Marriage And Family In America Essays

In subsequent rendering, “family” came to signify , a kin group descended from a common ancestor.

By the nineteenth century, family had acquired two distinct referents, the nuclear and the extended family.

From a more class-based perspective, the family has been seen as a social structure whose “happiness” (in the Beechers’ words) depends on the labor of servants; in direct contradiction to Williams’s , however, these servants are prohibited from establishing “relations of private intimacy” with their employers’ families (Beecher and Stowe 1869, 326).

The nineteenth-century invention of the bourgeois family has obscured the history of other familial formations. “Family,” here and elsewhere, often functions as a code word intended to stigmatize the deviant, those who are placed beyond the norm by virtue of their race, sexuality, class, or other social identities.

If her role as primary provider challenges the gendered division of labor, her desire to use her earnings to purchase enslaved family members underscores her commitment to affective ties.

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The post–Civil War era established the legality of African American marriage and family, which thereby affirmed U. blacks’ right to establish affective bonds just as it granted them the ability to acquire and transmit property.

Yet once again this family structure may be seen as deviant in its application to African Americans.

In diminishing differences between whites and blacks, black families proved a powerful threat to the norms of white supremacy, premised on the assumption that families were normally white.

Many African American writers of the period took as their subject the untangling of what Jacobs had called the “tangled skeins” of slave genealogies by reconstructing family lineages.

Here, too, writers often followed a normative impulse, reconstituting the family as bourgeois and patriarchal and emphasizing lineage and inheritance.


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