Leveling the Playing Field

Jan 19, 2021

A discussion of the roots of Ozark rural resistance to federalist authority.

Join us as we interview historian J. Blake Perkins about the history of populist defiance in Arkansas.

Though quite different from the current conservative popularism of today's rural Arkansas sects, the historic tradition of anti-government sentiment in this region is explored in Perkins' book Hillbilly Hellraisers: Federal Power and Populist Defiance in the Ozarks published by the University of Illinois Press.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, conflicts arose over issues such as illegal stills, conscription to military service, and agricultural regulations regarding compulsory cattle dipping. As a micro-historian, Perkins takes listeners on a deep dive into these poor, working class rural communities and settlements to illuminate their ideas, beliefs and actions as they attempted to level the playing field with regional wealthy elites and federal policies and practices that favored the "ruling" class.

Rural folks were usually not resisting federal power per se. Rather, they defied what many called and "aristocracy of wealth" and the grip it held on the levers of governmental powers. Rural populists detested the way privileged elites controlled and manipulated federal programs to their own advantage at the expense of rural "commoners." 

Williams Baptist University

A native of the Arkansas Ozarks, J. Blake Perkins is a professor and Chair of the Department of History at Williams Baptist University.

Thank you to composer and musician Joseph Fuller for providing the original music and soundscape for this episode. 

Thank you to Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick

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Assistant Producer: William Wagner

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