Stones of memory: narratives from a Black beach community

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Hope W. Jackson (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Kathleen Casey

Abstract: In North Carolina, beaches have been considered "white" territory. These spaces are beautiful, natural landscapes that can provide healing and restoration for many. Yet, when black people enter this space, the dominant (white) culture is somehow surprised. This phenomenon is central to my research which focuses on a black beach community that (re)presents leisure spaces as sites of resistance. My research study centers on the stories told by the residents of a black beach community, Ocean City, North Carolina. I spent my summers here as a child. This small community encompasses a one-mile portion of Topsail Island, North Carolina. It was founded in 1949 in the midst of the segregated South. And, these narratives present the stones of living under these conditions. In my dissertation I interpret stones metaphorically like the biblical stones of the Israelites. While these stones are each unique, they still represent a living tradition for the individual as well as the collective group because the stones are the stories of living memories. They demonstrate the rich, cultural education that took place within the black community. Their stories reveal how black communities like Ocean City, taught black folks how such spaces were essential to surviving in a dominant (white) society. This study uses narrative theory in order to present the voices of black folks who are the descendants of kidnapped Africans. This study reveals their voices not only through the African tradition of storytelling, but also acknowledging the cultural literacy of black folks as valued by one another through a sense of community. This epistemology contradicts the dominant (white) culture of possessive individualism. So, their stories are the stones that need to be told to future generations as a way to provide cultural knowledge as well as identity to the children of kidnapped Africans. In this dissertation, I consider the narratives of four Ocean City residents. Two are living and two are deceased. The living narrators are the children of the deceased storytellers. Since I am a child of the Ocean City community, I knew all of these individuals and they knew me. While I was unable to ask the questions of the deceased, I still found rich nuances that are revealed in my research. With the two living narrators I asked them to tell me about Ocean City. I analyzed each of these interviews using narrative research methodology. I identified several components: selectivities (a common trait amongst "trickster" characters), silences (evident in the signifying towards a white, female interviewer) and cultural framework of meaning (important when remembering that Ocean City survived and thrived although its physical and historical location was in the midst of the segregated South). As a result, of these shared experiences, the narratives represent the continuity of an interpretive tradition. While each narrator tells an individual story, these stories are connected because of the stones or historical memories, namely the oppression of black folks. And, the stones reveal themselves as interpretative traditions. The significance of this study is that while black folks have made significant social and economic advancements, they have not succeeded in carrying on the interpretive traditions with their children and grandchildren. I find that this is evident in today's classroom as I teach the descendants of these kidnapped Africans, who seem disconnected from these stories. The legacy of stones as living traditions has the potential to heal all those whose humanity has been denied them in academia. If a "sense of community" is encouraged in the classroom, then the "hope" for a more inclusive society will prevail.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Black beach community, Classroom as community, Ocean City, Stories as stones
African Americans $v Interviews
African American oral tradition
African American neighborhoods $z North Carolina $z Topsail Island
Group identity

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