Did Slavery Destroy the Black Family?

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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 ([1899] (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. 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...
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