The Damaging Effects of Stereotypes in West Virginia

Stereotypes have been an issue for West Virginia long before the area ever achieved its statehood. Ever since its settlement, western Virginia has been viewed by some as backwards and somehow fundamentally different than other areas across the country, These stereotypes have been humiliating and even damaging to the state of West Virginia throughout its history. However how did these stereo types begin? As you will see the West Virginia stereotype has been around a long time and has been portrayed in many different ways.

The most common West Virginia stereotype is that of the uneducated hillbilly. One of the earliest examples of this stereotype was the fictional character Sut Lovingood. This character was invented as a newspaper cartoon by George Washington Harris and was portrayed as an impoverished trickster with a heavy regional dialect who often mocked Northern propriety. Though meant to be comical, this portrayal of West Virginians proved to be very damaging to the reputation of the state.

After Lovingood, the hillbilly image was expounded upon by many local color writers such as Mary Murfree and by missionaries.

Another key component to the hillbilly stereotype was William Frost who was the first to group Appalachia as a cultural unit. His description of Appalachians as “our contemporary ancestors” has proved to be very damaging to Appalachia’s image. These are some examples of the history of stereotypes in West Virginia. I believe people engage in stereotypes because they are uninformed about how other cultures live. This leads them to being deceived by the media who only displays outrageous stories in order to get readers.

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History also plays a role as things like the “Hatfield»McCoy feud” create a generalization about a group of people that does not portray the group as a whole. I do not have experience with the Appalachia stereotype as I was raised in northern Pennsylvania but I feel that when faced with a stereotype people should calmly try to enlighten the person or people about the ways in which they are mistaken. Stereotypes will never fully go away but we can do our best to curb the harm they cause

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The Damaging Effects of Stereotypes in West Virginia. (2022, Sep 12). Retrieved from

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