Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Oberlin (OH)


The problem I set out to examine is that of the nature and use of kinship ties among Black people in Oberlin. Kinship, though we often assume -it to be a biological fact, is, in reality, cultural. Like another cultural fact, language common to all humans but· having different rules in different places, kinship is a human trait that in its cultural malleability may be organized variously. Specifically, then, what kinship ties do exist among Oberlin's Black population? Since kinship ties can be an important influence on the way people relate to one another, precisely how are these ties perceived and with what values are they imbued? Knowing that there have been Black families in Oberlin for over 100 years I was particularly interested in the patterns that may have developed among those who have built their lives here over a long period of time. If kinship ties have had any importance to these families careers I thought it should be apparent in the way they have used kinship in seeking business: success; social recognition, and political leadership. These, therefore, became subjects of my enquiries; they offer a variety of insights into the uses and limitations of kinship bonds in building a community and a culture.

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