How would you answer, "A Redneck is...?"
Did you automatically think of Honey Boo Boo of the Hillbillies? Perhaps you're right. After all, a rose by any other name...
Before the existence of TV and reality shows, the word Redneck had somewhat of a different meaning, and believe it or not, Rednecks contributed to the human rights we take for granted today.
The origins of the name Redneck have not been determined by linguists, but over time, the name appears in various settings. What seems to hold true though, is that the name suggests rebellion.
In more recent history, in the early 20th century, those labeled as Rednecks were “unionized workers” particularly in the mining industry in Appalachia (most of whom are believed to have Scottish ancestry). The reason why they took on that name was because of the red bandanas they wore around their necks as an unofficial uniform of the union worker. Their fight or “rebellious” attitude attributed to more rights for the laborer.
The majority of these mine workers came from farming families. These farmers too were referred to as Rednecks, but not for the same reason. Because the necks of these farmers were constantly exposed to the sun, they turned red.
Rednecks go even further back to before the United States’ existence. In 1600’s Scotland, the Scottish Presbyterians would at times wear red cloth around their necks to express their refusal of the bishop’s rule. They were labeled Rednecks by Scotland’s ruling class.
What has not changed in the name “Redneck” is the fact that in pop culture, now and then, Rednecks were and are considered low class and uneducated. Perhaps this is true, but these uneducated, low class citizens of the United States are why certain rights exist today.
**The FYI Series is meant to introduce historical context of pop-culture. Some of the stories have been proven by historians and some are still debated. I suggest taking these as a light read, as it is not meant to be a historical paper.**