In this debate, the discussion will surround whether or not slavery destroyed the Black family. A family is a social unit living together and people descended from a common ancestor. The debate focuses on Wilma A. Dunaway who posits that slavery did destroy the Black family, and her opponent, Eugene D. Genovese, who says that slavery did not destroy the Black family. By analyzing Dunway, Genovese, and a host of other writers I have gather my own ideas for one side to agree with.
As above stated, it is Dunaway’s contention that slavery destroyed the Black family.
She identifies that that there is a great deal of evidence to substantiate that slave family stability varied with the size of the slaveholding. It is also inferred that family separations, slave trading, sexual exploitation and physical abuse occurred much more often in societies where the masters owned small amounts of slaves. Dunaway also speaks to the fact that small slave holdings permitted got more contact with the owner, which meant greater exposure to sexual exploitation.
Consequently, slave families on small plantations were more often disrupted by masters, and black households on small plantations, were much more frequently headed by one parent. Additionally, DuBois (1899) makes his feelings clear in discussion on the impact of slavery on the family. Du Bois ( (1996) discussed how the concept of the monogamist home was new to Blacks. DuBois indicates that cohabitation was a common practice in the absence of legal marriage. The number of single parent households was increasing, and children were growing up without fathers. Read about growing up without a father
In conjunction Dubois identifies that children lacked adequate supervision, and alleys and sidewalks became the primary agents for the socialization of children. Additionally, when men were not able to find jobs that paid enough to support a family, women had to go out and find work. Du Bois described how women were sometimes forced to go far from their homes to find work. These women were often gone for long periods at a time leaving the children unattended. When the children were left unattended, they had a tendency to get into mischief. This mischief often involved the destruction of property.
These factors contributed to landlords charging higher rents. Tenants became reluctant to take in boarders because some male lodgers took inappropriate actions with female children that had been left at home alone. There were also reports of husbands taking advantage of female lodgers that might rent from a boarding family. Dunaway’s research gives the appearance of being different because of the research methodology utilized. She speaks to the utilization of statistical analysis which was derived from a database of over 26,000 families from the 19th century tax lists.
She also states that she used archived records from farms, plantations, commercial sites and industries, in addition to the rich Appalachian planters. The concerns that Dunaway feels arise from utilization of the old construct on the slave family. She seeks the inquiry of what she identifies as a new paradigm which denotes nine lines of inquiry. It is the position of Eugene Genovese that slavery did not destroy the Black family. It was his belief that the slaves developed their own system of family, and cultural values.
In conjunction, Genovese has inferred that many slave-owners went to impressive lengths to keep slave families together. Genovese also discloses that approximately one in six slave marriages were ended by force or sale by their slave masters. Of mentionable note is that when the children were sold, was this accepted by the slaves as a ‘fact of life’; and, adds Genovese, the sales of slaves were, after 1815, a result of the inter-regional movement of slaves, moving them from the upper to the lower south. Genovese also made mention of the fact that ‘slaves did not separate marriage or sex itself from love’.
They instead held on to their position that good Christians did not sin by sleeping together out of wedlock, for they were pure and therefore could not defile each other. Genovese research is largely centered on mammy those that reside on plantations. I am in partial agreement with Henry Gutman. He discredits Moynihan’s report of the stereotypes he used to speak about Blacks. In addition, Gutman denies that there was a historical instability surrounding the Black family. In conjunction, it is identified that Mr.
Gutman proved through utilization of the data from the United States Census that as in white families, Black families were headed by both parents and the children were born in wedlock. It was however, the contention of Gutman that the major differences in the family structure derived because of the Blacks moving to the North during the Industrial and not during slavery. The extended family networks that were developed during slavery by Africans and their descendants, according to Martin & Martin (1985) were based on the institutional heritage which the Africans had brought with them to the United States.
In conjunction these authors infer that there are scholars who identify that the female headed households characterized the early black American family during slavery. Conversely though, Gutman states that probably only in a few areas were female headed households, which were estimated to be about 1/4th of all households. In conjunction, Gutman’s research suggests that female-headed households developed mainly in two situations.
These situations encompass a women whose husband died or was sold off the plantation might head a household comprised of her children and perhaps her grandchildren born to and unmarried daughter; and a women who did not marry after having one or two children out of-wedlock, but continued to have children, which possibly belonged to the master. It is elicited by Sudarkasa, in Martin & Martin that when one focuses on extended families among the enslaved Blacks, it is evident that these kin networks posses many features of the African extended families.
The African American families were built around what Sudarkasa identifies as consanguine kin. These are family members whose spouses were incorporated into the extended family networks in different degrees. Sudarkasa goes on to state that the significance of the consanguine principle in the black American extended family is indicated by Gutman’s contention that the pull between ties to an immediate family and to an enlarged kin network sometimes strained husbands and wives.
In conjunction, the literature on black families during slavery provides a wealth of data on the way in which consanguine kin assisted each other with child rearing, in life crisis events such as birth and death, in work groups, in efforts to obtain freedom, and so on. Relationships within these groups were governed by principles and values stemming from their African background. Respect for elders and mutual cooperation among kinsmen are noted in all discussions of black families during slavery.
Also, the willingness to assume responsibility for relatives and children beyond the conjugal family and selflessness demonstrated in accepting these responsibilities were also characteristics attributed to the enslaved population and were reflective of their ancestor’s culture. It is my contention that slavery did not destroy the Black family. If anything, my position is that slavery held the family much closer. From all that I know, have read and heard, maintaining the value systems of the family has always been prevalent in our lives; be it slavery or post slavery.
Was the Black slave family challenged, most definitely they were. How could they not be, white masters were raping their women and devaluing their characters in front of their women and children. Strength of black families according to Dr. Hill is their ability to perform different family roles. Hill believes this exists in many black families and is a source of strength and stability. This flexibility probably developed because of the high proportion of working wives in black families. Instances probably arose in which the wife had to work and the father had to act as the mother and vice versa.
I can personally attest to this fact because my father had no problem with cooking, washing clothes, or cleaning the house while my mother was working. Such role flexibility helps to stabilize the family in the event of an unanticipated separation caused by illness, death, or divorce according to Hill. The Black family has always been about just that, the family. We hold the same value systems as other cultures. We believe in our culture, our ancestors, education, a work ethic, our children, and the church. The rationale speaks to how we bond, and stay bonded in the face of constant adversity.
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Did Slavery Destroy the Black Family?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/slavery-destroy-black-family-new-essay