was approved.

However, people lived in the region and had little desire to leave.  If people did not leave the area then the park could not be established as planned.  So a journalistic-government-academic union was formed to justify the removal.  A journalist, an academic from the University of Chicago, and a Virginia educator teamed up to "research" and then publish the book "Hollow Folk."  The book claimed residents of the future park were illiterate, lived in barbaric conditions, had no real form of government, and no organized religion.  This was the era of progressive eugenics so this bigoted, agenda-driven sociology was not uncommon.

The book helped justify the government's decision to continue to establish the park by forcing the removal of citizens.  The government used eminent domain to seize people's land.  Some families resisted and had to be moved by both federal and state marshals.

Today the park is beautiful and provides many from the urban eastern United States a nice getaway.  Many people do not know, however, that the beauty is only enjoyable because of the bigotry of the past which stole families' homes and lifestyles.

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