“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 Interweaving personal observations, historical documents, and poetry throughout a revealing oral history, Smith shares her fascinating discoveries and challenges in telling a story silenced for so long.
This book is an account of my everyday life as an expatriate in German culture while I interacted with scholars, diplomats, students, friends, and lovers. Although the work reflects my personal experience, it is designed and rooted in my knowledge and experience of African American literature, culture, and history. But the question was what was I, a Black American woman doing in one of the most racist countries in the world? Or I had been told. After all, Germany is not known as a place that has called out to Africans Americans like France (Paris), but I felt seduced by the fact that I could experience myself without the limitations of race-or so I thought. I am not sure that it is possible to not be whom one has always been. By involving the reader in my day-to-day life, this book will draw a personal portrait of a Black American woman in a country that professes not to be racist, even though racism kept finding me. Like all Americans, especially African Americans, we are defined by our history. In Germany I was offered an opportunity to experience racial malaise that was different, but no less insoluble, than racial conflict in my own country. But as a privileged guest I felt protected. Reflections will be of interest to Germans and non-Germans who may be concerned with German culture from a unique perspective. This work serves as a relevant contribution to the efforts of those who seek to promote healing, not in Germany or America, but in the human heart. Reflections of the Other bears witness to my journey from an encounter with neo-Nazi skinheads to a love story in a village of lilacs.