This essay aims to reinforce both afrocentric and revisionist models of the African-American family. An integral part of this argument will be to deny cultural deficit theory, and instead to focus on how African cultures blended together with each other and simultaneously adapted to New World oppression. This argument revolves around the resilience of Africanity, and we will therefore necessarily consider social transmission of African values across generations. Specifically, we will consider the valuation of biological family ties and the flexibility of family boundaries, and consider illustrations of these concepts found in Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved (1988), which offers us an intimate glimpse of the African-American family during the antebellum and reconstruction eras.
[...] The remainder of this essay, then, will focus on specific African-American familial traditions produced by the process of African cultural traditions adjustment to slavery in the U.S. In this vein then, we will highlight pertinent examples from Toni Morrison's which, though fictional and anecdotal, illustrates several specific theoretical concepts well. Above we were considering the social transmission of African values, and for instance then, we can see that Sethe's African-born mother emphasized to young Sethe the African traditions of consanguinity and the extended familial support network. [...]
[...] A second typically African trait is the flexible and expansive formation of family. McDaniel (1990), Sudarkasa (1988), and Allen (1978) all highlight that in Africa, families typically lived together in physical compounds and included not just the conjugal pair and their children, but also the extended family of the groom and siblings of the groom and/or bride. In this ideal type setting, socialization and care of children was a shared obligation of all adults, and often included systems of fosterage by non- parents, which was a phenomenon particularly common throughout Western Africa (Gomez 1998; McDaniel 1990). [...]
[...] “Beloved” thus not only offers us an emotionally gripping story of one African- American family, but also adds to our larger theoretical understanding of salient African cultural mores and helps expand our appreciation of how and why Africans responded to enslavement. REFERENCES Allen, Walter R The Search for Applicable Theories of Black Family Life. Journal of Marriage and the Family 40:117-129. DuBois, W.E.B The Negro American Family. New York: New American Library. Frazier, E Franklin The Negro Family in the United States. [...]
[...] At the same time, this communal support was a revival of Africanity, since African values emphasized non-kin networks in played a vital part in complementing biologically- and marriage-based families (McDaniel 1990). Similarly, we can see that Stamp Paid's role in the community was largely to ensure that the African-American community be cohesive and reciprocally supportive. In doing so, he helped create a new African tribe in Cincinnati, though one of a distinctly American context.Not only did African culture survive New World slavery, it operated as an active and resilient influence on slavery and reconstruction era African-American families. [...]
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