The hillbilly stereotype is rooted deep in the history of the United States. Starting in the 19th century, with the Southwestern Humor Tales’ accounts of excess, violence, and “backwards” behavior related to moonshiners. National newspapers, like Harper’s, perpetuated these stories, and helped influence what the nation thought about Appalachian life.
Popular culture latched on to these stories, and produced shows like Ma and Pa Kettle, Thunder Road, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hee-Haw, to capitalize on public’s oversimplified, and sometimes negative view of Appalachian culture. Mountain people sometimes fueled to the stereotype, especially when it profited them. This included musicians acting like rubes for fans, residents catering to the tourist by acting like “real mountain people,” and artists playing simple to sell their products.
Hillbilly Land, on loan from the Western North Carolina Historical Association, examines how the hillbilly stereotype continues to thrive in today's popular culture. The power, prevalence, and persistence of the hillbilly stereotype is explored though a combination of photography, poetry, and short prose. This exhibit runs till the spring of 2023.