Monday, September 27, 2010

Night Comes to the Cumberlands

By Harry M. Caudill

One of the most eloquent voices of the southern mountains was the Whitesburg lawyer, legislator and author Harry M. Caudill, who was born in Letcher County in 1922 and died in 1990. Late in his life he taught history at the University of Kentucky. His great contribution to Kentucky letters, however, is his articles and books depicting the robbing and raping of the mountain riches by wealthy coal and timber companies and the robber barons who led them. One of the most influential in American reform writing is Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area (1963), which focused the nation's attention on the plight of the dispossessed poor in one of the nation's richest regions. After Caudill's death, the Courier-Journal referred to the book in these words: "Once in a while a book appears that so captures the minds of readers that it alters history and shapes how a people are viewed."

(Quoted from: The Kentucky anthology: two hundred years of writing in the Bluegrass State by Wade H. Hall.)

Among other things, this book led to the creation of the Application Regional Commission. It is "must reading" for anyone interested Southern Appalachia in general and Kentucky's Cumberland Plateau in particular.

For more on the Appalachian Regional Commission: Click Here.

For more on Harry Caudill: Click Here and Click Here.

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