SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sarah-Beth Hopton

SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sarah-Beth Hopton 

Dr. Sarah-Beth Hopton, associate professor and internship director, Department of English 

Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient

Project: “Archival Research”

Hopton’s research project that will result in the book “Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground: A True Account of the Pound Gap Massacre,” initially required her to search through historical archives to determine the progression of events during the massacre. Due to COVID-19, almost all of the archives necessary to Hopton’s research became unavailable, which led her to take the project in a different direction. 

The story of the Pound Gap Massacre takes place in 1842 Virginia, and details an intriguing account of outlaws and shootouts. Hopton was able to secure several interviews (online and by phone) with descendants of the Pound Gap area and draft a podcast outline, which would replace the need to be in the archives until summer or fall. She asked them to explain the stories that have been passed down to them about the massacre. 

“There are conflicting stories and evidence about who committed or commissioned the crime, which has shaped the local community for more than a century now and is an economic driver so it's important to get the story ‘right’. While I'm focused on collecting as much primary evidence as I can, talking with the descendents of the central figures in this case offers them both closure and an ability to reconstruct or rather, repossess the stories that are told about them, their family members and their communities,” explained Hopton.

Furthermore, based on these interviews and research already conducted, Hopton was able to craft and submit an article for peer review, which was featured in the special issue of Crime in Appalachia for the Appalachian Journal, an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed quarterly housed at Appalachian. In addition, Hopton’s general research interests in environmental and Appalachian rhetorics and the article of scholarship based on the book, secured her affiliate faculty status in theAppalachian Studies program at Appalachian.

“Since my appointment, I have been asked to consult with M.A. students about their research projects and hope that my archival knowledge and cross-disciplinary methodological training will help students interested in exploring the rhetorical constructions of masculinity, crime and agriculture in Appalachia," said Hopton.

She is hopeful that the book will result in national media attention. Her first work of creative nonfiction, “Woman at the Devil's Door,” has attracted attention from a production studio and they are currently script writing a docu-series based on the central figure in her work. She is hopeful similar opportunities will come from the publication of her next bookwhich is currently under contract with Indiana University Press and helped her secure literary representation with Mackenzie-Wolf, a full-service literary agency and legal consulting company in New York.


About The SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at:

About the Department of English
The Department of English at Appalachian State University is committed to outstanding work in the classroom, the support and mentorship of students, and a dynamic engagement with culture, history, language, theory and literature. The department offers master’s degrees in English and rhetoric and composition, as well as undergraduate degrees in literary studies, film studies, creative writing, professional writing and English education. Learn more at

Compiled and written by Sophia Woodall and Ellen Gwin Burnette
June 21, 2021


Caption: SAFE faculty recipient Dr. Sarah-Beth Hopton, associate professor and internship director, Department of English. Photo by University Communications.
Published: Jun 21, 2021 12:59am