Brooks Blevins is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University in Springfield. He is a native of the Ozarks, tracing his roots deep into the antebellum era in both Arkansas and Missouri. He has written six books and edited two more. His most recent book, A History of the Ozarks, Volume I: The Old Ozarks, is the first in a planned trilogy on the history of the region.
The Old Ozarks: The Mountains and Their Myths
This presentation explores the early history of the Ozark region through the lens of popularly held perceptions and myths of the region. It involves the presentation of these myths (or at least oversimplified perceptions) and then exposes them by revealing the real history behind the myths. For example, the myth of the “Scots-Irish Ozarks” leads into a discussion of the surprising degree of racial and ethnic diversity in the pre–Civil War Ozarks, including the role of “immigrant Indians” in Old Ozarks affairs and the prominence of slavery in many locales. The myth of the feuding Ozarks leads into a discussion of the “Slicker War” and other episodes of violence, including examination of their root causes. The myth of the isolated Ozarks leads into a discussion of the many evidences of the region’s connections with regional and national markets, such as the centrality of lead mining in the Old Ozarks and the survival of antebellum store ledgers that offer a window into rural and small-town commerce. Overall, the presentation introduces audiences to a more realistic vision of the Old Ozarks by challenging the things we think we know about the region.
How to Talk Ozark in Seven Simple Steps
This more lighthearted presentation explores early ethnic and cultural influences on the Ozarks through the lens of dialect and accent. It dismisses the old notion of Elizabethan dialect in the Ozarks and instead looks at words, phrases, and speech patterns that were once common in vernacular Ozark (and usually Appalachian) language, tracing their origins to European or colonial American roots. The presentation invites frequent audience participation and includes a built-in “Talking Ozark” quiz. Natives or longtime residents of the Ozarks will enjoy revisiting styles and words that have probably gone unused for decades, and others will gain an appreciation for cultural diffusion and regional distinctiveness in Missouri—as well as the forces that constantly chip away at that distinctiveness.