Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies


Southern Studies

First Advisor

Ralph Eubanks

Second Advisor

Leigh Ann Duck

Third Advisor

Rex Jones

Relational Format



For countless years, a network of laws, codes, systemic structures, and malicious forces have been established to eradicate Black love. Despite such evils, African Americans have been steadfast in their love for one another. In the American South, the evidence of that steadfastness is the strongest. States like Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana all had racist systems such as slavery, Jim Crow, Black Codes, and lynching that African Americans faced daily. And within each structure, there were methods employed to separate Black couples. Some historical texts have examined the plight of African American couples’ fight against such systems. However, few studies show how Black southern couples maneuvered and continued to maneuver through such racial, spatial structures in the South. By exploring the idea of Black love through the lens of Southern Studies and how it has played out in the South and the South’s diaspora, three major books drive this thesis: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, and Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, I will elucidate the legacy of slavery in the South and how the protagonist, Janie, maneuvers not only herself through such legacies but also her love life. Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk is based in Chicago, IL, also known as North Mississippi to most southerners. I will use his work to examine how couples in the North, due to the Great Migration during the twentieth century, fought against injustice while also fighting to love each other (audio recordings of my interviews are archived on my website: theresilienceofblacklove.com, and my YouTube channel: The Resilience of Black Love).

I will also explore the ways the culture of the South traveled North during the Great Migration. Lastly, I will use An American Marriage with its setting being in Atlanta, Georgia, the epicenter of Black America, to reveal how racial tensions regarding race and place are still prominent in modern-day society, especially the South.

This research is imperative because it exemplifies the perseverance of Southern Black love while paying homage to those who fought and died to love each other. Applying new methods by focusing on the South as the central location of Black love will unveil stories of hardships, pain, hope, peace, and triumph.

Available for download on Thursday, August 15, 2024