Narrative of the Black Woman’s Upbringing: Oral Roots

Justin R. Smith (Western Kentucky University Folk Studies)

Oral histories are vital to the ethnographic process of attempting to understand a particular experience or perspective. My research into the oral histories of African American women included conducting ethnographic interviews to gather experiential motifs that could be compared. These interviews serve as a deep dive into the various African American vernacular English phrases and words utilized amongst African American women that serve as a reflection of their historical and cultural experiences, as well as the importance of geographical location. Oral histories of African American women often contain motifs that vary across the demographic of African American women and their experience as a minority within the United States; taking note of how location, transmission processes, and historical connection to location is just as vital. Struggles with identity, expression and understanding are consistent factors in the worlds and experiences of African American women. Gaining an understanding of the impact that comes from oral histories that are passed down through oral traditions, surroundings and circumstances help folklorists fulfill the narrative gaps that allow for more developments to contribute to the history of a people. This research will offer more insight for folklorists, ethnographers and anthropologists who specialize in the minority experience in America as it pertains to topics of oral history and the effects that holistic ecosystem elements have on them.

Part of 03-02 Telling Their Truths: The Power of Women's Personal Experience Narratives, Thursday, November 02, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm