"To Shoot, Burn, and Hang": Folk-history from a Kentucky Mountain Family and Community
"To Shoot, Burn, and Hang" offers a rare glimpse into the values, beliefs, fears, and prejudices of an Appalachian community during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drawing largely on the oral narratives of his own family members and of other residents of Fleming County, Kentucky, Daniel Rolph vividly reconstructs four dramatic episodes from the community's past. Those episodes include an anti-temperance mob action in 1884, a witch burning in 1898, the activities of Mormons and the persecution of the sect from 1896 to 1910, and the brutal lynching of an accused murderer in 1903. Not only do these events share a theme of intense violence or murder but they are often infused with supernatural overtones and beliefs. Using the oral accounts in conjunction with public records and documents, as well as the latest scholarship, Rolph probes deeply into the collective attitudes revealed by these episodes and places them in historical and cultural context. As Rolph points out, there have been many books about southern violence, but such studies too often succumb to stereotyping and overgeneralization. By focusing on one area of northeastern Kentucky during a brief but remarkable period of social unrest, Rolph produces a study rich in fascinating - and previously unrecorded - particulars. "To Shoot, Burn, and Hang" is a compelling demonstration of the role traditional narratives can play in the reconstruction of the past and in breathing life into history.
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