Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Evan Friss

Kevin Borg

Rebecca Brannon


The historical analysis of poverty has lain silent for nearly two decades, with only recent authors, such as Nancy Isenberg and Kerri Leigh Merritt, broaching the topic. While several others have taken a deep dive into understanding the causes and effects of contemporary poverty, it seems to me a great deal has yet to be written on the identity of those impoverished and their active endeavors to define themselves in economic circumstances largely beyond their control. Until we truly explore the complexity of economic dearth and its relation to collective identity, we cannot fully understand the topic of “poverty.”

In this way, poverty is a very complex topic, as it cannot ever truly be reduced to a discussion of those immediately affected by want and its causes. It requires one to understand perceptions of the impoverished, how these perceptions informed the identity of the poor, and how the poor interacted with members outside and within their immediate social group. In reality, poverty is a messy subject, but one that deserves attention. Thus, through this analysis of poverty in antebellum Rockingham County, I hope to illustrate the many indivisible connections of race, class, and gender in the construction of perceptions and responses to poverty.



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