ACP’s Diversity Task Force Hosts ‘Appalachian Day’ Event

OAKWOOD, VA (SEPTEMBER 7, 2023) – A brief history of Appalachia was among the features of an Appalachian Day celebration at the Appalachian College of Pharmacy (ACP) last month as the college welcomed its incoming Class of 2026. The event was hosted by the ACP Diversity Task Force and coincided with the college’s business fair and luncheon.

Music by ACP’s Pro Me’ group and a presentation by ACP students, who are members of the Diversity Task Force, about the region’s many outdoor assets were also featured as part of the event. Dr. Ed Talbott, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at ACP, gave a presentation to new students on the geologic history, natural beauty, history, diversity, culture, music and literature which make the region what it is today.

Talbott noted the Appalachian mountains span 1,600 miles across 14 U.S. states and into Canada, comprising the oldest mountain chain in North America formed about 270 million years ago when North America and Africa collided forming the supercontinent Pangaea.

At one time, he noted, the mountain peaks in the region were more than 20,000 feet in height. The supercontinent, he said, began to break up 175 million years ago as Europe and Africa drifted away, forming the Atlantic Ocean. Mountains that are now in Scotland and Morocco were once part of the Appalachian chain, he added.

Eight national forests and six major national parks, including the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park in neighboring Tennessee, are found throughout the present day Appalachian region. The highest peak, he said, is found at Mt. Mitchell — 6,684 feet. The Appalachian Trail, he added, extends some 2,175 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

The Appalachian Mountains were first settled by Native Americans who later became the Cherokee and Shawnee Indian nations. The mountain range derives its name from “Apalchen,” the name of a Native American village in 1528, near what is now Tallahassee, Florida.

History, Talbott said, points to Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto as probably the first European to enter southern Appalachia in 1539-1540.

Talbott offered several quick facts about the Appalachian region:

• Rich in coal – anthracite and bituminous;

• Rich oil and natural gas deposits;

• First oil well was in the Appalachian Basin of Pennsylvania in 1859;

• Marcellus Shale field found in Appalachia is the number one source of natural gas;

• Country music and Bluegrass music originated here;

• Bristol, TN recording sessions by the Victor Talking Machine Company occurred in 1927;

• Timber production is still a multi-billion dollar industry in the Appalachian region.

Addressing the cultural background of the region, he noted stereotypes still abound in popular culture erroneously portraying the region as backward, violent and uneducated.

The region, he said, is more accurately defined as being home to strong-willed independent people tied to the land. The ruggedness of the region created a sense of isolationism, making people inhabiting the land resourceful and self-reliant. As a result, he said, they developed their own dialect and music, are proud of their heritage and rank family as very important.

As for diversity in Appalachia, Talbott noted its history as a mountainous melting pot dates back to the Revolutionary War. Multiracial families that were a blend of Scotch-Irish, Native American, African American and Portuguese who inhabited the area would later come to be known at Melungeons.

The early part of the 20th century saw tens of thousands of Hungarian, Italian and eastern Europeans, as well as African Americans migrate into Appalachia to take advantage of the jobs in the booming coal mining industry. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, he said, many of these immigrants migrated to industrial urban centers including Cincinnati, Ohio or Detroit, Mich., and formed “Appalachian” suburbs in those cities.

In the past 20 years, he added, there has been a 240 percent increase in the Hispanic population of the region.

In the area of music, Talbott noted the region has its claim to fame. Among the country music stars raised within 100 miles of Buchanan County, he said, include Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, Keith Whitley, The Judds, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless and Gary Stewart.

Authors raised within 100 miles of Buchanan County, he added, include Pearl Buck, Lee Smith, Jesse Stuart, Harry Caudill, Homer Hickam, Sharyn McCrumb, Bill Bryson, Wendell Berry, David Baldacci, James Still, Charles Frazier, Silas House, Wilma Dykeman, Gurney Norman and Adriana Trigiani. Smith is a native of Grundy, county seat in Buchanan County.

Talbott closed his presentation talking about colorful sayings, the correct pronunciation of Appalachian (“Apple-at-chian”) and dialect.

ABOUT THE APPALACHIAN COLLEGE OF PHARMACY: The Appalachian College of Pharmacy is the only three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Founded in 2003, the college accepted its first students in 2005. It is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Its mission is to cultivate a learning community committed to education, community outreach and the professional development of pharmacists. Its graduate pharmacists are now practicing throughout the United States.

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