Carol B. Stack is an urban anthropologist whose studies of African American family networks, minority women, and youth have become modern classics in several social science disciplines. Born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, she grew up in New York City, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Los Angeles. For most of her childhood, her father worked as a bread truck driver. Every summer he took Carol along on his route, explaining, “I want her to learn how to work!”
She did learn to work, tirelessly, although in a different vocation. Graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in philosophy in 1961, she went on to get teaching credentials and then taught social studies at Berkeley High School from 1962 to 1965. Her participation in an M.A. program was only temporarily interrupted when she married John Stack, a physicist, and moved with him to Urbana, Illinois; she continued graduate study in anthropology at the University of Illinois, receiving a master’s degree in 1968 and a Ph.D. in 1972.
For her doctoral research, she spent almost three years living in the black community of a small midwestern city, participating in and observing the activities of daily life. During this time, racial issues were constantly in the news. As a white woman studying the community’s interpersonal networks, Stack expected resistance or resentment, but she was accepted fairly readily. She attributes this partly to entering the community as a friend of a woman who had lived there, rather than with an introduction by more distant sponsors from the black establishment. It also helped that her small son Kevin, born in 1968, lived with her there, so she shared child-rearing problems with other single mothers in the community.
This study resulted in her first book, All Our Kin,...
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