Black Co-Authors Two Articles in ‘Journal of Aging Research’

By Purnell T. Cropper | December 16, 2011

Dr. Helen K. Black, a researcher in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Department, co-authored two articles in the Journal of Aging Research, “End of Life: A family narrative” and “End of life in nursing homes.” A third article, “A war within a war: A World War II Buffalo Soldier’s Story,” will be published in the Journal of Men’s Studies in 2012.


Title: A war within a war: A World War II Buffalo Soldier’s Story

Authors: Helen K. Black & William H. Thompson (2012). Journal of Men’s Studies.


Most accounts of World War II that address the service of black soldiers were written by white officers, and often excluded, limited, or misreported African-American soldiers’ contributions. This article chronicles an African-American elder’s (William H. Thompson) memories of the war in his own words. We use the case of one “Buffalo Soldier” to explore core experiences of African-American men during the Second World War and its aftermath. A key finding of our paper is that Mr. Thompson’s narrative 1) reveals how elderly African-American veterans interpret and understand experiences of racism and war and, 2) acknowledges that DuBois’ “double consciousness” persists as a function of self-protection and as a progressive black masculinity.

Title: End of Life: A family narrative

Authors: Helen K. Black, Miriam Moss, Robert L. Rubinstein, & Sidney Moss. (2011) Journal of Aging Research.


Our article is based on ethnographic research that examines family reaction to an elderly husband and father’s end of life. From a group of 30 families in our study (family defined as a widow aged 70 and over and two adult biological children between the ages of 40 and 60), we offer an extreme case example of family bereavement. We report our findings through the open-ended responses of the widow and children, who were interviewed ten months after the husband and father’s death. Three general themes emerged: (1) how the family imputes meaning to the end of life, (2) changes in the roles of family members and, (3) the family’s way of coping with the death, particularly through their belief system. A key finding is that the meaning family members find in their loved one’s death is tied to the context of his death (how and where he died), their perception of his quality of life as a whole, and their philosophical, religious, and spiritual beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife that are already in place.

Title: End of life in nursing homes

Authors: Robert L. Rubinstein, Helen K. Black, & Patrick J. Doyle. (2011). Journal of Aging Research


This article explores the role of religious belief in the experiences of dying and death in a Catholic nursing home. The home appeals to residents and their families due to the active religious presence. Thus, religion is a salient element of the “local culture” which exists in this long-term care setting. The preeminence of faith within the organization and the personal religious convictions of staff, residents, and families may drive how death and dying are discussed and experienced in this setting, as well as the meanings that are attached to them. Our article examines the relationship between faith and the experience and meaning of death in this nursing home. We present themes that emerged from open-ended interviews with residents, family members, and staff, gathered between 1996 and 2004. The data indicate that people select the home due to their Catholic faith and the home’s religious tone. Themes also show that belief in God and an afterlife helps shape the experience of dying and death for our informants.