About the Site
Texana is a small community located high on a mountain about a mile from the town of Murphy in the Great Smoky Mountain region of North Carolina. It was named for a black woman named Texana McClelland, who moved with her family to the area around the 1850s. One of the first things that community members did when they settled in Texana was build a community church. The First Baptist Church in Texana was built of logs, hewn by the women who had moved into the settlement. In 1881, the community tore down the old church and built Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which is still the church of the community today.
School was traditionally very important to members of the Texana community. Since black children were not allowed to attend school with white children in the early 1900s, classes were first held for them in the church until a small one-room schoolhouse was built. In the 1920s, a two-room school building was built. Even as late as 1958, Cherokee County did not have a high school for black residents, but in September 1965, the Texana School and Murphy schools were integrated. The black students who were in the elementary grades went to Murphy Elementary School, and those who were high school age went to Murphy High School.
Today, Texana has about 153 residents, most of whom live along Texana Road on the same mountain hillside where Texana McClelland first lived. Although Texanans live in the Great Smoky Mountains of Appalachia – an area that is primarily populated by white folks and Native Americans – they have not forgotten about the diversity that Texana McClelland brought to her mountain community. Each year at homecoming, community members gather at the church to read the biography of Texana and recount stories of early life in the community. Residents have always viewed Texana as a strong black community, and a few years ago community members began an oral history and quilt project in order to preserve stories of kinship and history in the community.
Texana residents are proud to live in or come from Texana. Everyone in the community considers each other friends and family, and residents are very welcoming to outsiders and visitors as well. The friendliness and hospitality of these residents, their respect for the traditions of the past, and their strong bonds with each other make Texana a prime community site for conducting oral history interviews. Since summer of 2002, fieldworkers with the North Carolina Language and Life Project have recorded over 40 hours of speech with different residents. As we work with more members of this unique community in the future, our goal is to continue to record and preserve their heritage and traditions, as reflected in their speech.
For further reading about the history of the Texana community, see:
Childs, Becky. 2005. Investigating the Local Construction of Identity: Sociophonetic Variation in Smoky Mountain African American Women's Speech. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Georgia.
Childs, Becky. 2004. African American English in Appalachia. English World-Wide, 25(1), 27.
Childs, Becky & Christine Mallinson. 2006. The Significance of lexical items in the construction of ethnolinguistic identity: A case study of adolescent spoken and online language. American Speech, 81(1), 3-30.
Childs, Becky & Christine Mallinson. 'Using media to make difference: An examination of lexicon in the construction of ethnolinguistic identity.' Southeastern Conference on Linguistics LXIV/South Atlantic. Modern Language Association. Atlanta, GA. Nov. 14, 2003.
Mallinson, Christine & Becky Childs. 2004. The Intersection of Regional and Ethnic Identity: African American English in Appalachia. Journal of Appalachian Studies, 10(1/2), 129-142.
Voices of Texana oral history project