African American Women in Appalachia: Personal Expressions of Race, Place and Gender



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African American women in Appalachia have lived, survived and long been overlooked by dominant narratives that support stereotypical depictions of the Appalachian region and its inhabitants. A little over twenty years ago, poet and scholar Frank X Walker coined the term ?Affrilachia? to describe people of African American decent in the Appalachian region. Though Walker?s term announces the presence of blacks in Appalachia, in a multidimensional sense of cultural identity place is a central theme, along with race, gender, and class, in the identity experiences of Appalachia?s African American women inhabitants. As a marginalized group in the region of Appalachia, Black Appalachian women discussed in this work provide a compelling case for understanding identity experiences within the region. This thesis works to acknowledge and analyze the ?intersectionality? in the personal expressions, poetry and creative works of Black Appalachian women. This thesis investigates the personal expressions of four modes of survival by African American women in/of Appalachia to understand the multiple dimensions of Affrilachian identity and memory.

This research project brings together scholarship of performances studies and Kimberle Crenshaw?s notion of intersectionality to explore the unquestionable intersection of place and other dimensions (race, class, gender) of the African American women?s experience in Appalachia. This thesis explores how themes of survival and place manifest in the oral history, personal narratives and creative works of Black women in Appalachia. The investigation and analysis of Affrilachian women?s identity from the point of view of Affrilachian women, offers an opportunity to exponentially increase our understanding of the intersections of class, gender, race and place in performances of the everyday life.