Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Spring/105/Section 56/Cindy Wright

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Overview[edit | edit source]

Cindy Wright, an elderly Black woman, was interviewed by Grace McCune through the Federal Writer’s Project. The interview was conducted in Athens, Georgia on December 13, 1938.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Wright was born in 1859 and grew up in the South. She and her parents went from Alabama to Georgia when she was a child. She travelled by train for the first time during this journey, and once her family arrived in Georgia, she spent the rest of her life there. She never went to school because her entire family had to work, and she never learned to read. Regardless, she believed that her family had everything they needed. She began to work by working outside with her husband, but became a Granny Woman, or midwife, after he died. Being a midwife was a demanding job, but the people that Wright worked with all held her in high esteem. She then gained experience with different jobs, and later discovered that she had a bump growing on her shoulder. She went to see another Black woman who examined it, and told her that she had been witched. She went to see more people when more bumps had grown all over her body, but she soon got them removed by someone in her community. She had 14 children, and all but 8 of them had died before she passed away. Three days after being interviewed by a writer for the federal writer’s project on her life story, Wright had a stroke which led to her death.

Social Context[edit | edit source]

The Effects of the Great Depression on Rural Black Communities:[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression had a great impact on poor, uneducated Black communities who lived in the rural south. One of these impacts were based on families; due to the “widespread unemployment and poverty” present at the time, the “traditional families” were altered[1]. Many families had more children, as many Black families from the south needed their children working in order to make enough money to survive. At this time, “old discriminatory practices were still in place, especially in the South” and “employment opportunities” for Black people “were virtually nonexistent,” as the majority of jobs available to Black people in the rural south were agriculture-based[1]. The discrimination and prejudice present at this time contributed to the doubled or tripled “African-American unemployment rates,” compared to “those of whites.” [2] This made finding employment as a Black person increasingly difficult, and it is clear that the communities that struggled more during the Great Depression experienced more dramatic changes in order to survive.

The Importance of Black Women Midwives and the Adversities they Faced:[edit | edit source]

Black Women during the Great Depression and Jim Crow Era were incredibly important to their communities. During these times, Black midwives were subject to sexism and racism, which led to the portrayal of them as powerless and insignificant[3] by historians. Mississippi officials even regarded African-American Midwifery as not requiring skills and a primitive occupation[4]. These women simultaneously experienced the public degradation of their field while facing inequities in education, as they “had very limited access to collegiate nursing education,” which is one of the many “almost insurmountable obstacles of discrimination imposed on them.”[5] These obstacles not only describe what African American midwives experienced, but also the ways in which institutions, such as education and government, reacted to the rise of African American Midwifery. However, these practitioners were “particularly effective in isolated Black communities” throughout America[5]; they successfully birthed babies in communities that would have otherwise not been able to. due to unequal access to healthcare. Despite their success within these communities, these women were not valued by their government, which emphasizes the extent to which Jim Crow was able to influence American ideals.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Saidian, Siyavush. 2017. The Great Depression: Worldwide Economic Crisis. New York, NY: Greenhaven Publishing LLC. https://public.ebookcentral.proquest.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=5413343.
  2. Klein, Christopher. “Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression Affected African Americans.” Last modified August 31, 2018, https://www.history.com/news/last-hired-first-fired-how-the-great-depression-affected-african-americans.
  3. Jones, Maxine D. 1996. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. The Journal of American History 82, (4) (03): 1663, http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/scholarly-journals/black-women-america-historical-encyclopedia/docview/224915790/se-2?accountid=14244.
  4. Jones-Branch, Cherisse, and Adrienne Petty. 2019. Special issue: African American Women in Agriculture During the Jim Crow Era. Agricultural History 93, (3) (Summer): 388-392, http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/scholarly-journals/special-issue-african-american-women-agriculture/docview/2276829086/se-2?accountid=14244.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Luke, Jenny M. 2019. “African American Nurse-Midwives.” In Delivered by Midwives: African American Midwifery in theTwentieth-Century South, 74-82. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, https://mississippi-universitypressscholarship-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/view/10.14325/mississippi/9781496818911.001.0001/upso-9781496818911-chapter-009?print=pdf.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Luke, Jenny M. 2019. “African American Nurse-Midwives.” In Delivered by Midwives: African American Midwifery in theTwentieth-Century South, 74-82. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, https://mississippi-universitypressscholarship-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/view/10.14325/mississippi/9781496818911.001.0001/upso-9781496818911-chapter-009?print=pdf.
  • Jones-Branch, Cherisse, and Adrienne Petty. 2019. Special issue: African American Women in Agriculture During the Jim Crow Era. Agricultural History 93, (3) (Summer): 388-392, http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/scholarly-journals/special-issue-african-american-women-agriculture/docview/2276829086/se-2?accountid=14244.
  • Jones, Maxine D. 1996. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. The Journal of American History 82, (4) (03): 1663, http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/scholarly-journals/black-women-america-historical-encyclopedia/docview/224915790/se-2?accountid=14244.
  • Saidian, Siyavush. 2017. The Great Depression: Worldwide Economic Crisis. New York, NY: Greenhaven Publishing LLC. https://public.ebookcentral.proquest.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=5413343.
  • Klein, Christopher. “Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression Affected African Americans.” Last modified August 31, 2018, https://www.history.com/news/last-hired-first-fired-how-the-great-depression-affected-african-americans.