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Sweetwater

Black Women and Narratives of Resilience, Revised Edition

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Robin Boylorn

Sweetwater: Black Women and Narratives of Resilience is a multi-generational story of growing up black and female in the rural south. At times heartbreaking, at times humorous, Sweetwater captures the artistry, strength, language and creativity shared by first-hand accounts of black women in small-town North Carolina during the twentieth century. The book uncovers the versatility and universality of black women’s experiences and their exceptional capacity to love in the face of adversity, and hope in the midst of calamity. Sweetwater is about the black female experience as it relates to friendship, family, spirituality, poverty, education, addiction, mental illness, romantic relationships, and everyday survival. The merging themes show the resilience and resistance that black women exhibit while negotiating the intersecting oppressions of racism, classism, and sexism.

Written from field notes and memory, the author reveals the complexities of black women’s lived experiences by exposing the communicative and interpersonal choices black women make through storytelling. Narrative inquiry and black feminism are offered as creative educational tools for discussing how and why black women’s singular and interior lives are culturally and globally significant.

This revised edition preserves the original narratives but features new content including re-views, re-visions and re-considerations for re-writing autoethnography.

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Chapter 1

Extract



Only people who have lived in Sweetwater all of their life know where Deadman’s Road is because there isn’t a sign. The dilapidated dead-end sign of a bold arrow marks the middle of the Sweetwater community and points in the direction where most of the black people in Sweetwater live. Mispronunciation and confusion led most people, who at the time could not read or tell the difference, to call it Deadman’s Road. Over the years no one bothered to call it any different because the name fit, especially since one of the dirt roads leads to a path of unmarked graves. The younger people in Sweetwater, who found naming a road after someone’s poor fortune ominous, call it the Bottom, not because it is underneath the town, but because it is the only place in the community that only has one way in and one way out.

When black people were free from slavery and could buy their own land and property, many of them moved to the part of town where the land was cheap and chased all of the white people out. Some white people moved to the periphery of the road, for easy escape, while others still own houses there and rent them out to black people. The white church is still in the Bottom, the only church on that road, so black people have to cross the road or go into town to their various sanctuaries, separated by denomination and creed. ← 29...

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