A History of U.S Families with a Focus on African Americans Jailyn Williams

In A History of U.S Families With a focus on African Americans, the story is about a young black man named John portraying Federick Douglass. He was a slave in 1840 who was sold by his slave owner eventually losing touch with his father and siblings. This was very common among slaves and their families. They often formed families with people who were their blood and people who were not their blood but, who they shared strong bonds with on their plantation. This is called an extended family which was common for slaves to have with one another. Slavery was demanding and a life of never ending work. Marriage and having children for slaves was a difficult task. Marriage was not legal amoung slaves and women who were slaves often had children from their masters who would rape them. Even if men and women slaves lived together they were not allowed to be bound by marriage. If they chose to have children they lived in constant fear of being seperated. In the case that they were seperated slaves were allowed to make trips to see their sold family members on different plantations but, it was very dangerous. If slaves did not have the proper paperwork from their masters while visitng other plantations they were beaten or killed. So, even though they could visit their family members it came with great risks. I think the slaves that did go see their family members were extremely brave going and it shows the strong will slaves had. Slavery shows the importance of the effect of social context in families by pointing out how important family really is and how it is fought to be maintained in the worst of conditions. They all took care of each other and treated each other like family even if they were not their true kin. Extended families are still common in the African American communties today. In my family I have plenty of people that I call family that are not blood related to me at all. It also points out how things are passed down through our culture generation to generation such as family life.  Most slaves formed these types of families because it was already embedded in their West African societies and culture where most of the slaves were taken from. These experiences were put into academic literature and researched more than any other groups of people. This is because African Americans were the largest racial ethnic group until 2002, they were the only group of people enslaved legally for more than 200 years, and the only group that was legally segregated in the entire south for centuries. This affected the political economy, which is the manner in which a society organizes its political and economic institutions. Most African American families lived in the in the south where the political economy thrived on the seperation of whites and blacks. There were about 90% of African Americans that were slaves and the other 10% were not slaves and they held skilled jobs. Also, not all whites were wealthy, about 25% of whites owned one or more slaves while 15% of whites owned large plantations. Not all whites were slave owners the 75% of them had little power and were not apart of the economic or political insitutuions. All whites essientially had power over black people espeically slave women.  Black women had no power over their bodies and could not refuse their masters, if they did it would be considered refusing slavery which was illegal. For an example the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, she was a fourteen year old girl that he had a sexual relationship with. He never freed her or their children together. She never rebelled leaving people to wonder if she consented to the relationship which I think she did consent too only to save herself. I think a lot of slaves consented to doing things they didn’t want too if it would make their lives easier in some way and if not they would run away from the abuse and harm. My hypothesis is that she was treated better than other slaves and maybe put at a higher standard from her sexual relationship with Jefferson. A reason of why slaves consented to the unthinkable was because if not they would be severly punished like Celia. Celia was a nineteen year old girl who was hung for killing her master in self defense for raping her since she was fourteen years old. The jury sentenced her to death refusing her claim. Slaves who beared children with their masters had the constant fear of being seperated. Slave children played a game called game of auction refelecting that fear. One of children played the auctioneer and acted like they were at a slave sale. Children were exposed to the life of slavery at a very young age. At the age of thirteen they were working full time in the fields. Before thirteen they performed chores like taking care of the younger children and feeding livestock. Herbert Gutman was a scholar that argued despite the legal sanctions agaisnt nuclear families the slaves maintained complex emotional relationships with their families. He described a tradition called jumping the broom that slaves performed when they got married. Jumping the broom was a symbol of commitment which is still practiced now in black families. My mother and my father jumped the broom on their wedding day. Davis opinion differs from Gutmans, she belived that slaves probably did want to have nuclear families but, they couldnt because slavery just wouldnt allow it. She also points out that just because slaves didnt have nuclear families didnt mean they didnt have families at all. Slaves had more of an extended family with ficitive kin, people who are not related by blood but close personal friends. Other scholars claimed the families of slaves claimed that the slaves were cohesive and had no boundaries between groups within the community. Slaves sustained their communities together by sharing labor responsibilities with each other.  African American women slaves labor enhanced their communities survival. They often took leadership roles even the elderly, who had more free time and taught children their history. African American women were know for their resistance which led to their masters having to search their quarters every fourteen days for runaways, weapons, etc.  African American women were very different from white women in the nineteenth century. They did the same domestic duties but in different ways and in different effects. African American women were seen as powerful because of their division of labor they did more than just domestic work they took on leaderships.  Third wave feminism looks at the work done during the 1960’s through the 1970’s to look at the differences amoung women. African American women continued to dominate following  the law that forbid the slave system after the civil war. A new economic system called sharecropping, which was very similar to slavery in various ways and became the primary industry of plantations. Sharecroppers were obligated to give the owners a share of the crop putting them into more and more debt. This made it hard for ex slaves to leave the plantation but, it allowed the family life to change. African American women were now allowed to reduce their lives on the field and could stay home and take care of their families. People in debt who wanted to leave were forced to remain creating the debt peonage system. If they tried to leave they would be arrested by the sheriff who backed the system. Not only were the adults bound by slavery still but, children were too. Whites used the argument that if the children were not base born, meaning, their parents weren’t married or if their parents didn’t employ them in an industrious occupation then the children could still be slaves. After world war 2 the industry of machinery displaced sharecroppers. They moved to the north into the urban areas of the south, this is known as the Great Migration taking place between the years 1910 and 1930. African American women moved into domestic work because they were basically banned from getting factory jobs. Domestic jobs were not easy and African American women had to battle their white employers to see their families more often. Whites and blacks were still not seen as equal. They were deeply segregated especially when Plessy Vs Ferguson established the separate but equal laws in 1896. The Jim Crow laws made restaurants, bathrooms, and any public place or transportation segregated.