The middle-class African American home: its objects and their meanings

Hall, Carol
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Source URI
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue

The purpose of this study was to explore the sense of self middle-class African American families convey in their homes, how they express themselves and construct their identities through objects in their homes, including textile-related objects, and the meanings these objects hold for them. This phenomenon was explored through a constructivist, interpretive paradigm approach.;Data was collected from nine married couples in the form of long interviews that were audiotaped, videotapes and photographs of their homes and objects within them. The data were interpreted using case study and grounded theory approaches that allowed the researcher to understand the meanings of home and its objects in the lives of middle-class African American married couples and also to delve into new issues as the participants introduced them.;Grounded theory analysis revealed two overarching emergent themes within the data: (1) African American ethnicity issues, and (2) African American religion. These two overarching emergent themes were embedded in twelve minor themes within the data: (1) open home life, (2) personal spaces within the home, (3) home and objects reflecting family relations, (4) decorating the home, (5) disposal, (6) practicality versus status, (7) accomplishments, (8) utilitarian, (9) uniqueness, (10) memories, (11) hedonics, (12) textiles and clothing, and (13) miscellaneous. The findings of this study revealed that middle-class African American families convey a sense of self in their homes through home itself and its objects that (1) reinforce their ethnic pride and identity, celebrate their heritage, deal with real estate discrimination issues, and (2) reflect their religious values, faith, spiritual beliefs, and God-centered beliefs. The data indicated that the Midwestern sample of participants in this study very rarely used textile-related objects to convey a sense of self in their homes. The findings supported the theoretical framework of house and home, symbolic interaction theory, meanings and symbols, and setting/definition of the situation.

Textiles and clothing