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The Greater Good: Media, Family Removal, and TVA Dam Construction in North Alabama by Laura Beth Daws and Susan L. Brinson

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About 2500 people were displaced by TVA’s three North Alabama dams and reservoirs, Wheeler, Pickwick, and Guntersville, constructed in the nine North Alabama counties along the Tennessee River and completed between 1936 and 1939.  Before TVA arrived, in 1935, the average farm incomes of these counties ranged from $85 to $112 and had declined from 31% to 46% over the previous six years. The percentage of people who owned their own homes in the area inundated by Wheeler dam was 7%. In Limestone County, 16% of the residents were illiterate. It was these people that the government was forcing to leave their homes and neighbors. Fewer people in these nine counties owned their own homes in 1940, after the TVA arrived than in 1930 but, actually, by very small percentages. The authors are both communication professors and the strength of this book is that it examines the great extent of positive promotion of the TVA that was carried by local newspapers, one of the few sources of news for the residents, especially since very few homes had electricity before the TVA. The book seeks to use TVA’s own interview data to understand the impact that moving had on the residents. Unfortunately, these interviews were not a TVA priority, and arguably somewhat unreliable. For example, moving was demonstrably harder for Black families than White families, but there is no real data to illuminate how much harder, and the anecdotal evidence ordinarily consists of just a sentence or two.  Overall, this is an important subject and book, but it does not have enough data to really give the reader a very complete picture. “The Greater Good is well written and will appeal to both scholarly and regional audiences interested in the time period, southern history, and TVA.”—Aaron D. Purcell.  “This volume captures the hope for a better life that the TVA inspired and the success the TVA had in winning over small-town newspapers that framed their stories in ways that largely ignored the plight of the dispossessed. Even when their lives improved materially in their new locations, the uprooted still experienced the loss of a way of life closer to nature and close to families and friends that was destroyed forever in the name of progress for ‘the greater good.’” – Thomas Allan Scott.  The authors:  Laura Beth Daws is a communications professor at Kennesaw State in Georgia. Susan L. Brinson is professor emeritus of mass communication at Auburn.

Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2019. 184 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes and Tables. Hardback in dust jacket