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.
[...] 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. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gomez, Michael A Exchanging Our Country Marks: the transformation of African identities in the colonial and antebellum South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina [...]
[...] Following our discussion of social transmission and flexible forms of African culture, it is very likely that these family accommodations were greatly influenced by their African background. In addition to these examples of family lines being expanded within Sethe's family, we see the same cultural form generalized among the surrounding community as well. For instance, once Denver started venturing out into Cincinnati and exploring the available socioeconomic networks and explaining her family's predicament, she received generous support from the Afro-American community in the form of employment, food handouts, and later, an exorcism. [...]
[...] Once in the American setting though, enslaved Africans' participation in this cultural form changed in shape, and became “African-American” rather than staying totally African or being completely undermined by slavery. Once extended families (and even nuclear families) were torn apart during slavery, mutually supportive social networks stepped in to take their place. In this way then, the conjugal union and accompanying extended family provided increased security and support for members. In the American setting though, this network was often complemented or even replaced by wider, non-kin communities that functioned in the same way. [...]
[...] 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. [...]
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