Issue 11 T.O.C. – Michael Updegraff – “Mountain Music: The Story of Foxfire’s 50 Years of Appalachian Handcraft”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Eleven. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

The subscription window which includes Issue Eleven is open now.

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Courtesy of the Foxfire Museum 

Michael Updegraff – “Mountain Music: The Story of Foxfire’s 50 Years of Appalachian Handcraft”

The southern Appalachian Mountains were a bastion of traditional American handcraft. Abundant natural materials and a resourceful folk culture led to beautifully distinctive arts and objects, from ladderback chairs to bluegrass music. But government anti-poverty initiatives and the vague promise of a regular paycheck in the industrial workforce began to change this region radically by the start of the 20th century. And by the time that war in Vietnam was the nation’s focus, the old ways of life in the mountains were all but gone – leaving a new generation of rural youths not knowing who they were.

Courtesy of the Foxfire Museum

But out of this situation, a remarkable project emerged. Named Foxfire by the group of high school students who began the effort, it aimed to gather and record the folk wisdom that was still kept alive in the mountains. The students initially published their photos and interviews in a quarterly magazine that soon evolved into a series of books about traditional Appalachian handcraft and culture. These Foxfire books would become a phenomenon.

Courtesy of the Foxfire Museum

In Issue Eleven, author Michael Updegraff takes us through the story of Foxfire, from a classroom of troubled teens to books selling in the millions. He looks at the profound impact the project had on the back-to-the-land movement, as well as the special bond that grew between those mostly elderly “contacts” living on rural homesteads and the students whose lives would be forever changed through their relationships. It is a story of resilience and skillful handcraft, of financial poverty but wealth of community, and of the value of rediscovering who you are and where you come from. 

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