Hillbilly Highway

Hillbilly Highway

The largely untold story of the great migration of white southerners to the industrial Midwest and its profound and enduring political and social consequences

Over the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, as many as eight million whites left the economically depressed southern countryside and migrated to the booming factory towns and cities of the industrial Midwest in search of work. The "hillbilly highway" was one of the largest internal relocations of poor and working people in American history, yet it has largely escaped close study by historians. In Hillbilly Highway, Max Fraser recovers the long-overlooked story of this massive demographic event and reveals how it has profoundly influenced American history and culture--from the modern industrial labor movement and the postwar urban crisis to the rise of today's white working-class conservatives.

The book draws on a diverse range of sources--from government reports, industry archives, and union records to novels, memoirs, oral histories, and country music--to narrate the distinctive class experience that unfolded across the Transappalachian migration during these critical decades. As the migration became a terrain of both social advancement and marginalization, it knit together white working-class communities across the Upper South and the Midwest--bringing into being a new cultural region that remains a contested battleground in American politics to the present.

The compelling story of an important and neglected chapter in American history, Hillbilly Highway upends conventional wisdom about the enduring political and cultural consequences of the great migration of white southerners in the twentieth century.

Publication Date: 
September 26, 2023