My interest in race and women’s migrations and labor histories is rooted in my own personal history.
I had the privilege of growing up between two predominately African American cities— Atlanta, Georgia and Detroit, Michigan. Both cities have rich histories of African American leadership and activism, especially regarding labor issues. I was exposed to these histories through literature, family discussions, and local political debates about the impact of racial inequalities on Black people’s working lives.
I also grew up hearing stories about working-class and middle-class women in my own family who left rural towns in south Georgia for larger cities. My great-grandmother Gertrude Phillips was a spiritualist who migrated to Detroit, Michigan where her children and grandchildren became a part of the working-class backbone of the Motor City. The "Alford Sisters," who included my great-grandmother and her sisters, migrated to Chattanooga, Tennessee where they became "club-like" women. One sister, Sally Crenshaw, started the first daycare center for Black and white working-class women in the city.
My family stories and experiences in Atlanta and Detroit shaped my interest in exploring the connections between the migrations and labor resistance of domestic workers and African American clubwomen. The tools that I gained from Spelman College allowed me to freely explore the archive where I also found connections between the histories of African American and Irish immigrant women.
I am a personal witness to the groundbreaking scholar-activism that occurs in Black women’s schools. My second book project aims to document this history by tracing the historic labor initiatives nestled inside of Nannie Helen Burroughs’ National Trade School for Women and Girls in Washington D.C. during the early 20th century.