Enduring Music: Migrant Appalachian communities and the Shenandoah National Park

Appalachian communities in the 1930s and 40s experienced an unprecedented displacement from the New Deal legislation that enacted a forced migration of hundreds of people from the 197,438 acres that would become the Shenandoah National Park. This paper will examine the extraordinary oral archives of memories from the ‘JMU Special Collections Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection, 1964-1999’ collected between 1960s and 90s of informants who experienced the affects of forcible, federally implemented displacement, with special attention to the commentary from those informants about music and lyrics. A large portion of the archival accounts originate from children of migrated families whose predominant life experience in the Appalachian region was post-migration; because of the distinctive nature of their experience in the region, the informants’ accounts encapsulate the traditions, stories, and knowledge of their past with the experience of their adult lives beyond the parks boundaries. An examination of this archive reveals the diversity of community responses to migration and change as well as the role traditional and old-time music performed in sustaining the community. Drawing on the techniques of lyric analysis and tune chronicling from Fionna Ritchie in Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, I show that the lyrics of the music function as a form of literature to these people. Through the records of this archive, the diverse nature of this community’s response and experience of Appalachia, particularly post-migration, is manifested and unified in the preservation and veneration of their fascinating songs.