Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Anthony P. Cavender

Committee Members

Martha Copp, Richard Blaustein


This study is an exploration of existing informal health care beliefs and practices of blacks in Southern Appalachia and how they compare with the majority white population. How regional black folk belief systems compare to those documented in other parts of the country is also examined. Thirty-five blacks selected opportunistically were interviewed with a structural questionnaire. Topics addressed during the interviews included: illnesses from childhood, adulthood, and old age; folk illnesses; ideas on religiosity in healing and healthcare, and views on folk medicine in light of biomedicine.

The collected data suggest that black folk medicine in the study region is consistent with an homogenous American folk tradition and is not itself unique. The data collected also suggest that the extraordinary aspect to the black community studied is the lack of belief in the spirit beyond God as a healing, omnipotent force. The lack of belief in spiritism is inconsistent with other studies done on black American folk belief systems and is even inconsistent with documented 'white' studies done in Southern Appalachia and the South.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Sociology Commons