“Ms. Smith uncovers a part of the past long hidden (the story of the African American community that has been part of the College, yet separate from it—since the founding of the College) and shows us how we understand the past is deeply affected by the search itself.“
Determined to give voice to the African American community that served as the silent workforce for Hollins College, Ethel Morgan Smith succeeded in finding individuals to step forward and tell their stories. From Whence Cometh My Help examines the dynamics of an institution built on the foundations of slavery and so steeped in tradition that it managed to perpetuate servitude for generations. Interviewing senior community members, Smith gives recognition to the invisible population that provided and continues to provide the labor support for Hollins College for more than 150 years.
Although African American students have been admitted to the college for roughly thirty years, to date only one person from the Hollins Community has graduated from the college. The book explores the subtle and complex relationship between the affluent white world of Hollins College and the proud African American community that has served it since its inception. Interweaving personal observations, historical documents, and poetry throughout a revealing oral history, Smith shares her fascinating discoveries and challenges in telling a story silenced for so long.