Located near Cumberland Gap in the rugged hills of East Tennessee, Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) was founded in 1897 to help disadvantaged Appalachian youth and reward the descendents of Union loyalists in the region. Its founder was former Union General Oliver Otis Howard, a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, who made it his mission to sustain an institution of higher learning in the mountain South that would honor the memory of the Civil War president.
In Lincoln Memorial University and the Shaping of Appalachia, LMU Professor Earl J. Hess presents a highly readable and compelling history of the school. Yet the book is much more than a chronology of past events. The author uses the institution’s history to look at wider issues in Appalachian scholarship, including race and the modernization of educational methods in Appalachia. LMU offered a work-learn program to help students pay their way, imparting the value of self-help, and it was hit by a massive student strike that nearly wrecked the institution in 1930. LMU has played an important role in shaping what higher learning could be for young people in its region of southern Appalachia.
The volume examines the involvement of O. O. Howard and his unflagging efforts to establish and fund the school; the influence of early twentieth-century industrial capitalism—
Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were benefactors—on Appalachia and LMU in particular; and the turn-of-the-century cult of Lincoln that made the university a major repository of Lincolniana.
Meticulously researched and richly illustrated, Lincoln Memorial University and the Shaping of Appalachia is a fresh look at the creation, contributions, and enduring legacies of LMU. Students, alumni, and friends of the university, as well as scholars of Appalachian culture and East Tennessee history, will find this book both enlightening and entertaining.
Earl J. Hess holds the Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History at Lincoln Memorial University. He is the author of more than a dozen books on Civil War military history, the latest of which is Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg.