Report Reveals Hardships Black Women Face In The Rural South

July 29, 2015  |  

Since the days of slavery and long-awaited emancipation, the South has always been a place of slow progress and a new study shows the same is true today. Black women in the rural South still face harsh inequalities where the poverty rate is more than double for African Americans and Latinos compared to their white counterparts.

While television shows often shine light on the likes of Atlanta’s Black Mecca, there exists pockets in the South where big problems are kept in the dark. A new study found that in rural Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, white women were four times more likely to be employed and Black women earned nearly one-third less than white women.

The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) report “Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South” shows that on every social indicator of well-being, Black women and children in the rural South rank the lowest.

“We hope to shine a long overdue spotlight on the inequalities and resulting injustices Black women face on a daily basis as they work to obtain full economic security and to create a better life and future for their families,” said former Obama appointee Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia state director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report focused on nine rural counties throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi in six main areas that affect the lives of women and families: income and employment, poverty, education, health, public infrastructure and housing.

Access to information is one of the key factors that often allow women and families to grow. Of the 19 million Americans without broadband internet access, 14.5 million live in these rural counties.

“Because of the lack of broadband access, rural communities do not have access to other forms of media and (information). In many ways we are disconnected from what’s going on in the world,” said one member of SRBWI Human Rights commission.

But the internet may be the least of the rural South’s problems. Almost 80 percent of the 4.8 million uninsured U.S. adults who fall into the coverage gap that would be alleviated by Medicaid expansion live in these communities and have little access or transportation to medical services.

Help has made it’s way to the South in the past. In 2012, $4.8 billion philanthropic investments were allocated to the South, but only 5.4 percent went to programs focused on women and girls and less than 1 percent to programs focused on Black women and girls.

“Today’s report should be a call to philanthropists, foundations, and our government to infuse critical resources into communities to build the long-term economic security and well-being of low-income Black women, children and families in the rural South,” said C. Nicole Mason, report author and executive director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest, in a press release statement.

Migration may seem to be the plausible answer to escape barriers African-American women and families face in the rural South but factors such as fewer resources make moving impossible.

Obama appointee Christopher A. Masingill, the federal co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, said the report data “will help decision makers, local officials, and community members craft the policies and programs that will address the infrastructure, access, and services rural black women and impoverished families across the South need to live healthy lifestyles, pursue a quality education and make a better life for their children.”

The SRBWI is active in 77 counties across the South’s “Black Belt,” which they refer to as some of the most neglected regions in the country.

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