Dr. Angela Keaton to discuss stereotypes and myths of Appalachia during Cicero lecture at Tusculum University

GREENEVILLE – A longtime professor will build on Tusculum University’s historic connections to civic virtue espoused by Roman statesman Cicero when she makes a public presentation on the stereotypes and myths of Appalachia.

Dr. Angela Keaton

Dr. Angela Keaton, professor of history at Tusculum, will discuss “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachian History” in the newest installment of the Cicero lecture series. The presentation will be held Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in the Meen Center lecture hall.

“We are delighted to hold another stimulating lecture in this prestigious series and feature Dr. Keaton’s expertise,” said Wayne Thomas, dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts. “Dr. Keaton’s scholarship is extremely impressive, and she has demonstrated a commitment to serving the community during her career at Tusculum. Combining these two elements at this event, Dr. Keaton will provide attendees with a compelling and thought-provoking presentation that will enhance their knowledge.”

A lawyer, teacher and orator, Cicero established an academy at the former Roman town of Tusculum, where he outlined principles of civic virtue in a republic to vote, volunteer, serve the community above oneself and work to achieve excellence. His principles serve as the inspiration for the university’s focus on civic engagement, a key part of the institution’s mission.

Previewing her talk, Dr. Keaton said misconceptions have always existed about Appalachia.

“In the late 18th century, Federalists in particular waged smear campaigns against settlers, while almost a century later, critics continued to make exaggerated claims about Appalachians,” she said. “By the early 20th century, the rhetoric had solidified into ruinous stereotypes. As a result, by the early 20th century in the minds of most Americans – and many Appalachians – Appalachia had become a distinct, isolated region populated exclusively by impoverished, lazy descendants of Scots-Irish pioneers. Unfortunately, these misperceptions had negative, real-life consequences for Appalachia.”

Dr. Keaton’s presentation will examine how these myths about the region became embedded in people’s minds. She will also highlight the region’s diversity, economy and activism to dispel these myths.

Her goal is for the audience to leave the presentation with a more nuanced understanding of Appalachia and its residents that goes beyond the stereotypes. She also wants the audience to consider how distortions of history have negatively impacted perceptions of the region and the lives of contemporary Appalachians.

“I grew up in the heart of Appalachia – southern West Virginia,” Dr. Keaton said. “As a proud Appalachian and as an academic, I find the many stereotypes about the area disturbing. Delivering the Cicero Lecture on myths about Appalachia provides me with the opportunity to educate the public on a topic for which I have a deep passion. At the same time, I wanted to choose a topic that would be appealing to a broad audience. Given Tusculum University’s location, I think that the community will find the topic intriguing.”

Dr. Keaton has served as a Tusculum faculty member since 2006 and was promoted to full professor in 2018. She teaches a wide variety of courses, such as World History, Appalachian History, Contemporary Issues in Historical Perspective, Modern Asia and Modern Africa. She serves as chair of the General Education Committee and as a member of the Academic Symposium Steering Committee and Barriers to Student Success Task Force at Tusculum. She has been faculty co-sponsor of the Students of Museums and Students of History club since 2014.

In 2021, Dr. Keaton made three presentations during the College of Civic and Liberal Arts’ summer series “A History of Greene County in Six Objects.” She also made a presentation in 2020 on the 1918 Spanish Flu during the “Pandemic! Perspectives” summer series. And in 2022, she presented “Appalachian History and the Environment” during a summer lecture series sponsored by the Department of Social Sciences through the Appalachian Environmental Studies program.

She has been a member of the Blue Springs Historical Association’s board of directors since 2019. Among her multiple awards and other recognitions are the National Living Faculty Award and the Excellence in Teaching and Campus Leadership Award, both from Tusculum. She also received the Carl Bode Award for Outstanding Article of the Year in 2010 for writing published in the Journal of American Culture.

Dr. Keaton earned a bachelor’s degree from Concord University in Athens, West Virginia; a master’s degree from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia; and a doctorate from the University of Tennessee. All of her degrees are in history.

The Cicero lecture is free, but Tusculum welcomes donations. Anyone with questions should email Rouja Green, director of Tusculum’s Center for the Arts, at rgreen@tusculum.edu. More information about the university is available at www.tusculum.edu.