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Photo of Deborah StarksDeborah Ann Starks
1950 -

Hoosier Connection: Starks moved to Indiana in 1972. She is a writer of newspaper articles, essays, and poems involving Indiana. She attended Ball State University, Indiana University—Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW), and was hired as School Community Liaison for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Works Discussed: "Preventive measures half IPFW flooding," and unpublished works including "Making It in the Country," and "A Traffic Fatality."

In 1972, Deborah Starks (nee Deborah Godwin) moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and married John Wesley Starks. Prior to this, she earned an associates degree from Booker T. Washington Junior College of Business in Birmingham Alabama. John Starks, a widower, brought four children to their union; Deborah Starks, divorced, brought a daughter to the union. In 1974, they had a son, bringing the total to six children. Starks moved with her family to rural Churubusco, Indiana, in 1977.

Starks’ article, "Preventive Measures Half IPFW Flooding," in The Communicator records the damages done by the Saint Joseph River flooding and the preventive measures taken to reduce these damages. Her tone is that of nature successfully tamed by technology. Soon she would have to face nature untamed.

In the opening paragraph of Starks’ essay "Making It in the Country," she sums up her thoughts on moving to rural Indiana. She writes,

[W]hen my husband informed me that we were moving to rural Indiana, I thought he was insane. Black folks didn’t move to the country; especially to a farm. I wasn’t about to be this exception to the rule. (1)

Starks and her family leave their home in the city for the same reasons many others leave, thus contributing to the alarming rate of urban sprawl in Indiana. She writes,

[W]hen I delivered our son Jason, there was little room left in our already too small house. There wasn’t space available for even a small crib. The five children occupied the two bedrooms upstairs while John and I along with the new baby slept in the smallest bedroom downstairs. (1)

When homes in the suburbs proved to be worth far more than they ever hoped to sell their current home for, John Starks sent Deborah Starks into a heavily forested area on a plot of land they owned to select the site of their future home in Churubusco, Indiana. In these woods lay one of Starks greatest fears:

"Well, aren’t you going to kill the snake?" I screamed.

"I don’t know," John replied, "he’s just a little snake, Deborah, Maybe [sic] he’ll eat some of the field mice around the house. What do you think I should do?"

As I began to ponder the fate of this snake, our pet dog Cleo came up and put her wet nose on the back of my leg. It wasn’t until I came to that John told me he had decided to let the snake go. (3)

Photo of Starks' Sorority

Starks' Sorority, Gamma Phi Delta, 1985

Despite her reservations about moving to the country Starks views nature as endangered by humanity. She writes a poem in which the snake free streets of Fort Wayne are a destructive force against nature. In "A Traffic Fatality," she writes,

Today, I saw a butterfly
in the city.

It fluttered about dancing
to the sounds of the street

Beep Beep, Chirp Chirp, toot toot,
screech, whew!

I thought it was strange to
see a butterfly in traffic.

Maybe it took the wrong
turn going north instead of south.

Today, I saw a butterfly
die in the city.

Clearly, despite her reservations Starks learned to appreciate what Indiana's natural environment has to offer her.


Sources:Bidelman, Patrick Kay, ed. The Black Women in the Middle West Project A Comprehensive Resource Guide Illinois and Indiana: Historical Essays, Oral Histories, Biographical Profiles, and Document Collections. Project Director Darlene Clark Hine. Indianapolis: Purdue Research Foundation, 1986.

Starks, Deborah Ann. "Making It in the Country," ts. Unpublished essay, 1984. Deborah Starks Collection: Black Women in the Middle West Project Fort Wayne, 1948-1986. Collection M 0497 Box 1 Folder 1. Indiana Historical Society Indianapolis, Indiana.

---. Communicator [Fort Wayne]. "Preventive measures half IPFW flooding." 7 Mar 1985.

---. "A Traffic Fatality," ms. Unpublished poem, 1984. Deborah Starks Collection: Black Women in the Middle West Project Fort Wayne, 1948-1986. Collection M 0497 Box 1 Folder 1 Poem 5. Indiana Historical Society Indianapolis, Indiana.


Deborah Starks Collection: Black Women in the Middle West Project Fort Wayne, 1948-1986. Collection M 0497 Box 1 Folder 3 Negitive 122. Indiana Historical Society Indianapolis, Indiana.