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Hillbilly Hellraisers

Federal Power and Populist Defiance in the Ozarks

How Ozark residents have seen and lived resistance to the federal government

Long a bastion of antigovernment feeling, the Ozark region today is home to fervent strains of conservative-influenced sentiment. Does rural heritage play an exceptional role in the perpetuation of these attitudes? Have such outlooks been continuous?

J. Blake Perkins searches for the roots of rural defiance in the Ozarks--and discovers how it changed over time. Eschewing generalities, Perkins focuses on the experiences and attitudes of rural people themselves as they interacted with government from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century.He uncovers the reasons local disputes and uneven access to government power fostered markedly different reactions by hill people as time went by. Resistance in the earlier period sprang from upland small farmers' conflicts with capitalist elites who held the local levers of federal power. But as industry and agribusiness displaced family farms after World War II, a conservative cohort of town business elites, local political officials, and midwestern immigrants arose from the region's new low-wage, union-averse economy. As Perkins argues, this modern antigovernment conservatism bore little resemblance to the backcountry populism of an earlier age but had much in common with the movement elsewhere.

"Hillbilly Hellraisers is a stunningly original work that manages to clarify the actions of a misunderstood people at the same time that it reasserts complexity into their allegedly simple lives. Blake Perkins reminds us that regional stories have national, even universal, significance, but to truly appreciate that significance we have to first approach the stories of Ozarkers and other regional groups on their own terms and on their own turf. A must-read for anyone studying the Upland South and for those seeking a fuller understanding of the changing nature of antigovernment protest."--Brooks Blevins, author of Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South

"Using the Arkansas Ozarks as a case study, J. Blake Perkins sheds new light on the rise of antigovernment conservatism in rural America during the twentieth century. Well written and thoroughly researched, his book is a welcome addition to the study of modern politics."--Bruce E. Stewart, author of Blood in the Hills: A History of Violence in Appalachia

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

J. Blake Perkins, a native of the Arkansas Ozarks, is an assistant professor of history at Williams Baptist College.

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