• Centering Black Lives: Exploring Oral Histories of Legacy African American Women in the Black Belt to Heal the Wounds of Racialization as Justice

      Sermon, Michelle Crowder; Negi, Nalini; 0000-0002-8542-1941 (2022)
      Narratives of unresolved racialized injury among Legacy African American(s) (LAA) women in the rural US south, or the Black Belt, offer meaning to observed disparities and healing to the contemporary and future lives of LAA in Black Belt communities. This dissertation study considered LAA women’s layered exposures to racialized adverse live experiences (ALE)/traumas with historical, cultural, intergenerational, race-based, and complex traumas, and the impact of this multidimensional trauma perspective, on wellness outcomes for rural African Americans. Adverse mental and physical health conditions among LAA are critically disproportionate in this population yet current research and treatment protocols to address these disparities are based in a Eurocentric worldview. For example, race is often examined in research as a demographic category without fully conceptualizing the impact of racialization. By applying the Black Lives Matter Healing Justice framework, this study centers the Black experience and aims to elucidates the relationship between racialization and ALE/trauma through the voices and lived experiences of LAA women in the Black Belt, captured in archived oral histories. Employing thematic, critical constructivist, and historical discourse analysis, this study also sought to reveal the language of racialized trauma, expressed in the archived oral/life histories of LAA women sharing their ALE of Jim Crow segregation and racial integration in the Black Belt. Findings suggest that Race-Place-Space collectively served as the foundation of the gendered and racialized experiences of this population. Relying on my personal reflective experiences as a LAA Black Belt woman and an assembled research advisory panel (RAP) as well as theory and extant literature, I discuss the meaning of Race-Place-Space, racialized trauma, and healing justice. Contributions and implications to social work practice and research are presented along with suggestions for future directions in research and practice centering the Black perspective.