It was a great pleasure to conduct research at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke. As a recipient of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture travel grant, I looked forward to exploring the Library’s holdings that would advance my understanding of black women’s history.
My dissertation project, “Mind, Soul, Body, and Race: Black Women’s Physical Culture, 1900-1939,” investigates the structural barriers to health and fitness for black women and the ways in which they circumvented those barriers and engaged in the physical culture movement. I examine how black women used purposeful exercise to create a new, fit vision of black womanhood that had implications for public health, recreation, and ideas of beauty, citizenship, and racial uplift. As a national project, I want to capture how Southern women, who had even less resources and access to physical culture, participated in the movement.
A significant portion of my dissertation discusses the state of black health and the Library proved to be a valuable repository for exploring the public health aspects of black southern history. The archivists were informed and genuinely interested in assisting researchers and with their help; I consulted about a half a dozen collections in all including the African American Photo Collection, the Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth records, and the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company archives.
One of the most useful collections was the Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth. Although the Alliance was primarily a vocational guidance service organization, it sought to address several issues affecting poor, rural young people in the first half of the twentieth century including health issues. I found several documents from the collection related to health campaigns and the barriers to health for black people in the South. For example, a note in the 1934 National Conference on Negro Education proceedings indicated that “environmental rather than racial factors” compromised black health including low income, insufficient housing, and limited access to hospitals, preventive care, and recreational facilities. As it relates to black women’s health, the collection describes some of the difficulties black women had in accessing health information and clinics for their obstetric needs. The collection also contains sources on black unemployment, the black nursing profession, diet and malnutrition, and leisure during the New Deal era.
Post contributed by Ava Purkiss, PhD candidate, University of Texas at Austin and 2012-2013 Franklin Travel Grant recipient.
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The Devil’s Tale Archive
- John Symonds Breedon diaries and account books, 1736-1808. August 18, 2014
- Rosina Lyon letters, 1846-1849. August 15, 2014
- Sherard Plantation tenant farmer appreciation ceremony scrapbook, 1937-1950 August 13, 2014
- H. C. Kisner papers, 1857-1922 and undated. August 13, 2014
- Louis Gougeon advertising portfolio, 1934-1939 and undated. August 12, 2014
- Precationes ex veteribus orthodoxis doctoribus : ex ecclesiae hymnis et canticis, ex Psalmis denique Dauidis collectae, et nunc recens recognitae & auctae August 8, 2014
- The danger of premature interment : proved from many remarkable instances of people who have recovered after being laid out for dead, and of others entombed alive, for want of being properly examined prior to interment : also a description of the manner the ancient Egyptians, and other nations preserved and venerated their dead, and a curious account of their sepulchral ever burning lamps and mausoleums : likewise, the pernicious effects of burying in the body churches, and confined church-yards pointed out, whereby many valuable lives have been lost to the public, and their friends : selected from historical records August 7, 2014
- Conseils aux femmes de quarante ans August 7, 2014
- Bericht der Verrichtungen w?�hrend des Synody des Lutherischen Ministeriums : (Volume c.1) August 15, 2014
- Proceedings of the district conference of the Charlotte DistrictN.C. Conference M.E. Church Sout (Volume 1878 c.1) August 15, 2014
- Journal of proceedings of the ... annual session of the Western North Carolina Conference of the Afr (Volume 52nd c.1) August 15, 2014
- Journal of proceedings of the ... annual session of the Western North Carolina Conference of the Afr (Volume 19th c.1) August 15, 2014
- Journal of proceedings of the ... annual session of the Western North Carolina Conference of the Afr (Volume 18th c.1) August 15, 2014