Research Mentor(s): Lakisha Simmons, AssociateProfessor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: History & Women’s and Gender Studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 5 (3pm-3:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 1
How did African American families survive and care for themselves during the transition for slavery to freedom? Our research investigates this question by following the lives of widows after the Civil War. After the war, the wives of Black soldiers who died filed for pensions from the federal government. These files include biographical information of the families and testimonies from those that could attest to the fact that the woman filing for a pension was married and had found support or taken up with a new husband. The goal of this research is to understand how Black women formed networks of care and how Black families and friends maintained ties from slavery, to freedom–through the Reconstruction period and into Jim Crow period. This research compiles genealogical data from the census, analyzes secondary literature, and examines pension files. We find that Black women held closely to their immediate familial relationships and their friends through common experiences and interactions. However, separation of Black families and friends due to geographical movement caused a strain on relationships. We hope to uncover more intimate information regarding the families being researched. The networks created among Black people represent the past and contemporary need for a sense of community among African Americans.