For the past two months, a self-described Muslim woman, wearing a black burqa-like cloak has walked along motorways across the American deep south, a region not renowned for its acceptance of Islam and its followers.

But the mysterious apparition, name and destination unknown, refusing to speak with curious onlookers, was not met with suspicion or fear. Instead she has become a sensation on social media, her silent journey becoming an inspiring metaphor that has struck a chord with many US southerners in places still hard hit by recession and poverty.

Local television news channels began describing her as "the woman in black" in early June, and soon the hashtag #womaninblack was trending on Twitter. Facebook pages were created where admirers tracked her progress across Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

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