Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Peter J. Schmitt

Second Advisor

Dr. Ben C. Wilson

Third Advisor

Dr. Barbara Havira

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


An investigation of the lives of African Americans in a small Midwestern village in the second half of the nineteenth century finds that paradigms vary significantly from that of urban Northern or rural Southern black lives. Three survival strategies are explored: work, migration, and kinship networks. Residential and home ownership patterns are explored, as is the structure of the village, neighborhood, and home. The work of men and women, education, state of birth and subsequent migrations, household structure, and kin relationships are analyzed.

The study uses only public records: manuscript census records from 1860, 1870, and 1880; Kalamazoo City Directories from 1867 to 1872; County Death records and local cemetery burial records; Probate records; Deeds, Chancery and Civil Court records; Bird's Eye View and Plat maps; and newspaper articles.

The biography of Rachel Pollard (1835-1884) illuminates the life of a black washerwoman whose estate was probated after her death. An inventory of her goods is included. Her work as a washerwoman was typical of widowed African American women.

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