MATURATION AND MOTHERHOOD:
BECOMING A WCMAN IN RURAL BLACK CULTURE
MOLLY CROCKER DOUGHERTY
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE
COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Molly Crocker Dougherty
The persons contributing to the ideas and information in this
dissertation are too numerous to mention. Although a formal expression
of gratitude does not diminish my indebtedness, I would like to thank
a few of them here.
The faculty of the Department of Anthropology at the University of
Florida have been instrumental in my education in anthropology and have
each contributed a unique intellectual approach to the study of
Professor G. Alexander Moore, Chairman of my Graduate Advisory
Committee, has patiently and diplomatically guided me through the rigors
of authorship and the final months of field research. His ideas,
transmitted to me in graduate seminars over two years, are reflected
in the dissertation and will remain a part of my orientation to social
anthropology. The other members of my graduate advisory committee have
each had a part in my academic development. They are discussed below.
Otto 0. von Mering, Professor, assisted in the formulation of the
research problem and in sharpening of observational skills in the field.
Carol D. Taylor, Associate in Nursing, has been supportative and
encouraging throughout my graduate program. Her rational approach to
problem solving, reflecting her expertise as an applied anthropologist,
has sustained me through many difficult decisions.
Robert H. Heighton, Assistant Professor, has been available on
innumerable occasions to suggest readings and to assist in the analysis
of research material. His quantitative capabilities were significant
in the development of the demographic profile of the community.
M. Josephine Snider, Assistant Professor in Nursing, has been
available for consultation and fielded incisive questions about the research
results and their meaning to health. I am grateful to all members of the
Graduate Advisory Committee for reading the dissertation, and for their
comments and criticisms.
Brian M. du Toit, Associate Professor, who served as Chairman of my
Graduate Advisory Committee before he began field work in Africa,
advised me through two years of course work and insisted that the
research proposal and field work be carefully thought out and executed.
His absence during the preparation of the manuscript was unavoidable
but I remain grateful for his assistance and support. I would like to
thank Solon T. Kimball, Graduate Research Professor, who served as
Chairman of my Graduate Advisory Committee in the early months of graduate
The use of census material was dependent upon the help of J. Ray
Jones, Research Librarian, who led me in the acquisition of census
material, and Paul L. Doughty, Chairman of the Department of Anthropology,
who secured computer time for my use.
The funding agencies making graduate study and research economically
feasible are also to be mentioned. I was supported during the years
1969-1973 by Department of H.E.W. Special Nurse Fellowship numbers
IFOA-NU-27,257-01, 5F04-NU-27,257-02, 5FO4-NU-27,257-03, 4Fo4-NU-27,257-04,
2F04-NU-27,257-05 and 4F04-NU-27,257-06. The attention and consideration
of my needs reflected over the years in the correspondence of Marie J.
Bourgeois, Chief on the Research Training Section of the Nursing Research
Branch, is deeply appreciated.
The research was also supported by a research award from Alpha
Theta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, a National Nursing Honorary, and a
research grant from the Research Committee of National Sigma Theta Tau.
Without these sources of research funding the field work would have been
much more difficult.
Gratitude to my informants cannot be expressed by touching pen to
paper. Through works and actions I hope I have and will continue to
demonstrate my appreciation to them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.............................................. ii i
LIST OF FIGURES................................................. viii
ABSTRACT....................... .... .......................... x
PART I -- THE COMMUNITY................... ........ ... 10
I. USE OF SPACE............................................ 14
Houses and Yards..................................... 17
Domestic Patterns ............................. ..... .. 22
Stores ............................................... 32
Shops............................ ............ ......... 34
2. ECONOMICS.............................................. 38
Brief Economic History............................. 39
Finances in Edge Crossing............................ 40
Adolescents and the Job Market....................... 48
3. FORMAL EDUCATION....................................... 53
4. COMMUNITY RITUAL........................................ 61
The Fifth Sunday Ceremony............................ 63
Ritual Specialists................................... 70
The Ceremonial Meal .................................. 72
5. PART I CONCLUSIONS ...................................... 75
PART II -- KINSHIP, FAMILY AND CHILDHOOD ....................... 78
6. THE KINSHIP SYSTEM..................................... 80
7. THE DESCENT GROUP AND HOUSEHOLD......................... 93
Formation of the Descent Group....................... 93
Separation of Siblings in Maturity.................. 98
Household Organization and Descent Group Membership.. 101
TABLE OF CONTENTS (Continued)
8. CHILDHOOD SOCIALIZATION.................................. 109
The Baby............................................... 112
Early Childhood. .............................. .... .. 116
Childhood. ........................................... 123
9. PART II CONCLUSIONS........................................ 29
PART III -- FEMALE ADOLESCENCE -- A RITE OF PASSAGE.............. 131
10. SEPARATION FROM CHILDHOOD.................................. 137
11. COURTSHIP................................................. 142
The Courtship Process -- A Case Study.................. 145
12. THE PEER GROUP............................................ 155
Novice-Veteran Relationship............................ 156
Fluctuating Peer Group Membership...................... 159
Meeting Males -- Group and Pair Events................. 160
13. PREGNANCY -- ONE SUB-PHASE ................................ 164
14. CHILDBIRTH -- A SECOND SUB-PHASE.......................... 178
15. ASSUMING THE ROLE OF MOTHER -- A THIRD SUB-PHASE........... 188
16. PART III CONCLUSIONS........................................ 195
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS.......................................... 198
APPENDICES............................ ..... ........ .............. 203
A. THE PEOPLE AND I...............,........................... 204
B. DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE ...................................... 217
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Map of Edge Crossing....................................... 15
2. Genealogical relationships among descent groups descended
from one apical ancestor.............................. 82
3. Subset of Figure 2 in Edge Crossing......................... 84
4. Subsef of Figure 2 on ancestral land........................ 87
5. Genealogy of personnel in Mary Jackson's descent group...... 94
6. Mary's household before separation of children.............. 99
7. Household composition after separation of siblings.......... 101
8. Mary's household in 1965.................................... 102
9. The household of Mary's son (DO1) in 1965................... 103
10. The household of Mary's daughter (D4) in 1965............... 103
11. The household of Mary's stepson (D14) in 1972................ 104
B-1 Midyear population estimates 1960 and 1970.................. 218
B-2 Population by age in years and sex........................... 218
B-3 Population over 14 years of age by sex and marital status... 219
B-4 Population 25 years old and over by sex and years of
school completed ....................................... 219
B-5 Employed persons 16 years old and over by occupation and
B-6 Population 14 years old and over by sex and income........... 221
LIST OF FIGURES (Continued)
B-7 Resident illegitimate live birth rates per 100 total
live births........................................... 222
B-8 Resident birth rates per 1,000 population.................. 222
B-9 Resident infant mortality rates per 1,000 live births...... 222
B-10 Resident births by age of mother 1959 and 1970.............. 223
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
MATURATION AND MOTHERHOOD:
BECOMING A WOMAN IN RURAL BLACK CULTURE
Molly Crocker Dougherty
Chairman: G. Alexander Moore
Major Department: Department of Anthropology
A description of the social maturation of adolescent girls is the
purpose of this study carried out in a rural, black community in Florida
where family incomes usually fall below $5,000 annually. The maturational
process is analyzed as a rite of passage (van Gennep 1960) separating
girls from childhood, placing them in a long period of transition and
ultimately incorporating them into adult roles. The rite of passage
schema is reenacted in pregnancy, childbirth and in acceptance of mother-
Girls activities in peer groups and in courtship reveal participation
in events expressing their detachment from social status in the community.
Set events (Chapple and Coon 1942) in entertainment and peer groups
support girls in the pair events of courtship. The rhythm of activities
in entertainment, peer groups and courtship expresses community as
communitas or fellowship, the drawing together of personnel for a common
purpose (Turner 1969). The movement of girls out of the kinship structure,
into courtship and return to structure after childbirth is discussed.
The maturational process is closely related to the role of females
in family and kinship. The ambilateral descent system involves
affiliation with males or females in any one generation to arrive at
linkages with founding fathers who came into the area shortly after the
Civil War. Land ownership and residence are determining factors in
descent group membership. Girls, in maturation, loosen bonds with
family and later, after claim to adult status is established through
childbirth, gain adult status and become aligned with the descent system.
Adult women in the descent group determine whether a girl is admitted to
adult status. They are authority figures in the home and are responsible
for the children in the descent group.
Adolescent behavior gives expression to community as fellowship
among equals; the description of the ethnographic present explicates
community as a hierarchial arrangement of statuses within stable
institutions. The two forms of community enhance the analysis for when
one is apparent, the other is less so. The division of labor by age and
sex pervades the analysis of social structure. The economic, educational
and ritual institutions are articulated to the dimensions of time, space
and the division of labor in the text. Males predominate in leadership
roles and in social space beyond the home while women have positions of
influence in kinship, household and in child care.
The research reveals a tendency toward strong kin ties, emotional
release in socially defined situations and limited access to high status
positions beyond the community. Girls, having limited roles in wider
society, achieve adulthood through reproduction and seek pleasurable
courtship experiences. Adulthood is occasionally achieved by employment
and educational successes. Whether the proportion of girls choosing
education and employment to attain adult status will increase as these
become more readily available is questioned.
This research is a descriptive study of female adolescent maturation
in a rural black community.1 The expi ication of the process of female
maturation involving courtship and childbearing is the problem studied.
An understanding of adolescence, a transitional phase in the life cycle,
requires a knowledge of the social milieu in which it occurs. The
research asks, what are the social forms in the community under study
and their effect on female adolescence? What is the organization of the
family and kinship system and its effect on adolescence? A description
of these aspects of the social structure is necessary for a balanced
presentation of the adolescent experience.
In regard to female adolescence more specific questions are raised.
How do girls learn sex role and become involved in typically feminine
activities? What is the social importance of courtship and peer group
activities in adolescence? How does courtship affect patterns relating
to childbirth and motherhood? The pattern of adolescent pregnancy, a
natural consequence of courtship, is socially significant in the continu-
ation of kinship and community. How does pregnancy and childbirth affect
adolescent behavior and the process of becoming a woman in the community?
Womanhood involves motherhood and assuming certain responsibilities
The field work is described in Appendix A.
within the family and descent group. What are the behavioral expectations
of females whose adult experience is initiated by pregnancy and child-
birth? What is the social value of becoming a woman in the community?
Many aspects of female behavior are examined in the following pages but
the major emphasis is on female adolescence.
The adolescent experience is analyzed as a life crisis in which a
transition from one social position (childhood) to another (adulthood)
occurs. Transitions from group to group and from one social position
to another are marked by ceremonies described as rites of passage (van
Gennep 1960). The rites of passage schema and theoretical formulations
regarding the characteristics of liminal persona (Turner 1969) are
elucidated with the research material on black adolescents. The rite
of passage of adolescence has sub-phases in pregnancy, childbirth and
motherhood which reenact van Gennep's (1960) schema before incorporation
into adulthood. The research illustrates one application of van Gennep's
and Turner's formulations which have proven valuable in the analysis of
transitional states and movement of personnel in diverse societies and
This study is a contribution to the study of New World black
populations. Although New World blacks have been the subject of
research for many years there has been no anthropological research on
the social process of female adolescence. It is useful to review other
research findings before presenting the results of this research. Common
themes in writings about New World and United States black populations
are the limited access to resources of wider society and adaptations to
marginality.Stimulated by Herskovits (1930; 1941), anthropologists have
been active in research among New World black populations since the 1940's.
Models of black community and domestic organization which apply to the
United States situation have been presented by Smith (1956), Gonzalez
(1965; 1969) and others. The central position of the female in the
domestic organization is related to the economic and political resources
available to black populations throughout the western hemisphere.
Research among black populations in the United States has been
influenced by the sociological tradition and the contributions of Frazier
(1932; 1939; 1949) and Herskovitz (1941) although some community studies
were conducted in the south in the 1930's (Dollard 1937; Davis and Dollard
1940; Davis et al. 1941). The prevailing caste system and its effect on
social 1ife was one area of interest. Powdermaker (1939) and Johnson (1934;
1941) present females as highly reproductive, influential in the family
and intensely involved in the childrearing process. The study of southern
blacks diminished in the 1940's and 1950's although Lewis (1955) carried
out a community study among blacks in a North Carolina town.
Blacks in the urban north became the focus of research interest in
the 1960's. Results often indicated that black social organization
was a disorganized or deviant form of white models (Myrdal 1944; Rainwater
and Yancey 1967; Glazer and Moynihan 1963; Billingsley 1968). These
findings are related to Frazier's (1932) assertion that the slave heritage
destroyed the family and kinship structure. However, the disorganization
model was countered by anthropological research seeking the internal
organization of the system through empirical, comparative research.
Liebow (1967) and Hannerz (1969; 1970) describe male behavior and its
relationship to the internal organization of the ghetto and the external
political and economic superstructure. In urban research recurrent
themes are lack of access to the resources of wider society (Hannerz 1969),
poverty (Valentine 1968), linguistic and emotional expressions of the
black experience (Abrahams 1964 and 1970; Kochman 1970; Lomax 1970;
Haralambos 1970). Differing interests and activities of males and
females, individualism and egalitarianism are described as forms of
Research among rural black populations has been notably absent
since the 1930's although Young (1970) discusses the divergent themes
in the literature, field observations of children and the unique
interactions patterns in a small southern town. Anthropologists have
emphasized the uniqueness and internal organization of black culture.
Yet blacks in the rural south and urban north are linked by a common
cultural tradition. Many of the distinctive social forms observed in
the urban situation are also identified in this research. Separated
male-female roles, male social interactions beyond the home, emotional
release in religion and entertainment are discussed. These features
are secondary to the main theme of the presentation but are of Interest
in the study of black culture and cultural continuity and change.
Women are traditionally described in terms of their contribution
to the domestic domain and the reproduction and socialization of children.
In many ways the females studied in this research conform to the
traditional image of women because childbirth' and motherhood are central
to the female role. Yet there are significant departures from traditional
formulations because these females enjoy their sexuality, seek out sexual
contacts and are highly independent in the selection of partners. Females
initiate action to males, behave as if courtship is a highly complex and
competitive game and bring forth children to validate courtship. They
have limited access to the educational, economic, occupational and
political resources of society and bear economic responsibility in the
household. Females described in this research have characteristics
of traditional roles including childbearing and domestic responsibility
but also are actively involved in courtship and in other activities
taking them beyond the home.
Anthropological tradition emphasizes the value of long term,
intensive observation and participation in the field work situation and
community study as a research methodology. Community is considered a
sample or microcosm of culture and society encompassing social forms and
cultural behavior (institutions). Part of the definition of community
involves the presence of two sexes and three generations and the
coexistence of personnel through time (Arensberg and Kimball 1965:16).
The articulation of space, time,.personnel and cultural behavior are
significant dimensions of community. The concept of community as a
system of personnel and institutions organized in a hierarchial
arrangement of statuses is utilized to organize the descriptive material
in Part I. The institutions, customary behavior and interrelations with
the wider society representing the enthnographic present are discussed.
Community institutional arrangements reveal the social use of space
expressing the division of labor between the sexes. Characteristically
males have dominant roles in community activities while women function
within domestic roles.
The kinship system reveals the prominent place of women in the home,
family and descent group affairs. The kinship system, similar to those
described among Polynesian groups (Firth 1957; Fox 1967) is defined as
an ambilateral, optative descent system. In Edge Crossing descent
through males to a founding father is preferred but linkages through
All personal and place names are changed.
females occur sufficiently often to be normal. Affiliation through
female linkages seems to have increased in the last three generations,
the possible reasons for this are discussed in Part II. The division
of sex roles is apparent in kinship and community institutions but in
other areas of social relations it is diminished.
The coming together of males and females in social space is a
ritual expression of their interdependence and cooperation in socially
defined ways. The expression of fellowship or communitas is seen in
courtship and in adolescent behavior. The realm of adolescence and
courtship with loosely defined social positions is given structure as
girls become pregnant and give birth to children replenishing personnel
in the hierarchy of structure in kinship and community. It is through
the rites of passage in adolescence, with sub-phases in pregnancy,
childbirth and acceptance of motherhood, that girls are permitted to
assume definitive roles in the social structure as women.
There are, then, two forms of community relevant to the adolescent
experience, one replacing the other in the passage from childhood to
womanhood. The two forms of community compliment and enhance the
analysis because when one is apparent the other becomes less so. Community
is the sample, viewed alternately as a system of social statuses and as
a body of equals bound together for a common cause.
Before describing the community as viewed internally it is useful
to discuss the characteristics of the community as seen through census
material and vital statistics. The demographic profile of the community
is presented to establish its economic, educational, occupational and
population features. The north central Florida community of Edge Crossing
is about 25 miles west of County Seat, a manufacturing and farming town
with a population' in 1970 of about 10,000. It is equidistant from
University Town, an educational and medical center with a population
of approximately 70,000 in 1970. The county experienced a moderate
increase in white population and a slight decline in the black population
in the past decade (see Appendix B, Figure 1). Nearly one-third of the
population is non-white and about three-quarters of the population
lives in rural areas.
The non-white population is characterized by low incomes, unskilled
occupations and low levels of education. The population is relatively
young; over 60 percent of all persons are under 25 years of age while
about 40 percent of them are under 15 years of age (see Figure B-2).
The high proportion of adolescents in the area is due to the relatively
high birth rate and the movement of adults out of the area for economic
About half of the males and females over 14 years of age are
married (see Figure B-3). Although marriage and childbearing tend to
hamper educational efforts, females complete more years of education
than males (see Figure B-4). The higher educational levels of females
relate to the occupational structure but are not directly reflected
in individual incomes. Public school teaching is the most common
professional occupation in the area and females predominate. Nearly all
other persons are in semi-skilled or unskilled occupations (see Figure
B-5). Individual and family incomes reflect the low remuneration
received in most occupations although males have considerably higher
incomes than females. More than twice as many females as males had no
income. Nearly one-third of all persons over 14 years of age had no
income (see Figure B-6). Nearly half the family incomes were under
$3,000 per year while an additional one-quarter had incomes under $6,000
per year (U.S. Census 1970: Count Four).
Statistics for the white population indicate that whites experience
higher incomes, occupational positions and educational levels. The
statistical profile of the non-white population indicates that the
development of human resources is lacking. The socio-economic level of
a community is thought to be reflected in health related statistics.
Although a direct relation has not been proven it is known that lcw
incomes and educational levels are often found among populations with
high infant death rates, high birth rates and other features relating to
maternal and infant health.
Nearly 50 percent of non-white births are to unmarried women;
among whites about 4 percent are unmarried (see Figure B-7). This
dramatic difference reflects distinctive black courtship and marriage
patterns discussed in Part III. Non-white women become pregnant more
often and deliver more live infants but they also experience still
births and infant deaths more frequently than whites (see Figures B-8
and B-9). Pregnancy occurs early in the reproductive years and the
birth rates to women under 19 years of age are increasing (see Figure
At the time this research was planned and conducted (1970-1972)
it appeared that,despite the greater availability of and knowledge about
contraception, young women were delivering an increasing proportion of
all births. Whether this will change or has changed in the recent past
remains to be seen.
The process of female maturation, courtship and the significance of
pregnancy and motherhood to adolescents are given expression in the
organization of family and cacmunity. The community, described statisti-
cally in terms of the quantitative characteristics available from
sources beyond the community, is a low income area in which reproduction
begins in adolescence. Socially, adolescence is related to the community-
and kinship system which requires the maturation of males and females
to fill positions in the social structure in adulthood. The purpose of
this presentation is to describe the social meaning of adolescence
in the community.
A social vignette sets the scene.
Twenty youths between 12 and 18 years of age step from the school
bus returning them to Edge Crossing from junior and senior high school
about nine miles away. Chatting, they walk singly or in small groups
in an irregular pattern as they fan out in various directions toward
their own or friends'homes. Some carry purses or books, others are
empty-handed, but most are fashionably dressed. Among girls sizzle
suits (very short, bare-backed dresses with matching bikini panties)
are popular. The boys wear brightly colored pants and shirts and floppy
knit or felt hats. One girl wears a loose fitting man's shirt; on
the back is an inked-on clenched fist with "Black Power" printed belaw
it. Most of the youth have Afro hair styles, although some of the girls
wear their hair straightened. A few of the boys have their hair plaited
down In a style popular since longer hair came into fashion.
Jean, 16 years of age, steps off the bus wearing a short skirt and
a man's shirt, bobby socks and loafers. Unlike the others, she walks
down the sidewalk of the old school building and into the cafeteria where
Headstart pupils eat their meals. To the cook, her aunt, she says "Hey."
Then turning to two little girls one and three years of age, she watches
momentarily and then speaks softly, "Hey, Tina. How you doing, Joan?"
She says nothing more to her aunt, focusing her attention on the little
girls. After about three minutes she picks up a diaper bag, takes the
younger child by the hand and commands the older one, "Come on." They
start down the path toward home about 400 yards away.
Jean takes care of the children until her parents return from work
about midnight. Ordinarily her grandmother, who lives further up the
path, helps her, but today her grandmother is away at a funeral. Jean
is to attend school during the day and take care of her youngest sister
and her little daughter after school for two more years because her
parents want her to finish high school. It is her responsibility to
take care of the girls while her parents are away because her grandmother
is old and her siblings do not come home on a regular schedule.
Jean and her ancestors for five generations have lived in Edge
Crossing. It is not mentioned on most maps of the area, but is a
distinct pl-ace with stores, churches, homes, shops,1 a playground and
numerous lakes. The school there was closed when county schools
integrated in 1967-68. Jean is involved in and affected by most of the
activities in the community. She maintains relationships with her kin,
her friends, the father of her daughter, and his friends and family.
As a mother, young woman, student, church member and daughter, she has
an Identifiable role in the-community.
Young women, similar in age and status to Jean, form a distinguish-
able social grouping and are present in most social settings, including
church, school, home and gathering places beyond the home. Their roles
lack definition and authority although they are responsible individuals
and family members. The process by which girls traverse the years
between childhood and adulthood and the social changes they experience
are examined here. To analyze the social behavior of girls it is
Businesses providing a focus for evening social interactions are
called "shops" by local residents.
necessary to understand the organization of the community in which they
live and the social realities they face in becoming women. Although
the purpose of the presentation is to elucidate the maturation of
adolescent females, the description of the community provides a necessary
foundation for the analysis. In Part I customary social forms,
economic and educational characteristics of-the community are described
in terms of the dimensions of time and space and the division of labor.
The use of space and its social meaning is discussed in Chapter 1.
USE OF SPACE
Community organization and customary social forms have spatial
correlates in geography, settlement pattern and housing in a community.
The analysis of space use clarifies the social behavior in houses, yards,.
and gathering places beyond the home and permits the explication of the
repetitive behavioral patterns organized around periodic temporal
rhythms. The community is described first in terms of geography and
settlement pattern involving the broad use of space in the community.
Next, houses, yards and the schedules of sleep, work and recreation are
related to domestic space and typical female behavior. Finally, male
social behavior in stores and shops explicates the division between male
and female domain, a recurrent theme throughout the presentation. Although
male and female roles are segregated in socially and spatially recognized
ways, they are related to one another in other ways. It is necessary to
analyze various dimensions of the community to realize the interrelation-
ships. We begin with a description of the geography and settlement
The residents of Edge Crossing live in clusters of houses scattered
over a loosely defined area of about four square miles. The center of
the community is the Crossing store (see Figure 1); the boundaries of
the community become less well defined as households further from the
store are considered.l Numerous lakes limit the use of space and add
interest to the sandy land and scrub vegetation in the area. There .are
two paved roads in the community; one is a state maintained highway
(S-200) dividing the community. The other, intersecting with S-200 is
paved south of the highway but clay on the north. There are two county
maintained clay roads running perpendicular to S-200 and innumerable
sandy lanes cutting through woods and terminating in yards. Existing
buildings, roads and lakes structure the use of space while land
possession determines who may live or work on specific properties.
Land ownership has always been important and older persons describe
the transfer of land to present families from the original settlers who
came into the area shortly after the Civil War. Some of the early
settlers homesteaded as much as 100 acres of land while others laid
claim to considerably less.' Some of the lands are held relatively
intact while others have been divided numerous times after the death of
local land holders. Some of the land around a lake south of Edge Crossing
has been sold to whites, but for the most part, land has not transferred
between blacks and whites.
Residents refer to numerous places in the community and beyond it
by name. For example, Bull Lake, Mining and Greenville are all within
the area defined as Edge Crossing. Then, beyond Edge Crossing are
other places, equally rural, also called by name. Any person's or family's
house within five or ten miles of the Crossing store can be located by
IThe area shown on the map (Figure 1) includes the area where my most
important informants live.
place name, family name or geographical description. A household or
family can be located in space because they are near one lake or another,
near a particular road, or bend in the road, on a specific clay road,
near a relative's home place or near a store or church.
There has been a gradual increase in the population of the community.
Older residents say that people live everywhere now; when they were young
there were 'Noods everywhere." A definite movement of homes and persons
toward S-200 has taken place and a tendency to build homes near the
lakes and along county maintained roads is noticeable. One of the
attractions for moving nearer good roads has been the potential for
mingling with others.
All gathering places are located on the two paved roads. The
three stores, two shops, three churches and the old school building are
within two miles of one another. The events which occur at schools and
churches are explored in later sections. The rhythm of activity at the
stores, shops and homes provide insight into the social use of space in
Houses and Yards
The house and yard provide a focus for numerous individual and
group activities including eating, resting, sleeping, care of clothing
and bodily needs, child care and the exchange of money and information
between members of the household. Life in the home is usually shared
with persons related by blood or marriage and includes persons from two
or more generations. Before examining customary social behavior, a
description of the dwellings and their furnishings clarifies the boundaries
within which domestic life takes place.
Houses vary considerably in age, design and location reflecting the
adaptations in construction through decades of time. Four distinctive
house types and their relationship to one another reflect the temporal
development of settlement pattern through generational time. The most
uniform house type is the older home, built about 50 years ago. A front
porch leads into a living room where one finds a low light level and an
assortment of overstuffed furniture protected by fabric throws. An
archway divides the living and dining rooms with the kitchen lying
immediately'behind the dining room. Most homes have running water, but
sometimes when another house is located nearby water is obtained from the
pump servicing the other house.
Two or three bedrooms run parallel to the three main rooms of the
house with curtains or doors separating the bedrooms from the other
rooms. In many cases the front porch, back porch and bathroom were
added after the original house was built. The construction of older
houses took place as materials, manpower and financing became available.
Often a man living in the house, a husband, brother or son, is the
greatest contributor to the construction and maintenance of the house.
Within older houses there are usually ornately framed photographs,
taken early in the century, of elaborately attired persons in ascending
generations. School pictures and snapshots of younger relatives are
displayed. They are placed under glass on a coffee table, clustered
under one large glass-covered frame or placed about the house in a more
random fashion. Most of the older houses have a glass-paneled china
cabinet where stacked or standing dishes are displayed.
Older houses and some of the furnishings, including the china cabinets
and old pictures, have been passed intact to the current owner from previous
generations. These houses are distinctive for several reasons. They are
rarely painted, are sometimes covered with tarpaper siding, are almost
identical in floor plan and have a wide assortment of old pictures and
furnishings of sentimental value. Older homes have been added to,
repaired and remodeled over the years without altering the original floor
The second house type, those of moderate age, constructed 15 to 25
years ago, are weatherboard sided, have more variety in floor plan, are
usually painted and were contracted through the same construction company.
These homes do not have as many old pictures or china cabinets unless
older women have moved into them from older houses. Often the older,
abandoned houses are left standing next to newer ones and used when
several visitors or kinsmen visit at once. The bathrooms in homes of
moderate age are incorporated in the original floor plan but are some-
times not yet installed. Nearly all homes have kerosene furnaces which
are moved into the living room during the cooler months but are on the
front porch or in an outbuilding during the summer.
Newer homes, constructed in the past 15 years, are a third house
type. They have more variation in interior floor plan and exterior
appearance, are nearly always constructed of concrete block and usually
have a functioning bathroom. Nearly all homes have pictures of President
Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. The three may appear in
a group picture or John Kennedy and Martin Luther King may appear with
their families. These heroes as well as religious articles adorn the
living and dining room walls but are sometimes found on bedroom walls.
Lake front property is popular among younger persons; nearly all
lake front homes are less than 15 years of age and are usually owned by
married couples who have worked several years building or sub-contracting
Sometimes lake front property is combined with the fourth house
type, the 12-foot wide mobile home. Women admire mobile homes because
they are clean, neat, ready for immediate occupancy, are easier to
finance than a house and can be parked on property owned by relatives.
They are fully furnished and need little maintenance when they are new.
Persons who own houses often state that they wish they had a mobile home
because they are so spacious and pretty. Actually the houses are larger
in living area than mobile homes. Houses have approximately 1,000 to
1,200 square feet of living area, but this is not immediately perceived.
by local admirers of mobile homes. Women who have tried to raise
children in mobile homes often say that they found them too small for
several children and they long for a "real" house.
A combination of house types are often located near one another so
the households function almost as one unit. These arrangements are
created by two or more houses located within 50 feet of one another or
a mobile home being blocked up within ten feet of an established house.
Mobile homes permit greater flexibility in household arrangements than
do houses because they can be located to meet the needs of related families
and removed when no longer needed.
Housing located in close proximity and possessed by related families
permits the households to function cooperatively. Cooking, child care,
laundry and sleeping arrangements alternate between the households.
Clustered houses, cooperating in various ways, are usually owned by
related persons who obtained a portion of the family land from older
relatives on which to build a home. In some cases, transfer of land
title occurs, but the adult sons and daughters are usually permitted to
use family land until the death of the parents then the land becomes
part of their inheritance. The housing patterns and the way they are
grouped over the land is related to land possession and tenure, discussed
in Chapters 6 and 7.
Housing in the community reflects the adaptation to construction
methods developed over the years but the spatial orientation of housing
indicates the importance of kinship and land possession. The interiors
of the homes are adorned with the artifacts of family life in Edge Crossing
mirroring the age and interest of the residents. The yards surrounding
the houses are all similar in appearance and function.
Outdoor space surrounding households throughout the community Is
an extension of the home. The sandy yard extends no more than 200 feet
around the house before brush and undergrowth take over. When other
houses are situated nearby, the yard extends around them. The front
yard is bounded by a road or lane which provides automobile access to
the house. Cars park in the sandy driveway; inoperable ones are
positioned to the side or back of the yard for parts, storage or want of
a better place. Foot paths, worn through the sparse.vegetation in the
yard and heavy underbrush beyond it, lead to other houses visited
frequently by adults or playing children.
The sand in the yard is usually raked every few months to clear away
trash accumulating from the activities that take place there. Lawns are
not popular; buying a lawnmower or paying someone to mow the yard
seems unnecessarily expensive to most residents. Potted plants and
flowering shrubs are arranged in the yard, primarily around the front
porch and at the base of trees. Many yards have fencing on one or more
sides; this and other lines strung from trees and posts are used for
drying clothes. A garden plot beside or behind the house is often
planted in vegetables for home consumption. Oak and pine trees provide
shade while citrus, pecan and fruit trees serve the dual function of
shading the yard and producing edible foods.
Chairs or benches placed beneath the trees or against the house are
often in use. Visitors or family sit outside taking advantage of the
breeze or the privacy that the outdoors provides. Men often stay'outdoors
smoking, drinking beer, talking and napping while women are inside
cooking, cleaning, talking and watching television. In rainy weather,
yard activities are transferred to the front or back porch, spatially
drawing male and female closer, but their activities remain segregated.
Preschool children, restricted in their play to the cleared area of
the yard, leave their possessions lying about it. Dogs, cats and some-
times pigs, enjoy the cool of the yard in a usually hot climate. The
yard is an extension of the house and is usually a place where men spend
some of their time resting, thinking and interacting with others. Women,
who tend to spend their time in the house, organize the temporal sequence
of activities of the house and yard.
The daily household routine is organized to meet the human needs and
routines of a variety of persons who are usually periodically absent from
the home on a regular basis. The very young, very old and some women
spend nearly all of their time at home while adult males, who often have
more than one home in which to eat, sleep, maintain a wardrobe, and take
care of biological needs, do not. The household pattern, organized around
the needs of participants, is described through the daily activities
that occur there.
The daily routine starts when children rise at 7:00 a.m. and get
ready to go to school. Often older adults, however, who have accustomed
themselves to retiring early, rise at daybreak. Since the sleeping of
most adults fits to their work schedule, they are often asleep when the
children arise. The female head of the house usually'gets up to see
the children off to school and prepares breakfast for pre-adolescents.
Some students prefer to prepare their own breakfast and others go
without. If the woman is at work or has to sleep, a grandmother, aunt,
high school age sibling or cousin, or another woman living nearby attends
to the needs of younger children in the morning.
After the children are out of the house other adults rise and are
usually up by 10:00 a.m. Some have already left for work or to run
errands by this time. -The social, occupational, and educational schedules
require that the household routine be flexible.
A meal is prepared around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. by an adult female in
the household. If the female household head is absent she leaves the
food on the stove or directions for its preparation. The morning meal
usually includes coffee, light bread and grits. Pork cooked with peas,
or bacon, or pork chops, or eggs or fish are usually included in the menu.
When the food is ready plates are served by a woman to those present and
the meal is consumed in the living room, kitchen, dining room or under
a tree or on the porch. Family members position themselves for comfort,
the desire to be alone or to talk. Rarely does everyone sit together at
a table. In fact there are often too many persons present to share
available table space. When members of the household come in during the
meal or later and inquire about food they receive a plate, prepared by
the woman. Friends who come in during a meal are usually not invited
to share the food.
Children under three years of age are usually fed from the plate
of an adult woman although all adults offer little children food when
they approach. Children over three years of age receive a plate and
often sit at the kitchen table supervised by an adult female. After the
meal Is eaten the plates are usually abandoned where the meal was
consumed, although women tend to take their plates to the kitchen.
Later, a woman gathers the dishes and glasses scattered around the
house and takes them to the kitchen where they are washed and placed in
a drainer, or dried and replaced in a cabinet. Women attend to various
chores after the meal -- straightening the house, making beds and
sweeping floors. Clothes are washed at least weekly and usually more
often. Sorting, folding and ironing clothes is a routine housekeeping
task which women perform for husbands, small children and old or infirm
members of the household. While women are engaged in housekeeping men
sit talking to others, drift from the house, go to the Crossing store,
to work, or to take care of business.
After household chores are done women usually spend several hours
watching television, visiting and tending to the needs of preschool
children. Women usually have a small group of friends they see once or
twice a week or one or two friends they see daily. They receive visitors
informally in their home, walk to a nearby house, or if they have a car,
they drive to the store to buy some items and then go to a friend's or
relative's house. Women enjoy talking to other women about community
news, children and men, and do so by visiting or extensive use of the
telephone. Most homes have a telephone which is in frequent use,
particularly by adolescents. Telephone conversations vary from about
ten minutes to two hours or more in length. There are many interruptions
from children, television and little tasks, but the content of the
conversation is such that interruptions do not interfere with the
Another popular pastime of women is keeping up with the "stories,"
television programs which are broadcast from about noon until 4:00 p.m.
Women, sitting on the edge of their seats, blocking out all other
stimuli, concentrate on the "story." They discuss the events, predict
outcomes and take sides with characters on the screen during the
commercials. Adolescent females hurry home from school, prepare a
snack, rush into the living room and join others involved in the program.
The television serials, similar in function to radio "soap operas"
of a generation ago, are ". . symbol systems which are closely related
to the private and public worlds of the women who listen" (Warner 1962:
255). The "stories" express women's feelings that their role is both
difficult and dangerous. They sacrifice constantly for home and children
and have to guard against unscrupulous females who use every trick to
attract "good" men away from established obligations. Housekeeping and
child care are important responsibilities of women but are incompatible
with keeping men sexually contented. The stories present problems with
which the women can identify although the leading personalities depict
different life styles.
When the younger children come home from school, around 4:00 p.m.,
there is a lot more activity and noise in the houses and yards. Children
from several households play or go to the store together. Children in
elementary school do not usually have established responsibilities at
home other than taking care of themselves but in some households, most
of the housekeeping is reserved for older students, nearly always females.
They are responsible for the routine housework after school and on
weekends. They care for young children, wash clothes, iron, sweep and
mop the floors, burn the trash, cook and rake the yard when needed.
The distinct division between the activities of children and adolescent
females, discussed fully in Chapter 8 and Part III, demonstrates the
different status of children and adolescents.
A second meal is placed on the stove in mid-afternoon and eaten when
children and adults return to the house at dusk. The meal, eaten
between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m., is usually served later in the summer when
daylight lasts longer than it is during the winter months. The meal is
served in a fashion similar to the morning meal but usually more
persons are present. When family members are absent at mealtime some of
the food is left on the stove for them to eat on their return. Rice
and chicken pieces, greens with pork, macaroni and cheese, peas and pork
and fish and various vegetables are often prepared. The dishes from
this meal are sometimes not washed until morning if females in the house
are tired or are going out.
Most people enjoy the usual diet and identify with its designation
as "soul food." One of the most significant aspects of "soul food" in
Edge Crossing is that there is always plenty of it. One does not stop
eating until a firm, tight feeling in the abdominal region is experienced.
The preparation of greens, peas and other foods usually takes between two
and four hours. The variability in time allotted for preparation of
foods and eating contributes to the casual organization of household
When the evening meal is finished some family members "wash up" or
retire early and wait until morning to bathe. Other family members are
intently watching television. Babies have either gone to bed or are
tiredly moving from one lap to another. Points beyond the home, shops,
stores and homes of friends have drawn adolescents and adults away.
When visitors are in the house they engage in watching television,
talking and playing with the little children. Men often have not yet
returned home for the evening, but when they return they eat, watch
television and retire. The most consistent persons in the house during
the day and throughout the evening are adult women but they sometimes
visit others in the evening if someone is present to take care of young
The activity in the house is at a low level by 9:30 or 10:00 p.m.
because most of the children are in bed. One or two persons sit half-
sleeping with the television as a talkative companion, but by midnight
they have retired. Depending on where they have gone, those who have
been out come in between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. and go to bed. The
late hours that men and many youth keep accounts for their lack of
initiative in the morning and staggers the activity level in the households
through the day, evening and the night.
Household activities are organized so that individuals with interests
and responsibilities away from home can meet them while fulfilling their
Bathe from a basin of water.
needs at home. Household functions are carried out in a highly flexible
manner but lines of authority are clearly defined. There are no tasks
that are so strictly allocated by sex that they cannot be performed by
either males or females although most tasks are routinely done by women
who usually delegate responsibility to younger females and sometimes to
adolescent males. Authority rests with an older female, in some cases
the oldest female is too old or sick to maintain control. She usually
abdicates her role to a younger woman, usually a mature daughter who
assumes the position of authority.
The female authority figure in every house is identifiable through
her behavior in her home. Often two or three women, each having a
house "to boss," cooperate and share numerous household functions,
lightening their "load." The sharing of work, goods and personnel
between related houses is common in all households and a dally pattern
in others. When two or more women cooperate to perform household tasks
their time is more flexible, permitting freedom to engage in activities
beyond the home but they do not forfeit their authority within their own
house. The daily sharing of goods, food, child care and other functions
between three households is illustrated in the example below.
Maxine, 72 years of age, heads one household.; Brenda, her 45-year
old daughter, another; and Linda, her 27-year old granddaughter, a third.
The three women share child care, food preparation, laundry and ironing,
transportation and other functions. Their interactions reflect the
flexibility of household function and composition.
The three women live within 150 yards of one another and visit daily.
One of Linda's sons, eight years of age, sleeps, eats and keeps his clothes
at Maxine's but spends most of the day with his siblings at Linda's. Brenda
usually lives alone but her brother Joe (Maxine's son) lived there after
he left his wife. He slept at Brenda's and ate at Maxine's until he
moved in with a girl friend.. Brenda is seldom at home because she works
two jobs. Maxine frequently prepares food for herself, Douglas (Linda's
son) and Joe, who stops in occasionally. Brenda and Linda often give
Maxine food because she is on an income under $100 per month and she
returns some of the food to them when it is prepared. The three women
often eat together in the morning at one of their homes. Since Maxine's
health is not good, Linda and Brenda often prepare food for her and check
on her in the evening. Maxine often does Brenda's washing and ironing
and periodically takes care of Linda's older children when Linda works.
They in turn, provide transportation and various services for Maxine.
Related households often operate almost as one unit, movement of
personnel between houses is without formality. Clothing, food and some
other goods are transferred with little regard to ownership. It is
sometimes ambiguous where one household unit ends and another begins in
terms of the functions and personnel of the household. The reciprocity
between the three households described above is not unique. Women
usually have relatives or friends with whom they regularly share goods
The activity level in many households is very high as relatives
and friends of various ages move into and through the house. Often
there are few adult male participants in the household activities because
men have other places in which to spend their time but they usually eat
and sleep in the household to which they are most closely identified.
Sleep and work remove most men from household activities. Male
students are often involved in sports requiring practices and games,
and also work part-time jobs. Often the most active male participants
in households are retired or in poor health. Men spend their free time
interacting with other males in set events1 and with females in pair
events in various locations beyond the home.
Men customarily spend their time beyond the home but have a
recognized responsibility to the household. Women spend their time at
home and have definable roles in the male domain beyond the home. Their
activities reflect the spatial arrangement in the community and the
traditional division of labor. Although both men and women work in
capacities beyond the home, the customary division of labor permits women
to exercise authority and independence in the homes and allows males to
express their social position and importance in community institutions
beyond the home.
Women recognize the tendency of males to congregate, talk, drink,
play games and spend their time away from home. When men are away from
home women say they are "in the streets." If a man is spending most of
his time with a woman his family will state that he is "in the streets."
A man's activities away from home are not completely known to his family.
Their lack of information is a protective mechanism because it shields
his activities from scrutiny and gossip.
A set event is defined as an event between three or more persons
in which one person originates to the others (Chapple and Coon 1942:706).
2A pair event is an event between two individuals (Chapple and Coon
Men who have stable marital relationships spend more time at home
than others but are still "in the streets" regularly talking at the
Crossing store, having a beer with friends, or attending to various
part-time occupations. Although men do not spend much of their time at
home, they are respected when they are there. Older children become
somewhat quieter and subdued when they enter the house. Men play with
and talk to children under three years old but spend little time with
older children or adolescents. Women usually acknowledge the entry of
their husband or adult male offspring. Married women often keep their
husbands' desires in mind when they plan to be away when he returns. They
plan meals to be prepared by others or leave food for them.
When men and women interact there is considerable non-verbal
communication because "people talk with their eyes." When a man comes
into the house more glances than words are exchanged. Women can tell
what kind of mood their "man" is in by looking at him. Married women
say that trying to keep a man happy is a "hard thing to go through with."
They study his various weak points and learn to use them to achieve
certain ends. Women do not back down when challenged by a man,
especially in the home. Many women accuse men of not treating them
fairly and trying to manipulate them by withholding money. It is a
point of honor with women not to let.a man "hard time" them. A woman
will enlist the help of other women for child care and take a job to
prove to a man that he cannot make her do whatever he wants. Women agree
that they will always "be out ahead" of men because while e men sleep
women think." In the home it is apparent that women are authority
figures who strive for harmony to maintain a home for their children.
At sone points in the system rmales are more clearly dominant. Stores
and shops, the domain of males, are spatially separated from households
but the use of space in these locations has similarities to spatial
arrangement in the house and yard. The analysis of social interactions
throughout the community indicates that buildings are the focus of social
gatherings but exterior space is customarily integrated into the social
patterns. Houses are the focus of typically female behavior where men
have socially defined roles. The stores and shops are male domain and
women have limited roles. The spatial distance between typically male
and female domains reflects their role segregation. Because stores and
shops differ in certain respects they are discussed separately, later
their similarities and differences are compared.
The three stores in Edge Crossing serve an economic function and are
important meeting places beyond the home. Stores are ordinarily open
six days a week, including Sunday, and are not open in the late evening.
The stock in stores includes various grocery items which are purchased
for household use. In addition, beer, wine and snacks may be purchased
for immediate consumption. The clientele ranges from children about
three years of age to the elderly.
Children around three years of age ordinarily purchase candy while
older children purchase items for the house and snacks. Adult women buy
odd items that were not purchased during monthly shopping trips into
one of the towns. Some men spend a large portion of the day at the store
sitting or standing and talking to one another and to women and men who
pass through the store.
Two of the stores are operated by whites, one has been under
continuous operation for more than 20 years by a man who has a reputation
for being surly and nosey. There is considerably less visiting at his
store than at the others although he carries a more varied stock of
The store at the crossing (see Figure 1) was recently purchased from
another white owner by a couple from South Florida who talk and joke
with the men spending the day there. They take time with little children
coming in and are liked by most of the community. The Crossing store
is the major meeting place and geographically is the center of the
community. On Sunday, there are as many as 25 cars parked in front of
the store and as many as fifty people, mostly men, standing around
outside talking. Women say that men cannot get along without the "crossing"
and remark on the number of men there "loafing."
The Crossing store has a limited number of grocery items but a
large supply of beer, wine and soda. There is a covered porch in front
and chairs are placed along the wall. A table and chairs are on the lawn
beneath a tree to the right of the building. Men sit beneath the tree
and talk or play cards. To the left, a smaller building houses a pool
table, on the door there is a sign stating, "Positively No Gambling" in
bold, red paint. The Crossing store is a long, rambling structure, the
owners live in the back half of the building.
Bud's, the black owned store in the community, combines a filling
station and barbeque with the usual beer, wine, soda and snack operation.
Bud does not stock a large number of grocery items so there is.more
space on the interior of the building. A juke box, two pool tables and
two tables with chairs are inside. The pool table is often in use
during the day.
Bud works a full time job and employs Alvin, an older man, to spend
the day at the store collecting the charges for gasoline and the beer
that others drink. Alvin is usually sitting in front of the store
talking to two or three other men but sometimes the store is closed
when Alvin has other business. Bud tries to run a "tight operation."
There is a pay telephone station near the cash register, beneath it is
a sign stating, "This is a business phone, Please limit your calls to
three minutes." Another sign warns that those using profanity on the
premises will be prosecuted. Sometimes a group of adolescents play the
juke, dance and talk at Bud's. In some ways, Bud's is as much like a
shop as it is like a store. One of the main distinguishing features is
that it is not usually open late in the evening.
Stores and shops are both male dominated, community gathering points.
The most important difference between stores and shops are the reasons
people go to them. Shops are organized to bring males and females
together in a socially defined situation. Males engage in some of the
same activities in shops as they do at stores but take advantage of
opportunities to become involved with females. In stores and shops,
women are customarily subordinate, and relate to males within socially
The two "shops" in Edge Crossing (see Figure 1) are similar in
appearance and function to businesses throughout the surrounding area
catering to entertainment needs in the evening. The plain, but painted
building usually has no signs indicating that it is a place of business,
although the clay or sand parking area indicates that there is consider-
able activity there. During the day there are rarely cars parked
outside although one can sometimes go in and buy beer or snacks if the
owner, who lives in a house nearby, is around.
The interiors of shops are very similar. The building is one large
room with a storage and service area in. the back set off from the rest
of the room. In front of the service area is a partition as high as a
man's waist. The cash register, cooler, snacks and other merchandise are
arranged on the counter and along the wall on shelves. A screen above
the partition separates the merchandise from the customer. If a person
wants a pickle or crackers, he can not serve himself because the screen
prevents him from doing so. He asks for what he wants and receives it
when he pays for it. By leaving the front entrance and going to the back
of the building, bathrooms are accessible but males often relieve them-
selves beside the building.
In the rest of the room there are pool tables, small tables with
one or two chairs, a juke box and space for dancing. These features
practically explain the activities which are concentrated on weekend
nights. Up to 50 cars are parked in front of the shop and people stand
indoors and outside talking. Soul music resounds from the juke and
couples dance to its throbbing rhythm. Music with a fast beat is more
often heard than the slower tunes to which couples "slow drag" (stand
facing with bodies touching from head to toe and moving in rhythm to the
music every other beat). The floor and walls seem to vibrate to the
Most shops, including the two in Edge Crossing, are owned and
operated by blacks.
beat and those not dancing are moving some part of their body to the
sounds. A pool game is in progress at the same time; players move to the
beat of the music except when bending forward to shoot. Beer is
purchased and drunk; others bring their own bottle and buy soda for
mixer. Some do not bother with the mixer. For the most part participants
are women between 15 and 35 years of age and men from 15 to 50 years of
At the shop persons of the opposite sex meet, business deals are
made and everybody acts the way they feel. It is also an important node
in communication networks. Persons from other communities come to talk
and hear the news. There is considerable travel between shops; cars
filled with men, women or both go from shop to shop in other localities
looking for the best action, meeting new people and finding out, generally,
what is going on and where. Individuals and groups travel over two
counties to a place where they hear that something interesting is
happening. Often a band with a good reputation is playing and people
from a radius of 100 miles or more attend. Even if the reputation of the
band is not outstanding people go to hear it if nothing more interesting
is happening closer to home.
The activity in the shops is fast moving. People meet, talk a while,
like one another and move out to find more privacy. Often events which
have occurred away from the shop are brought to a head and worked out.
Consequently, quarrels which have been brewing between men or women over
a member of the opposite sex are resolved by a show of force. Disputes
over business or money matters are brought out in the open. When fighting,
shooting or knifing occurs the police are sometimes called. Most shop
customers try to avoid contact with police. They do not want to serve
as witnesses, and less still do they want to be taken to the station.
They do want to know what happens so they can relate their version of it
to others. When it is clear that the police will be called, or that
one may be shot as an innocent bystander, the shop becomes vacant within
The stores and shops in the community are meeting places beyond the
home where information is exchanged and a high rate of social interaction
is expected. The congregation of personnel in stores and shops is one
expression of ritual in the community focusing on communication and
courtship interests. Sports events and religious activities are also
ritual occasions, they are discussed in Chapters 3 and 4 respectively.
The use of space and social forms in stores and shops, dominated
by males, and in female oriented homes demonstrates the division between
male and female role that prevails in Edge Crossing. The use of space
provides males with legitimate claim on public areas while permitting
females independence in private areas. In each of the areas discussed
here, land use, houses, yards, daily patterns and social gatherings, males
and females function independently. Yet the division of labor is such
that they are dependent on one another for the coordination of routinized
activities. The realm of work and finance explicates the interdependence
of male and female and the realities both face in the white dominated
The need for cash income requires that most adults enter the white
dominated economic system and obligates them to participate more fully
in the economic institution of the wider society than in any other
institution. The demands and expectations of. erplc,ers and creditors
conflict with the needs of community residents for income, recreation
and social relations. Youth express disdain for occupations traditionally
available to blacks, but, older persons, admitting that life has been
filled with hard work, look back with satisfaction on modest achievements.
The articulation of community residents with the economic system
has changed through the generationsand various adaptations have occurred.
Within the past five years alterations in employment policies resulting
from civil rights legislation have opened some opportunities to youth
that were unavailable to their parents. Yet, finances remain a problem
for everyone. Women and men experience similar problems in the wider
economic system and cooperate more fully in economic endeavors than in
other areas. In this section the economy related adjustments made by
adults, the problems of entering the job market faced by youth, and the
customary allocation of resources are discussed, but first, the social
and historical events resulting in the current economic base are presented.
Brief Economic History
A fundamental knowledge of farming and a need for success were
characteristic of persons who initially settled in Edge Crossing.
Although the land did not produce abundantly, the crops and natural
resources provided for the families living there. Corn, cane, sweet
potatoes, collard greens,'bonk'peas, watermelon, okra, squash, cucumber
and other vegetables were harvested. Plums, oranges, tangerines, pecans,
pears, peaches and peanuts were also available. The primary meat source
then and today is pork. Hogs are relatively economical to raise and
once slaughtered there is little waste. Although some people kept a
few milk cows, beef has never been a preferred meat. Other sources of
protein in the area then and now are fish, gopher (a tortoise), cooter
(a water dwelling tortoise), rabbit, squirrel and chicken. Corn was
ground into meal at a mill about four miles away and made into hoe cakes
and cornbread at home. Flour, rice, textiles for clothes and liquor were
among the few items ordered from stores five miles south of Edge Crossing.
Men and women worked side by side in the fields during peak work
periods and food was taken to the fields and prepared there in cast iron
kettles over fires. An older woman said that meals cooked in the fields
seemed to taste better than any food she has ever eaten. Much of the
routine farming work was accomplished by women and youth. Mines were
located about three miles south of Edge Crossing where the men, working
ten to 12 hours a day, dug out and transported onto rail cars. a fine,
white clay. Some of them worked there long enough to draw retirement and
do so today.
The emigration of young adults began in the 1920's and 1930's and
continues today. Young men and women went to northern cities, including
New York and Washington, D.C., to live with relatives or friends and
seek work. When they became established they sent for siblings or other
relatives. Although family members were gone for decades, they maintained
ties by letter, telephone and messages sent through vacationing relatives.
Northern cities and relatives continue to attract youth although a
greater proportion of them are now settling in Florida cities. Everyone
says that the reason that young people leave Edge Crossing is the lack of
jobs, but some leave for other reasons also.
In the 1940's and 1950's adults acquired transportation and were
able to commute to University Town or County Seat to work. They were
often able to find jobs that didn't require the arduous mine labor or
the back breaking work in the fields. As this trend became marked
people quit farming in earnest. They bought their food and "come out
ahead," at least in terms of physical labor. Some older residents,
looking back with nostalgia, say that although times were good, no
one would go back to farming or the mines which closed a few years ago.
Employment beyond the community brought various changes in economic
arrangements but the traditional pattern is maintained. Males usually
work far away from home. Women contribute to the economic resources of
the household through paid employment but their primary identification
is with family and household.
Finances in Edge Crossing
Economic arrangements reveal the impact of the wider society on the
community, the division of labor and patterns of employment during the
life cycle. Mature men and women bear the major responsibility for
bringing economic resources into households and the community. An analysis
of patternsof employment and economic responsibility of males and females
reveals the division of labor and the spatial arrangements associated
with economic pursuits.
Because there is no permanent, full-time employment available in the
community men and women work in the neighboring towns, primarily in the
large health care and educational complexes in University ToJn. More
jobs are available in University Town than in other towns in the vicinity
and employment networks operant in the community lead most persons to
positions in University Town. Extensive travel, about 50 miles a day,
is a requirement for most employment adding more than an hour to the
eight-to ten-hour work day.
Males have a wide variety of occupations clustered around custodial,.
construction and farm work. Some mens' employment requires staying at
the work site, permitting them to return to Edge Crossing only on weekends
and during periods of unemployment. Women, employed in jobs reflecting
their expertise in household management and child care, work as domestics,
custodians, nursing assistants and in cafeteria service. The division
of labor is reflected in the occupations of men and women and in their
roles in the household and community.
Neither men nor women have high incomes but men fare considerably
better in wages than do women (see Figure B-6). Men are usually more
regularly employed than women and often work at more than one occupation.
Although the four school teachers in Edge Crossing, all female, probably
have the highest incomes for persons working one job, men often have
full-time jobs and various part-time occupations. Women, restricted to
employment expressing their domestic identification, often work part-time
or temporarily. Personal and family economic crises resulting in
unmanageable debts often cause women to enter the work force. When
the crisis is resolved, bills paid, or incomes from males or welfare
established, they quit work. Some, working as domestics in nearby
communities, have held the same part-time positions for years.
Employment in the wider society reveals several patterns in the
community. Permanently employed men and women work in unskilled and
semi-skilled occupations and receive low remuneration for their efforts.
Women maintain stronger ties with home, more often work part-time or
temporarily and work in positions related to their traditional roles.
Males are more actively involved in economic pursuits in the wider society,
have more varied skills than women and pursue more than one occupation
at a time. Everyone finds it difficult to cope with jobs and often
"get hot" (angry) about the demands of employers. Usually residents
have few alternatives in employment situations when they feel wronged.
They can leave the job, blow up and beat the offending party (frequently
discussed but rarely done) or quietly do the job as demanded. Sometimes
they chose to leave the job, "just walk off" but in most cases they do
as told to "get along." Work frustration is prevalent and everyone
knows that he has to "bit his lip to get along" sometimes. These patterns
express the traditional division of labor in the community and the spatial
and social separation of the wider society with community process.
Within the community the resources gained through employment are
distributed to others in part-time or temporary employment. Household
budgets and redistributive patterns among kin are discussed here. Women
usually have only one paying occupation which may be located in the
community. Baby sitting at the rate of $2.00 per child daily, is one
source of income for women whose household responsibilities or personal
involvements prevent other employment. In many cases women too old to
be in the work force or having children of their own, take care of
children. Payment for baby sitting is in cash, goods, services or a
combination of the three. Although income from baby sitting is not
high, there are few expenses associated with it.
Another source of income requiring greater financial investment is
transporting persons. Transportation is an expensive necessity for those
who do not have adequate incomes to maintain automobiles. Women who
own or have access to cars "carry" persons for payment. For example,
every woman needs to go into town at least once a month to "trade"
(grocery shop and pay bills). A ride into University Town or County
Seat costs $5.00. The rate drops to $2.00 for a trip to the smaller
towns about six miles away. Although most employment is in University
Town, most women "trade" in County Seat because food stamps have to be
obtained there and most of them have long standing accounts in stores
The state welfare department is a source of income directly available
to some females (and a few males) in the community. Many people prefer
to stay off welfare because welfare workers ask too many questions, make
too many demands and periodically threaten to discontinue the payments.
But others find welfare less troublesome and more dependable than the
work they are able to get and they make their peace with the intrusions
of welfare workers. There are several sources of welfare income in the
community, including aid to dependent children, disability checks and
old age assistance. Aid to dependent children is the most prevalent
and amounts to about $55.00 per month per child. Disability income
depends on the percent disability allowed by the state while old age
assistance is about $85.00 per month.
Welfare recipients are also eligible for food stamps, stretching
income at the grocery store. Women often receive food stamps even
though one or more persons in the household are employed because the
family income is low, dependents numerous and they meet eligibility
requirements. Children in most households are eligible for free lunch
programs. Women exploiting income opportunities in the community are
restricted to sources that permit other responsibilities to be met. Baby
sitting, transporting persons for payment and welfare are among the
Men, unrestricted by domestic responsibilities, often work full-time
and have other sources of income. They have extensive personal networks
Into neighboring black communities resulting in various part-time
occupations (called "side hustles"). Construction work, sale of fish,
farm products and delivery of goods to points beyond the community are
occupations resulting in cash payment. Males' and females' incomes
are distributed into household budgets and into various personal
In household financial arrangements there is an emphasis on males
giving money to females. When assistance is not freely given, women
assert their independence of males, take jobs and "get along" without
them. Ideally married couples collaborate on a household budget, but,
in fact, men keep as much money as they need and give the rest to wives,
girlfriends and mothers. Women rarely know the exact amount of men's pay
because men receive cash from various sources and cash the check from
their "steady" job. Cash, in amounts up to $20.00, frequently transfers
among adults. Males often contribute to more than one household, giving
between $10.00 and $50.00 per pay period to a mother or girlfriend. When
they are married their gifts to other women are reduced and more money
is given to their wives. Generally, women acknowledge a man's responsi-
bility to his mother and expect him to "give her a little" from each
Men, who usually have more money than women, are usually gift bearers,
but women frequently assist their boyfriends or sons when they are "short."
Older women, typically dominant household heads, receive cash from
several persons and lend "a little money" to younger relatives when
requested. The pattern of reciprocity involves males giving cash to
various women who, in return, provide housekeeping, laundry, meals and
other favors. Women receive cash from a variety of sources, including
sons, fathers, husbands, boyfriends and their awn employment and mastermind
the family budget.
Household budgets focus on payment of the bills for electricity,
telephone, mortgage on homes, groceries and accounts at stores where
clothing and other goods are purchased. When only the man in a home is
working he gives part of his pay to women (wife, mother or girlfriend)
to pay the bills. Working women, who receive some income from males,
first pay the bills mentioned above and usually spend money on clothing,
household furnishings and entertainment.
Financial worries are cited among the reasons that most men and
women feel the need to get out of the house and have a "good time" on
the weekend. Paradoxically in some cases a major portion of the weekly
income is spent when men and women go out, drink and forget their troubles
for a few hours. Nearly everyone agrees that if you don't forget your
troubles once in a while you "go crazy" and that is worse than being "a
little short" at the end of a pay period. Most women who have "a house
to boss" do not go out very often and are very responsible about their
financial obligations, including helping kinsmen when they need assistance.
Despite careful planning there are often economic crises that
require cash transfers greater than the small amounts that are customarily
exchanged between friends and relatives. Major economic crises are
handled through short term loans from relatives and are usually repaid
within a month unless different arrangements are made. Major economic
crises include travel expenses, car repairs and car payments and are
usually paid in cash.l Financial assistance of various sorts is usually
expected among kinsmen. It is expected that when assistance is freely
given that the receiver will "do something" for the giver in due course.
Parents and grandparents customarily help their children, and siblings
provide assistance for one another for major purchases including "getting
a place to stay" (a home). In some cases, financial aid extends to
cousins, nieces and nephews, but usually dependence is upon closer kin.
Economic arrangements in the community involve part-time employment
for males and females, an emphasis on males giving to various females
in a highly individual way, older women receiving funds from their
children, the budgetary role of women, and men as providers actively
involved in economic pursuits in the community and beyond. In the
community it is expected that men work, and bring their earnings into the
community to be shared with others. Women maintain home, function with
a budget based on income, plan for major purchases and work when
In the community the economy is based on cash. A few persons have
savings accounts but checking accounts are almost unheard of.
The economic responsibilities of men and women differ in the life
cycle. It is always men's responsibility to work, although the allocation
of their resources depends on courtship and marriage. Females, on the
other hand, have more varied responsibilities, and their needs undergo
considerable alteration through life. Young women often depend on
males they court, welfare and periodic work. Women usually enter the
work force full-time in their thirties and remain employed for many
years. Women tend to stay at home when they have two or more small
children there but work before childbearing and after the oldest child
is in adolescence. When they are old they become "too tired" to work
full-time and usually return to housekeeping in a home of their own.
This is possible because older women usually have a variety of income
sources including regular gifts from their mature children. Males do
not become the nodes of resource allocation in the family as often as
women, but women who understand the problems of working in the wider
society, value the efforts of males who earn incomes and respect their
wishes in the home.
There have been some changes in the economic opportunities available
to blacks but older persons think only in terms of the traditional, low
paying positions they have had. Most adults in the community, still
employed in these same jobs, have adjusted to them and have little
motivation to seek other positions. Younger persons, however, often
desire prestigiousjobs that do not require long hours or hard physical
work. However, most adolescents begin their working lives in the
community and later enter the job market in the wider society. An analysis
of adolescents experience in the job market reveals the problems faced
by most community residents.
Adolescents and the Job Market
Adults tend to protect adolescents against the realities of
employment because they feel that work in the wider society is an
unpleasant necessity of life. Most youth try to move into job
opportunities in the wider society after they leave school, but are
employed first in the community. High-school-age students work at the
church camp grounds (black) when it readies for summer opening and are
paid about $10.00 daily. They rake leaves, clean cabins, repair
buildings and do some building construction. The Office of Economic
Opportunity program in the community employs about 20 adolescents In the
summer to clean the school yard and supervise younger children in the
summer educational program. These jobs are welcomed by youth but their
earning capacity is restricted.
Young persons seeking employment in the white dominated economy
encounter numerous problems. Many high school graduates stay at home
for several months or a year or more before securing employment outside
the home. Fifteen students who graduated from high school in June
stayed in the area but none were employed by September. By December,
four had secured jobs and two of them had already quit working. Most
youth have difficulty finding a job that they want to keep.
Finding a job is a complicated procedure requiring the use of a
car, a means of learning about suitable job openings and the self
confidence to deal with potential employers. Each of these are difficult
for young persons who often fail civil service or state examinations
required for employment they desire. Most youth desire positions to
which they assign prestige, such as office work or in sales. They do
not want to be custodians or day workers as their parents have done.
Aspiring to positions for which there are few precedents in the community
makes their search more difficult. Many positions, particularly as
waitresses, are not readily available to blacks. The curt, negative
responses of prospective employers cuts into their youthful pride.
Fear of failure is compounded by it. Many an enthusiastic high school
graduate's hopes are dashed against the reality of discrimination,
inability to perform on standardized tests and parents who tell them
what kind of employment they can get.
For example, Dean felt an urgent need for a job immediately upon
graduation in June. She enlisted my help in locating one at the end of
May. My role was to take her to various locations where she had heard
about openings or to answer advertisements listed in the University Town
newspaper. We set out one morning; Dean was filled with high hopes.
Before we returned late in the afternoon she had responded to 18
advertisements and leads. She applied at the Veteran's Administration
Hospital as a nursing assistant, at the University as a nursing
assistant and clerk typist and a wide assortment of food handling and
office positions in town. The University and the V.A. required exams
and she scheduled to take them a few days later.
By August, Dean still did not have a job. She failed the civil
service exam, and took the state exam twice unsuccessfully. When she
applied for waitress positions she was told that they had already been
filled or that they would call her. Yet, the ad would run in the
newspaper for several days more. Dean and I spent all day answering ads
and trying to decide what she should do next on three or four occasions.
In September she asked me to help her look for a job "one last time."
She was responding to three ads for waitresses. At the first two places
they told her that they had already filled their vacancies. I waited
in the car as she went into the third restaurant located on one of the
main streets in University Town. It was a large, well maintained and
served moderately priced means to a clientele of high school students and
university personnel. Dean returned to the car in about ten minutes
with a job. I do not consider it coincidental that the restaurant
manager was a "soul brother."
Dean worked happily at the restaurant for four months. Eventually,
three factors resulted in her leaving the job. She was committed to
taking care of her sister's baby while her sister attended school, she
became sexually involved with her boss and did not want the relationship
to conflict with work and she wanted to visit friends down state
frequently for several days at a time. By the end of March, following
her graduation nine months before, she had not located a job compatible
with her other responsibilities and interests.
The personal lives of many young women are complicated, contributing
to job instability. After a few years of switching jobs, staying at
home or working part-time some women find a job that fits their wider
life style. The cafeteria and kitchen at the University Hospital employs
a large number of black women, including about ten young women from
Edge Crossing. They pool transportation resources and have developed
spirit de corps on the job. Working in the kitchen has certain
advantages although the pay is low. These women keep up with community
members in the hospital as patients and perform various services for them.
For example, a young, pregnant woman from Edge Crossing was hospital-
ized, placed on a low sodium diet and served eggs. In the presence of
visitors she said, "Now how you think I eat egg and no salt." Within five
minutes a cafeteria worker, a community resident, appeared with several
packets of salt. The meal was consumed with proper flavoring.
Working with familiar people and seeing various acquaintances passing
through the cafeteria makes work interesting. Job training takes place
after hiring so that those who quit may be rehired there because they do
not have to be retrained.
The process of finding and keeping a job is difficult because it
requires dealing with the demands of white supervisors and adaptations
in personal patterns. Many people find the necessity of working, hard
on their nerves and do not remain at one occupation for over six months.
The fear of failure and the possibility of it are great and, consequently,
most Edge Crossing residents adjust to jobs which demand far less than
The economic system in the community is ordered by the division of
labor by sex and age. Women tend to remain in the home whenever possible
and determine the budgetary allocations in the household. Males have
the responsibility for bringing economic resources into the community.
Economic arrangements in the community are spatially separated from
work in the wider society. Working is an unpleasant necessity so the
resources of those who cope with the system are valued. Youth,
relatively unfamiliar with the system and encouraged by civil rights
legislation, are often dismayed at their failures. They often adapt,
as their parents have, to jobs requiring much less than their potential.
Economic problems faced by most residents are partly a result of
the social organization of the wider society which has held blacks in
low paying employment situations. Youth usually have little preparation
for encounters in white society prior to employment and some of their
problems arise from the employment related skills they acquired in youth.
An analysis of the educational system describes the impact of formal
education on youth in Edge Crossing and suggests some of the reasons they
have difficulty obtaining jobs they want.
The use of space, economic arrangements and social forms discussed
in earlier sections indicates that Edge Crossing is a community having
relative independence of and integration into white society. Most
residents in Edge Crossing have contacts with whites in formal economic
arrangements separated from their own social and family life. These
patterns, traditionally enforced by whites, are accepted by local
residents who function within the permissible limits of the situation.
The economic condition of the community results, in part, from community
residents fulfilling available economic positions and the limited
access to the educational and economic opportunities of the wider society.
The lack of access to these resources is related to, but not wholly a
result of, the educational system and the community's utilization of it.
In Edge Crossing most learning occurs in situations separated from
the formal educational system. The important lessons of life are learned
in the home and community but the schools are the avenue through which
skills to attain jobs valued by youth can be learned. The learning
environment offered by the formal educational system and the articulation
of children and youth to it are discussed in this chapter. The focus is
on education in schools and school related events rather than on the
home, a later focus. The structure of the system is discussed along
with the activities of students in the system.
Schooling, as a process separated from home, has a long tradition
in Edge Crossing. Students attended class three months a year in a
church building around 1900. By 1925,.there was a school building in
the community located near the Crossing store, successively replaced by
two others over the years. Currently the school building reflects
considerable neglect from the county. Broken windows remain unrepaired,
the septic system does not function properly and the heating is often
deficient. Informants say that maintenance has always been a problem.
During the 1960's, there came free choice, the opportunity for
black students to attend all white schools. Not one of the parents in
Edge Crossing chose to send their children to the white school. Parents
explain that they wanted their children close to home while at school
and that the community school was satisfactory. It is also clear that
they did not want their own children breaking racial barriers or being
scorned by their black friends for being too good, "uppity," for
attending a white school.
Complete segregation continued until eliminated by court order in
1967-68. Elementary students are bussed to a school seven miles
northwest of the community while junior and senior high school students
attend school about nine miles to the southeast. The white school
south of Edge Crossing is closed and the students attend school with
students from Edge Crossing.
The formal education system, as it affects the children of Edge
Crossing, takes them away from the immediate locality for most of the day
during many years of their youth. The only exception to this is the
Headstart program which has a classroom in the old school building. The
voluntary program, in its fourth year of operation, is designed to give
four year old children experience with a learning environment before
the school years. Application must be made for children to enroll in a
program whose benefits are not apparent to all parents. Breakfast,
lunch and a wide variety of learning experiences are provided for the
The class of 20 students is instructed and cared for by a teacher
and a teacher's aide, Volunteers, parents and interested persons are
invited and encouraged to come into the classroom and participate in
the activities. The teacher and teacher's aide, both black, live in
County Seat but are well prepared culturally, educationally and
tempermentally to work with the children and their parents. There is
a cook who prepares the meals for the students, a custodian and a driver
who transports the children to and from school. All three are local
Headstart regulations require that classes be integrated. Each
year the teachers are worried that requisite numbers of white children
will not apply. There were four white children in 1971-72 and two in
1972-73. The tasks which the class focuses on initially are fundamental
but often not learned at home before enrollment. The children are
taught to wash their hands, brush their teeth, blow their noses and
cover their mouths when they cough, speak when spoken to, and to look
at the person to whom they are speaking. The teachers encourage them to
bring their problems to their attention instead of crying, biting,
hitting or kicking other children. The teachers speak softly to the
children, encourage the very quiet ones to talk and subdue the more
boisterous ones. In the course of the school year the students master
many tasks and have new experiences. The Headstart program is the first
experience children have with formal education. Later, they attend
school beyond the community and learn to cope with teachers and school
situations which are considerably different from the experience provided
for them in the community.
Students from Edge Crossing attend school and socialize to a
limited extent with white students. According to blacks in the
community there is harmony at school although problems develop
occasionally. Black students protested because "soul" music was not
played at school dances. One afternoon a bus driver wouldn't permit
black students to board the bus. This caused an uproar by students
and about 30 parents who confronted the principal. The bus driver
quickly relented. However, local students, teachers and parents always
stress that integration was in no way a difficult adjustment. They
say that they have always known white people and have gotten along well
People in Edge Crossing place an emphasis on "getting along." One
often repeated formula for getting along with anyone is to "be agreeable."
If you cannot agree or do not approve of someone's behavior, stay away
from him as much as possible. Blacks use this formula whenever they
interact with whites.
The black students attend school, go to school events and mix with
whites while they are there. Blacks participate to a great extent in
extra-curricular activities, especially sports events and dances.
Football, basketball and baseball games played on Friday nights are well
attended by all age groups in the community. Everyone knows the local
boys on the teams, their parents and their families. They cheer,
socialize and talk to everyone else at the game. Clusters of blacks and
of whites sit in the same bleachers. There is considerable talking
and joking among white and black youth but not much contact between
The approximation of behavior of white and black youth was highlighted
at one football game which Greg, a graduate and former football player,
attended. He exuded school spirit; his voice carried well and he
cheered often. He climbed up on the bleachers where about 150 persons,
black and white, were seated. On the field an important play was about
to be made: Greg faced the seated crowd, raised one fist in the air and
shouted, "Is you ready?" The crowd responded, "Hell, yes." Greg
reflected for a brief moment, hand over mouth, then changing the words
but not the message, he yelled, "Are you ready?" The crowd noted the
change, laughed and responded louder, "Hell, yes." He repeated the two
forms of the message again, receiving a more enthusiastic response each
time, then went on to lead the crowd in the rest of the cheer. Greg,
like many of the youths, notices the difference between white and black
behavior, including language, and sometimes modifies his behavior.
Sports events, emphasizing the masculine role, contribute to the
unity of blacks in school sponsored events, and in local communities.
Teams made up of males ranging from 15 to 45 years of age play other
teams from neighboring black communities on Sunday afternoons at the
community playgrounds. Players are widely known and highly praised for
their abilities. Community members, particularly adolescent girls and
young women with children, attend the games and cheer wildly when
local players make decisive plays. Ball games associated with school
draw a more varied crowd, the entire family leaving home for an evening
to mingle and interact with others. The ritual behavior at sports
events, stores and shops expresses male dominance and female support in
public areas. The roles of males and females in ritual is also
dramatically revealed in religious ritual, discussed in Chapter 4.
Ball games and other ceremonial events such as graduations and
dances are the main events which attract attention to the schools. The
emphasis placed on sports stands in contrast to the interest in the
academic curriculum. Most students are not particularly interested in
academics and say so. Their parents do not usually expect them to excel
in school and do not encourage too much study. I have been told in all
seriousness that too much "study and looking in books" can disturb
children's minds and cause them to lose "what little good sense" they do
have. The curriculum is not appealing to students and there is little
effort to adapt classroom instruction or to involve students in academic
endeavors outside the school situation. Most students are content with
mediocre grades, and often stay at home or skip school one day every
week or so. Students stay at home when the opportunity to work for pay
arises, a sick sibling or relative needs attention or something unpleasant
is expected at school. Figures for the nearby high school indicate
that in 1972, more than half the black freshmen drop out before high
school graduation but only one-fifth of the whites drop out.
Although youth lack enthusiasm for the public school curriculum a
considerable number of them enroll at the junior colleges in University
Town or County Seat. Attending junior college to learn skills and
knowledge to secure a "good" job is attractive. At junior college
financial aid is often available, and they may live with friends or
relatives in town or commute daily. Some of them become interested in
some part of the curriculum and go on to finish college. Although
there is little emphasis on academics in the community educational
levels are not uniformly low. Over one-third of the adults in the area
have finished one or more years of high school and a tenth of them have
attended college. Interestingly, nearly four times as many females as
males have one or more years of college. Often college educated persons
begin higher education at a nearby junior college.
Youth attending junior college meet students from town and the
entire junior college district. Relationships are widened, alternatives
for entertainment are increased and leisure time is spent in a greater
variety of places. The youth in junior college participate less in
community activities, although they keep up with local people through
occasional social interactions, peers who live in the community and
relatives. Still, admission to junior college may be the first step
toward moving into town, getting a more satisfying job and lessening
interactions in the rural community.
Many young women who choose to go to junior college take a business
course. They aspire to clerical jobs in which they can dress fashionably,
meet the public, receive relatively good pay and work in clean,
pleasant surroundings. Others, who want to become teachers, plan to
continue their education at the nearby state university or attend the
predominantly black state university located about 150 miles to the
northwest. Youth usually aim toward more prestigious and lucrative
occupations than those of their parents but give serious thoughtto the
necessary skills and knowledge after public schooling is completed.
Drawn from Figure B-4.
Formal education provides many experiences for students otherwise
unavailable in the community. It is both an avenue of access to jobs
outside the community and an introduction to white people and values.
Students are adept In informal interactions with white peers but
usually socialize with blacks. Social patterns present in the formal
educational system resemble those ordering social life in the community..
Previous chapters examine distinctions between typically male and
female behavior in space use and economics. Consistently, females
identify with household and children and males with community life and
economic endeavor. These divisions are given expression in education
through the emphasis on sports. The relative lack of interest in
academics is consistent with prevailing social patterns because men and
women value customary sex and occupational roles and do not stress
academic excellence. The pattern relating to males in highly visible
roles in the community Is repeated in ritual behavior. Religious
ritual, discussed in the next chapter, is dramatically expressed in
church services. Periodic community rituals reaffirm the bonds that
community members share and draw members from all social categories
together to express their unity.
In earlier chapters community use of space, economics and education
is discussed. Although males and females fill different roles, various
events bring them together, expressing their interdependence and
resolving minor differences that arise through time. The attendance at
and participation in sports and shops are presented as group events
enacting patterned male and female behavior. Events, bringing large
segments of the community together, are rites of intensification
reinforcing and intensifying customary status and role. In this chapter
rites of intensification in the religious institution are examined.
Religion is characteristically supported by symbols, setting off
conditioned responses in participants and rituals, those patterned
behaviors bringing the group together around common belief and practice.
In religious institutions group symbols and ritual behavior promote
restoration of equilibrium to groups which are unbalanced by disruptive
interaction sets in other activities. Religious ritual, often carried
out in a definitive social space, draws representatives of all personnel
in the community together and reaffirms the bonds that hold them together.
A rite of Intensification is ritual performed in response to a
crisis which arises from changes affecting all members of a group in
concert (Chapple and Coon 1942:706).
Religious rituals in Edge Crossing are customarily carried out in
churches, separated from other institutions in the community, with a
schedule of rituals following the weekly, monthly and annual calendar
ordering other activities. There are three Baptist churches in the
community, each with its own history of development and a different
minister. Their spatial separation (see Figure 1) belies the inter-
relatedness of the churches and the interdependence of the members but
they are reflected in the ritual calendar. Mount Calvary (see Figure 1)
has services on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. On the
third Sunday of every month, St. Peter's has a service. Oak Ridge.has
services on the first Sunday in the month. During months having a
fifth Sunday, the churches rotate the services among then.
Church is the place where men, women, adolescents and children
come after relating with one another through the week in schools,
homes, stores, shops and work. Drawing members of all ages and from
each institution it promotes harmony and good will among those who
compete with one another, are separated socially or spatially, or grow
weary of constant interactions within the same group. Church is socially
neutral; participants behave in accordance with the symbolic and ritual
traditions passed from generation to generation, and seek communication
with their fellows.
Ritual expression in religion does not attract everyone in the
community. Women, especially older women, tend to attend church and
participate in the services in greater numbers than men. However, leaders,
ministers, deacons and ushers dominate the ritual. Although children
are usually equal in numbers to the men and women present, they parti-
cipate in a limited way. During all services, except on fifth Sundays,
the choirs are composed of ten to 20 adolescent females and one or two
males. The congregation reflects in many ways the activities of
community members during the week. Males, who engage in their ritual
in stores and shops, do not attend church in great numbers, but those
who attend are in dominant roles. Adolescents, who enjoy song and
dance, supply the music. Women assure the attendance of children and
sit in the front seats of the church where the minister and other
leaders initiate action directly to them. The personnel participating
in the ritual express customary behaviors and roles, but much more too.
Earlier, the function of religious ritual was said to be a rite of
intensification; as an example, the fifth Sunday ceremony is examined
in the following section.
The Fifth Sunday Ceremony
Ritual activity begins at the church each Sunday when Sunday school
convenes at 9:00 a.m. or shortly thereafter. Between ten and 20
persons gather in the church building and segregate themselves according
to age. Adults sit on the right of the church, older children in the
middle and youngsters on the left. Prayer and a scripture reading are
led by the minister unifying the group for the expressed purpose of
getting to know themselves and sacred powers better. A discussion of
the weekly lesson, taken from a publication of a Baptist organization,
is led by the three Sunday school teachers. The minister is the teacher
for the adults, a retired teacher instructs the children and another
female school teacher takes charge of youth. The teachers read scripture,
question their groups about its meaning, adapt their comments to the age
level of their groups and offer interpretations of the lesson's meaning.
A collection is taken up, the money counted, the amount reported and the
secretary's and treasurer's reports read. Another scripture reading by
the minister and a group recitation of a prayer terminate the ritual.
The organization of Sunday school reveals the age categories in
the community, their unification in ritual and the use of ritual symbols,
Including prayer and scripture from the Holy Bible. Sunday school is a
communion of the faithful because only a select few attend, returning
each week. The minister asserts his leadership over the select few-.by
initiating and concluding the ritual. Sunday school-is similar each week
but fifth Sunday church service is a revealing ritual in the community.
The structure and function of the fifth Sunday service is analyzed
first, before discussing the district choir and church associations.
By the time Sunday school is over, between 50 and 75 cars are
parked outside the building. People stand in groups talking and others
move inside taking seats and talking in hushed tones. The women are
fashionably dressed, wear makeup, hats, hose and jewelry. Men and
boys wear suits. At 11:15 or 11:30 a.m. the choir sings a song
signaling the beginning of the service and those outside move into the
Women and children take seats in the center front of the church,
males tend to remain in the rear,-near the doors and some of them do
not enter the church at all. The ministers and deacons assume seats
facing the congregation and await the end of the hymn. During the
service the choir, an active and highly visible body, is located directly
behind the pulpit. The leaders of the services, the deacons and
ministers, are always male. Occasionally women serve as ushers but the
few deaconesses have no active or visible role.
The service begins after the opening hymn with the congregation
and minister reciting alternate lines of scripture. A collection of
pennies, nickels and dimes is taken up in baskets passed by the ushers.
Introduction of visitors, church and school events in the coming
weeks, deaths and invitations to visit other churches are made by the
minister and members of the congregation. The announcement of events
in several counties reflect the communication function of ritual
gatherings. The introduction of visitors (who are always considered
prospective church members) legitimizes their presence and participation
in the ritual.
The hymns, prayers, collection and announcements set the mood of
the congregation for the sermon. The visiting minister, from one of the
churches in the district, is introduced by the regular minister who
cites his good works and dedication to his people. During the
preliminaries, persons talk quietly, entertain children and pass babies
from one to another, but when the sermon begins a hush falls over the
group. Noisy children are quietly and quickly taken outside and everyone
focuses on the minister. The sermon lasts about 30 munites and varies
in content from week to week. All the other parts of the service serve
to augment the effect of the sermon.
The minister begins speaking slowly, standing in the pulpit, his
voice carries through the group as he pauses after each phrase. He
takes a recent event, personal experience or biblical passage as a
starting point to demonstrate human frailty and the power of the
1The collection helps finance the annual Sunday school convention
held in the district. Note that there is an annual ritual calendar of
events other than national holidays.
supernatural. As'the sermon takes form his voice becomes louder, he
gesticulates with his arms and the pauses shorten. His voice becomes
emotional; the congregation begins to participate with feet tapping to
the rhythm of his voice, "Amen," is heard from scattered members of the
congregation. Momentum builds in the sermon, the minister gestures
with his arms as he paces across the elevated platform behind the pulpit.
The pauses between phrases become shorter and sounds like "Ah," are
inserted where pauses had been. Everyone focuses on the minister, following
his movements with their eyes. Feet tap and heads nod to the rhythm of
the minister's speech. "Yes, Jesus," and "That's the truth," are
exclaimed by members of the congregation.
The sermon continues to increase in cadence and volume. The point
being made is that belief in Jesus Christ can lead to everlasting life
in heavenly bliss. It is the will of God that all sinners repent, become
baptized and join the church, Finally, the minister is perspiring,
wiping his brow, gesticulating wildly and pacing across the elevated
platform. Abruptly he stops, apparently near collapse. The church is
silent. A deacon rises, picks up a straight backed chair, places it
in front of the pulpit and stands behind it. Rarely, someone is moved
to act on the message of the minister and comes forward to join the
church.1 Ordinarily, there are two or three minutes of silence before
other activities begin.
The convert stands facing the congregation with downcast eyes and
is questioned by the minister who ascertains the prospective member's
name, whether he has been baptized and whether he is a member of another
church. Persons can change church membership by letter rather than be
baptized byimmersion again.
The minister initiates action to the congregation through symbolic
themes with which they identify. The congregation as a group focusing
on the symbolism provided by the church, the minister and belief, give
expression to their commonalities. The mood established by the sermon
with the minister initiating action to the group is altered following
the sermon. Then, various individuals rise and initiate action to the
minister and the congregation, reversing the order of action established
in the sermon. They touch on the symbolic themes of the sermon and
crises in their own lives. Individuals resolve crises through initiation
in set events and experiencing the support of the group.
Persons who want to "testify" begin speaking slowly, and build up
to very active bodily movements and speech. Moving about in front of
the pulpit, they bear any kind of message. When they become intensely
involved another person, usually an older woman, rises. The assistance
offered is physical evidence of the support they receive from their
peers; the silence and attention of the congregation is mute testimony
of their importance. The older woman follows behind the speaker, saying
nothing, wiping her brow, removing eyeglasses or physically supporting
her if needed.
After one or more spontaneous expressions a prayer is offered by a
deacon who reiterates the essence of the sermon and interprets it in
terms of personal experience or recent events. A deacon who becomes
intensely involved in prayer is helped back to his seat by another
deacon and sits in a relaxed, slumped position for several minutes
Difficulties with finances, alcoholism, spouses and children and
the solace and help found in relying on the Lord are common themes.
before looking upward again. Most members who are moved to speak are
older women and they are assisted by women. But deacons are supported
by men, maintaining the prohibition against intimate physical contact
between the sexes in religious ritual.
Becoming involved in the sermon is an emotional experience. The
participation of the congregation with the minister creates a feeling of
oneness with God and fellow man. Church members say that they go to
church to "unburden," to "let go," to feel "close to God." They are
"moved" to say and do things expressing their true feelings. The
release of emotional energy is an exhausting and relaxing departure from
the control demanded by everyday life. It restores interaction rates
by focusing attention on commonalities and similar status before sacred
powers. The prayer and spontaneous expressions maintain the mood of
the congregation but lessens its intensity before moving on to more
The second collection taken after the prayer expresses the importance
of each individual's contribution and the active participation of visitors.
A deacon often chooses a visitor to assist a church member with the
collection. The two people selected by a deacon stand behind a table
near the pulpit, facing the congregation. Singing, the choir walks in
rhythm to the music down one aisle of the church, around the last pew
in the rear of the church and back up the other aisle. Then, each member
places his contribution on the table and returns to the choir area. The
ushers indicate to the congregation which sections are to follow the path
of the choir past the table and back to their seats. Some persons have
money they need changed. The persons behind the table count the money,
make change and separate the bills from the change as it is placed on the
table. Everyone,.including the ministers, makes a contribution. The two
persons counting the money satisfy themselves that they have made an
accurate count; they compare and come to an agreement. The one of them
states, "Thank you for the $72.95."1 After a short prayer is said over
the money the two return to their seats, and the collection is taken to
one of the back rooms of the church where a deacon guards it from theft.
The manner in which the collection is taken demonstrates the
importance of each individual in the congregation. Their participation
and contribution is central to the ritual. The collection returns the
congregation to the realm of worldly responsibility and identification
with status and role. The mood set during the sermon is dissolved as
people talk again in hushed tones. After the collection the choir sings,
there are closing prayers and announcements and people stand, talk to
one another and leave the church.
The church service provides for the release of tension built up during
the work week and renews bonds of friendship which weaken in the absence
of interaction. It is a rite of intensification drawing together
spatially and socially disparate entities and expressing their symbolic
unity. The use of space within the church and the order of .action
The amount of the offering varies. On fifth Sundays the collection
is substantially higher than on other Sundays when it ranges from $18.00
The amount of the collection sometimes depends on the collector's
skill. If there is, for example, $22.15 collected, a bid for contributions
amounting to $23.00 is made. The money is collected by ushers and placed
on the table. Then, there is a little over $23.00, for example $23.25.
He makes a plea to make it a "nice even $25.00" He continues requesting
money until the congregation produces no more. Many people feel that
there is too much emphasis on money and resist pleas for added contri-
reflecting the dominance of males, contributes to the symbolism to
which the group responds.
The restoration of interaction rates and the renewal of social
energy is incorporated in the ritual. The process is further developed
in the activities after the church service. The analysis of these
activities reveals the importance of religious ritual in maintaining
equilibrium and social communication between individuals, families
The fifth Sunday service permits various ritual specialists to perform
their customary roles for a large group drawn from a wide area. The
behaviors of these specialists and their ritual relationship to community
process are discussed.
Ministers and deacons lead religious.rituals and draw participants
together through identification with commonly perceived symbols. Deacons
are always church members, community residents and are the ritual
representation of community males. Ministers, however, are not community
residents and are chosen by the membership for their ability to communicate
to the group and to relate to their symbolic representations. The unifying
function of the minister in ritual and in the arbitration of disagreements
is enhanced by his social and physical distance from the community. The
pattern of ministers living in communities separated from the ones in which
theypreach suggests that they function as cultural brokers, enhancing the
flow of information, goods, services and fellowship among the communities
in the area.
1Black ministers in black communities are consistently described as
leaders (Dollard 1937, Davis et al. 1941).
On fifth Sundays their leadership role is supported by the district
choir which facilitates the communicative potential of the minister
and functions independently to maintain communication among black
communities in the area.
The district choir is made up of persons who live in the six counties
making up the north central Florida district of black Baptist churches.
There are several large towns in the district, but most of the choir
members live in small communities. The members travel as far as 100
miles to practice in different homes or churches in the district and
attend services where the choir is scheduled to sing. The choir is
widely known for "good singing" and for its choir director, who literally
puts his whole body into music. Many people attend church for the
opportunity to see and hear them perform.
The formal requirements for district choir membership are the payment
of membership dues of $5.00 per quarter and attendance at practices and
services. There are an equal number of men and women in the choir
totalling about 30 persons. At services they wear long blue choir
robes and mortar board hats. The members range from about 30 to 55 years
of age. Most of them have positions of status including many school
teachers. The equally active role of men In the choir, as contrasted with
local church choirs, is a reflection of male roles in community activities
and personal networks extending to black communities over a wide area.
Although women are authority figures In their homes, they are able to
allocate responsibility so that they can sing in the choir. The make up
of the choir gives expression to the networks of communication binding
black communities in the district together.
Exchange of information of almost any sort travels through these
networks. Information originating in a home in Edge Crossing travels
through the wider communication network to nearly any other household in
the district. News about job openings, fishing, evening entertainment
and sports travels from one community to another. Once in a community,
the information travels to other households there. Information of a
personal sort, including babies, marriages, shootings, knifings, law
troubles, illnesses and deaths are also transmitted along the networks
reaching widely separated persons.
The composition, activities and networks of the district choir
express the social function of religious ritual. The social aspects of
church attendance are important to all church members. The exchange of
information and mingling with others contributes to the feeling of
unity in the community. The district choir is a collective representation
of various communities that participate in fifth Sunday services.
The Ceremonial Meal
The fifth Sunday service is a collection of guests representing
spatially separated communities who ritually enact their oneness. The
role of local residents as hosts to all the participants is expressed
through the activities that follow the service and continue into the
After the morning service a dinner is served by community women who
each bring a large container of food. The menu provided is similar to
the usual diet but because of the large number of persons involved there
is greater variety. Women who are active in church work, including
deaconesses and deacon's wives, take charge of cleaning the kitchen,
receiving the foodstuffs and keeping the food warm. After the service
they hurry into the kitchen, don aprons, remove hats and serve the
The partaking of food and the organization of the meal is highly
symbolic. The participation of all expresses in a different way the
cooperation and communication of the group. The contribution of
foodstuffs from many community households links the ritual to the
family and kinship structure and expresses the supportative role of women
as nurturant, sustaining figures in the community. The collection of
foodstuffs under one roof and its redistribution to the participants
reflects the symbolic significance of resource sharing and subsistence
seen in household community. The role of males as community and ritual
leaders is seen in the seating arrangement according to status. The
highest ranking members of the religious organization, the ministers,
deacons and choir, are served first and seated in the church dining
room. All other persons eat outside placing their plates on cars or
balancing them on their hands.
During the repast, the participants talk, see old friends, renew
bonds, discuss children and interact with a large number of persons in
pair events. The pair events and social interactions reinforces the
effect of the service (a set event). The morning service, the dinner
and the afternoon service all serve the same function but are enacted
in different ways. The reduction of hostility, communication among
After the dinner another service is held at 3:00 p.m. It is similar
to the morning service but there are fewer participants. There is no
encompassing concluding ritual, participants begin leaving after the
morning service and by the end of the second service the leaders and a
handful of the faithful quietly go home.
equals, the expression of oneness, social support of the male and female
role are expressed.
Ritual expression in Edge Crossing explicates social forms found
throughout the community institutions. The division of labor, the
dominance of males in the community, the nurturant sustaining roles of
women, the strength of adults in relation to children are all demonstrated.
In addition the emphasis placed on redistribution of economic resources,
the relative lack of economic excess and the acceptance of emotional
expression in socially acceptable forms is evident. Ritual provides a
forum for the symbolic expression of community norms and values and
clusters them in a circumscribed space where both sexes and all ages of
personnel participate. The temporal rhythm of ritual intermeshes with
the activities of participants in institutions throughout the community
PART I CONCLUSIONS
The chapters in Part I are devoted to the analysis of Edge Crossing
in the ethnographic present. The community is described in terms of
space use, economics, education and ritual expression in which recurrent
themes order the lives of personnel in the community. Personnel basic
to the community, including both sexes and three generations, use
space, time and the division of labor reflecting customary social forms.
The use of space is organized first by natural features including
lakes, woods and buildings, but space is also organized to reflect
social patterns. Households, where personnel fulfill biological and
social needs; stores, serving economic and social functions; and shops
where both sexes meet and mingle,are spatially discrete entities. The
use of space give expression to the segregation of typically male and
female behavior and their necessary interdependence produced by the
division of labor.
Just as males share female oriented space and households, males
reserve for females position in their social space. Stores and shops v
dominated by male activities are a form for male-female interaction
where females behave in socially defined ways toward males. Domestic
space and household operations are female oriented. The distribution
of males' economic resources to females in various households reserves
for them an esteemed position in female oriented space.
Space and time define locations and rhythms for social activities.
The rhythms in homes, at work or school and group events occur on daily,
weekly, monthly and annual cycles and each occur in a spatially
circumscribed place. The temporal rhythms of work or school are
punctuated by rites of intensification restoring equilibrium, expressing
community unity, reestablishing the division of labor and symbolically
drawing residents together. The distancesbetween communities and
individuals in the rural areas around Edge Crossing are lessened by the
social linkages among them. Communication between communities is
formalized through fifth Sunday services, the district choir, ministers,
ball games and activities in shops.
Rites of intensification occur on a weekly cycle, in the shops,
at ball games and most inclusively at church services. Religious rites,
spatially separated from customary male and female oriented space
bring community personnel together, both sexes and three generations.
The participation of all categories of personnel combine to intensify
bonds, resolve conflict, and restore equilibrium. Religious ritual
provides another example of male initiation and female response to males.
Women, acting in socially defined roles, sustain the group by the
preparation of a ceremonial meal expressing the interrelatedness of
In the community's social space the organization of social form is
seen, yet most personnel exit from the community space at regular
intervals in pursuit of economic resources and formal education. Economics
require work in low pay and low status positions and contributes little
to social identity in the community. It is the allocation of resources
in the community that determines social standing rather than occupations
The educational system is similar to economics in that it is
spatially distant from the community and its curriculum is not immediately
relevant to local standing. Enthusiastic support for sports, where males
are champions, stands in contrast to the unenthusiastic response to
academics, another organization representing the wider society. Youth
easily master those lessons provided by home and community where they
are groomed for the customary sex roles and social realities of
There is then, the organization of time and space, the division of
labor between two sexes and three generations in the community. These
dimensions of the ethnographic present are explicated in Part I. The
emphasis on the present draws attention away from the temporal dimension
of kinship, family and social maturation. Part II is devoted to the
explication of the kinship system, the organization of household and the
socialization of children within the family. The analysis of family
and kinship emphasizes generational time and its articulation to space
in residence patterns. The ethnographic present and the kinship system
prepare for an analysis of adolescent maturation and the achievement of
womanhood in Part III.
KINSHIP, FAMILY AND CHILDHOOD
The use of space, institutions, and ritual, discussed in Part I,
illustrates the ethnographic present in Edge Crossing. Kinship,
family organization and childhood development presented in this part,
clarify the integration of family and community. The first chapter
in this section addresses kinship as an ambilateral system, emphasizing
recognition of ancestors and the rights and obligations of kin.
Kinship and family organization over generational time are described in
Chapter 7 through events and relationships in one descent group. The
case illustrates the flexibility of the system, including the sharing of
maternal role and child care among related women. In Chapter 8,
childhood development, customary rights and responsibilities of kin
toward children and the interpersonal relationships of children with one
another and adults are analyzed. The discussion of the kinship system
in Part II and the previous presentation of community prepares for the
detailed analysis of female adolescent maturation in Part III.
THE KINSHIP SYSTEM
The kinship structure in Edge Crossing is related to ritually
expressed ancestral relationships with founding fathers, claim to land,
residence and domestic functions. Temporal and spatial dimensions of
kinship including patterns of emigration, population and residence
influence descent group formation and membership. A descent group is
defined as a living group of persons,tracing descent from a deceased
apical ancestor,who recognize the leadership of the eldest person
having claim to ancestral land in direct dependence from the apical
ancestor. This definition includes only living persons in the group
but linkages to deceased ancestors is necessary to establish claim
to land and the interrelatedness between operating descent groups.
Functioning to insure their continuation, descent groups provide for
the needs of members, have flexibility in affiliation and rights and
responsibilities. In this chapter the formation of and affiliation to
descent groups is examined. The alterations in descent groups occurring
over generatinal time are discussed. The function of descent groups in
providing for dependent members is then reviewed.
The history of Edge Crossing dates back 100 years when four couples
settled there and reared several children. All of their children stayed
in the area, remained on family land, married exogamously and had large
families (see Figure 2, Generations B and C). The grandchildren of the
founding fathers are present day older residents and they all trace
ancestry alternating between males and females in ascending lines to
arrive at apical ancestors.2 Affiliation to a descent group by tracing
linkages, selectively, through either males or females in any one
generation with a difference in emphasis is characteristic of ambilateral
systems (Firth 1957:5).
Descent groups formed around the founding fathers, their progeny
and grandchildren (see Figure 2, Generations A, B and C). When founding
fathers died, descent groups segmented and formed around their male
ad female children all of whom remained in Edge Crossing. Members of
Generation C (see Figure 2) emigrated and left only one or two siblings
on family land. Those who remained (see Figure 3) now head descent
groups but maintain bonds with siblings who moved away.
The bonds between siblings are illustrated by the distribution of
family land. Family land is divided among siblings at the death of
Informants relate anecdotes about ancestors who were slaves but
their living arrangements, progeny and locations of residence are unclear.
This may be a product of the advanced age of informants or the unsettled
conditions of the mid-nineteenth century.
through the generations intermarriages between the four families
have occurred. It is possible to develop a kinship diagram representing
every person in Edge Crossing in some kinship relationship to all others.
Persons who emigrated produced fewer children, probably reflecting
upward mobility or the greater availability of birth control in urban
Aor A Resides in Edge Crossing
0 r Deceased
Oor A Death Before Adulthood
I Only persons relevant to descent groups shown.
Figure 2. Genealogical relationships among descent groups descended from one
parents but siblings who emigrate often forfeit their rights to land
and permit their portion to be divided among their siblings remaining
in Edge Crossing. Emigrated siblings who maintain kinship ties and
assist in the payment of property taxes are allotted a portion of their
siblings'land if they return to Edge Crossing to live.
For example, a couple in Generation B owned 25 acres of land and
had three daughters and four sons. The four males left the area in
young adulthood and only one of them is living. One daughter cared
for her parents until their death, remained in the family home and -paid
the taxes with the aid of her siblings. A second daughter moved onto
her husband's family land at marriage, lived there 45 years and moved
back to her inherited land (approximately seven acres) after his death
ten years ago. Her children had a home built for her on the land.
The third daughter lives on her husband's family land but retains an
interest in the land through her sisters. The remaining brother, living
in a Florida city, is in poor health and has a crippled wife. The
three sisters have pooled their resources to repair an abandoned house
on family land so that the brother and his wife can return to Edge
Crossing. The house was built on five acres of family land by one of
the deceased brothers about 35 years ago.
Family land is held intact through many years by the payment of
taxes by descent group members. The land is divided after the death of
parents as siblings have need for it. Land holdings remain fairly large
because most persons with claim to land do not exercise it when they live
elsewhere. Land rights are established by descent group membership but
tend to remain operational only through residence. Residence on family
land before adulthood is necessary for descent group membership.
Most descent group members who remain in Edge Crossing build on
family land before the death of parents, affirming their claim to it
before it is divided. The clusterings of houses in Edge Crossing,
discussed in Chapter 1, are a manifestation of the settlement pattern of
descent group residence patterns. Most persons remaining in Edge
Crossing live on ancestral land (see Figures 3 and 4). Those who have
left the area may return, but children born to emigres usually cannot.
They are not members of descent groups in the community and have not
contributed to tax payments or other kin obligations there.
Rights to land in Edge Crossing are similar to those described
for members of the kaingal in the Gilbert Islands.
The original ancestor had lived on a certain tract
of land. Some of his descendants continued to reside
there but others moved away. Those who continued to
reside there plus [author's emphasis] those who had
been born and raised there but had moved away after
marriage, formed the kainga. Thus, those who were
born on the land inherited membership even if they
moved away; but if they moved away their children
did not inherit membership. Thus, if a man's parents
were living patrilocally he would belong to his
father's kainga: if they were living matrilocally he
would belong to his mother's. It was thus in a sense
parental residence choice that determined the
individual's kainga membership (Fox 1967:158).
Rights to land are dependent on descent group membership and the assumption
of responsibilities in the descent group.
The formation of a descent group occurs at the death of the eldest
person resident on family land in direct linkage to a founding father.
The largest possible descent group is composed of a living person from
Generation C (see Figure 2) who traces descent from a founding father
The kainga is a kin based land holding organization.
(through mother or father) and his (or her) children (Generation D),
grandchildren (Generation E) and great grandchildren (Generation F).
In actuality no group is as large as theoretically possible because
emigration has resulted in members of Generations D and E affiliating
with descent groups (on the mother's or father's side) beyond the
community. Most persons who emigrate do not return to Edge Crossing,
thus reducing substantially the constitution of operating descent groups.
Four characteristics of descent groups could be noted (see Figure 2).
Affiliation to descent groups alternates between male and female
linkages to arrive at linkages with a founding father. Descent groups
usually have representatives from three or four generations. The number
of persons in a descent group is only a fraction of those who would
have been members if they or their parents had not emigrated. Children
of emigres are drawn into descent groups when they are sent to Edge
Crossing to live with relatives (on the mother's or father's side).
The formation and constitution of descent groups indicates that
ambilateral descent was established by Generation C (see Figure 2). A
preference for emphasis on the male linkage is seen in the continuity
of the male surnames, and in tracing linkage to the male ancestor.
In Generations B and C a woman, who customarily gave birth to children
Until recently the legal system required that a child carry the
surname of the mother's husband or, if unmarried, the mother's maiden
name, but differing practices have always prevailed in Edge Crossing.
Single women and married women who have children fathered by men other
than their husbands give their babies their maiden name or the baby's
fathers' surname. The lack of conformity to the legal system is related
to the kinship system, the disregard of impositions by the wider
society and the practices of lay midwives who formerly made out the birth
fathered by one man, married younger, permitting an easier identification
of all her children with their father's descent group. In addition,
farming, a male pursuit, was important economically. Now land is used
primarily for residence and householding and childrearing interests are
There is a tendency to choose affiliation with the maternal linkage
in Generations D and E. It is a pattern for girls to give birth to one
or more children before marriage. These children ordinarily maintain
some contact with, but do not emphasize, affiliation with the father's
descent group. When the mother is married and residence is proximal to
the father's descent group children do emphasize affiliation with the
father's descent group. In certain kinship systems, notably those of
the Maori, Tonga and Samoa, the major emphasis is upon descent in the
male line but allowance is made, so frequently that it is considered
normal, for title to membership to be through females (Firth 1957:5).
Descent group membership in contemporary Edge Crossing follows such a
Women, customarily having children fathered by more than one man,
express a strong desire to live near their own kin and influence their
children's descent group affiliation. Children who reside with maternal
relatives, for example, usually maintain weaker ties with paternal
links although they receive toys, clothes and money from paternal
relatives. When they are older (between eight and 19 years of age) they
can choose to live with relatives on the paternal side and affiliate
with the paternal descent group. The system provides an element of
choice for the individual although residence decisions are usually
determined in accordance with the needs of the individual and group.