Cherisse Jones-Branch to Give Pryor Center Presents Lecture on Nov. 16

Nov. 09, 2023

Book cover image from 'Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps,' University of Arkansas Press

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Book cover image from ‘Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps,’ University of Arkansas Press

Author Cherisse Jones-Branch will appear at the Pryor Center on Thursday, Nov. 16, to discuss her book Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps. The first major study to consider Black women’s activism in rural Arkansas, this work foregrounds activists’ quest to improve Black communities through language and foodways as well as politics and community organizing. In reexamining these efforts, Jones-Branch lifts many important figures out of obscurity, positioning them squarely within Arkansas’s agrarian history.

The Black women activists highlighted here include home demonstration agents employed by the Arkansas Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service and Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teachers, all of whom possessed an acute understanding of the difficulties that African Americans faced in rural spaces. Examining these activists through a historical lens, Jones-Branch reveals how educated, middle-class Black women worked with their less-educated rural sisters to create all-female spaces where they confronted economic, educational, public health, political, and theological concerns free from white regulation and interference.

Centered on the period between 1913 and 1965, Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps brings long-overdue attention to an important chapter in Arkansas history, spotlighting a group of Black women activists who uplifted their communities while subverting the formidable structures of white supremacy.

Jones-Branch is dean of the Graduate School and professor of history at Arkansas State University. An award-winning scholar of Rural, Women’s, and African American history, Jones-Branch is the author of Crossing the Line: Women and Interracial Activism in South Carolina during and after World War II, Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps: Black Women’s Activism in Rural Arkansas, 1913-1965, and the coeditor of Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times. Her next book project, titled “. . . To Make the Farm Bureau Stronger and Better for All the People:” African Americans and the American Farm Bureau Federation: 1920-1966, will be published by the University of Arkansas Press’ “Rural Black Studies” series of which she is coeditor. She is also the cofounder of the Arkansas Delta Women’s Leadership Academy, which aims to increase the number and visibility of women leaders in the Delta region by providing them with leadership training and networking opportunities. Jones-Branch is a U.S. Army Persian Gulf War Veteran.

The Pryor Center is located at 1 E. Center St., Suite 120. The event is free and open to the public, and parking is available on the Fayetteville Square.

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Go to the Pryor Center homepage for more information.

About the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History: The David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History is an oral history program with the mission to document the history of Arkansas through the collection of spoken memories and visual records, preserve the collection in perpetuity, and connect Arkansans and the world to the collection through the Internet, TV broadcasts, educational programs, and other means. The Pryor Center records audio and video interviews about Arkansas history and culture, collects other organizations’ recordings, organizes these recordings into an archive, and provides public access to the archive, primarily through the website at The Pryor Center is the state’s only oral and visual history program with a statewide, seventy-five county mission to collect, preserve, and share audio and moving image recordings of Arkansas history.

About the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences: The Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most academically diverse unit on campus with three schools, 16 departments and 43 academic programs and research centers. The college provides the majority of the core curriculum for all University of Arkansas students.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

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