Arts & Culture

Fifty Years of Foxfire

In 1966, a young high school teacher in Rabun County, Georgia, scrapped the standard English curriculum and encouraged his students to get outside the classroom to document the traditions and accumulated wisdom of their own mountain communities. The students sat down with their relatives and elders, recording interviews about everything from making soap to brewing moonshine to cooking hominy, and compiled their work into a magazine called Foxfire. It was the start of what would become a best-selling book series spanning twelve volumes and a vast archive of Southern Appalachian life and culture.

Fifty years later, the work continues. Foxfire is now a nonprofit organization with a museum and heritage center in Mountain City, Georgia. And in honor of its fiftieth birthday, a book, The Foxfire Book of Simple Living: Celebrating Fifty Years of Listenin’, Laughin’, and Learnin’, collects both five decades of mountain know-how as well as modern interviews that speak to the continued relevance of Appalachian arts, crafts, and customs. “What we discovered was that there are still people, both old-timers and new-timers, who believe in close-knit families, in kindness to their neighbors, and who take tremendous satisfaction in how they construct meaning from their corner of the world,” editor Kaye Carver Collins writes in the book’s introduction. “This place, while changing, is still our touchstone in this often senseless world—a tie that cannot, and will not, be broken.”

view as slideshow

Arie Carpenter on her front porch in Rabun County, Georgia, with a handmade basket.

All photos courtesy Foxfire

Hillard Green teaches Foxfire student Paul Gillespie to hew logs.

Doug Bleckley during filming of “The Great Locomotive Chase,” 1955-56 in Rabun County.

Students interview Pearl Martin about soap making techniques.

Arie Carpenter working in her garden, with Foxfire students helping.

A pattern for a toy.

Webb Garrison holds a toy jumping jack.

Foxfire participant Bill Lamb shows student Paul Gillespie how to use a handmade ax.

The cover of a 1969 Foxfire magazine.

Mrs. Andy Webb, who was born near Highlands, North Carolina, appeared briefly in the film “Deliverance.”

The cover of a 1968 Foxfire magazine.

A quilt pattern.

John Huron with his gourd banjo.

Handmade corn husk dolls crafted by Foxfire students.

Harv Reid holding ginseng, a plant used in Appalachian home remedies.

The cover of Foxfire’s new book.