Julia  Peterkin
Symposium 2001
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Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, MA
Jeana DiBella
"The Coping Strategies of Southern Black Women Through the Works of Julia Peterkin"
"African American Female Domestic Labor During the 1930s and the 1940s"
Link to Senior Art Thesis


She was “The eye and ear to see beauty and know truth.” This is how Julia Peterkin was described by her readers. Julia Peterkin was a plantation mistress of the South during the 1930s and the 1940s. Peterkin wrote about the truth of black southern women, in her books Scarlet Sister Mary, Black April, Green Thursday, and many more. Through her characters Julia Peterkin symbolizes the hardships and coping strategies used by the black women of the south.. Through their loyalty to their faith and religion, and their customs and traditions, allowed southern black women to cope with the hardships they faced.

Not only was plantation labor a part of the lives of African American Southern women, domestic labor also played a tremendous role in the lives of these women. After being freed from slavery, African American women were faced with many obstacles because of their race and their gender. Finding work to support their family was one of the challenges endured by these women. Once they found work, whether it was factory work or domestic work, the African American women were treated poorly and paid poorly. This began a fight to demand better treatment and opportunities. The hard work of these African American women and their determination helped them to survive the hardships and struggles there were faced with daily.

Photo credit: Miller, Susan. A Devil and a Good Woman Too: The Lives of Julia Peterkin. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1997.