A Summer Undergraduate Research Award (SURA) funded Leandrea Clay's initial field research and initiation of a documentary film exploring three generations of Black women's stories in the small town of Centreville, MS. She is looking to obtain additional funding to support further research and completion of the documentary.
In the research and film project Mississippi Mud: Visibility for Black Women’s Stories in Rural Mississippi AFAS major Leandrea Clay combines interviews, archival materials, photographs, and other sources to share the stories of three generations of women in her hometown of Centreville, Mississippi. The project has been supported by Office of the Undergraduate Research and AFAS faculty research mentor Dr. Robin McDowell. Below you can find a more extensive description of the project and video presentation of the progress and next steps in this important research and creative project in African and African American Studies.
This project explores the stories and experiences of Black women in the rural town of Centreville, Mississippi. While other fieldwork has been done on Black women’s experiences in the United States, the stories of Black women in the rural United States remain neglected. The town of Centreville experiences dilapidating infrastructure, decreasing population, and an overall lack of resources for those living there. In order to investigate the connection between Black women and rural environments, I used archival research, oral history interviews, and frameworks of Black livingness and Black feminist thought. In the archives, Black people lack presence, reflecting Centreville’s negligence of its dark history of racial injustices. The results of six interviews revealed that Black women living in rural areas often interact with people who they feel obligated to have relationships with. Immediate and extended family members encompass their entire community, which influences their decisions to leave or stay in the places they grew up. By observing the experiences of Black women in Centreville, we can witness how Black women challenge their living conditions by pursuing a life outside of their homes or changing the spaces they inhabit. Drawbacks of Black women leaving their homes may cause them to face disconnect with their families and homes while remaining in those spaces may lead to Black women experiencing burnout from serving under-resourced communities. Keywords: Deep South, Mississippi, Black women, Black geographies, oral history, documentary film.
Video Presentation - "Mississippi Mud: Visibility for Black Women’s Stories in Rural Mississippi," by Leandrea Clay
Thumbnail: Oral history interviewee S. Toy (Photo courtesy of A. Spiller)
Header: Historical marker for Anne Moody, Mississippi Writers Trail, Centreville, MS (Source: Historical Marker Database, https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=193106)