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The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0394724515
ISBN-10: 0394724518
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An Exciting, Important And Humane Book.

...Once again Herbert Gutman has shown that he is one of the most original and creative minds in the historical profession."

-- David Herbert Donald

"Gutman's, Magnificent Study...promises to force still another rethinking of the meaning of the Afro-American slave experience."

-- George M. Fredrickson, New York Review of Books

"Important And Timely....It upsets many historical notions and many sociological theories."

-- C. Vann Woodward

"Gutman Has Successfully Challenged the traditional view that slavery virtually destroyed the Afro-American family."

-- John Hope Franklin

"The Importance of Professor Gutman's Book extends far beyond its immediate subject. In its implications it is a devastating critique of the recklessness with which 'social scientists' reach the conclusions on which policy recommendations are based."

-- Thomas Sowell, Fortune

From the Inside Flap

An exhaustively researched history of black families in America from the days of slavery until just after the Civil War.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (July 12, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394724518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394724515
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher W. Chase on March 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Herbert Gutman's book, "The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom," is an important work that must be studied within its historical and ideological context.
Today it is commonly accepted that the relative absence of black males from involvement with family structures is historically attributable to shifts in post Civil War and post WWII migration of males for employment purposes, as well as the historically relative and racist lack of employment for black males in this country--but this was not always the prevailing wisdom.
About 9 years before Gutman's publication, D.P. Moynihan (later a U.S. Sentator from New York) had caused a stir by advocating public policy based on the common idea that American slavery and subsequent neo-slavery policies had destroyed the American "Negro" family. By "destroyed" these historians and policymakers meant that black fathers were historically absent, creating a matrifocal lineage system that was incapable of properly raising children and transmitting cultural values.
Apart from the obvious sexism inherent in that stance, several researchers, including Gutman, attempted to find out if there were viable family structures during the antebellum period in selected black communities---first in Buffalo, and then in plantation communities in Louisiana, Virginia, and South Carolina (among others).
Gutman found that long slave marriages (including between two persons and otherwise when necessary) did exist over a wide period of time and across different geographic locations. Despite the obvious pressures of slaveowners and white cultures, slaves were able to adapt and maintain families kin networks.
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Herbert Gutman's "The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom" is a thoroughly researched and well-written examination of how black families resiliently responded to enslavement. He forcefully and carefully supports his thesis that slaves were not only victims, but also victors.

Researchers typically only asked, "What did slavery do to the slave?" They also first needed to know, "Who was the slave?" How owners treated their slaves affected how individual slaves behaved. But how slaves behaved depended upon far more than their "treatment." Slave naming practices and marital rules are "unmistakable evidence of the importance of interior slave beliefs and experiences in shaping their behavior" (p. 259).

Historian Edmund S. Morgan summarized it well: "Human nature has an unpredictable resiliency, and slaves did manage to live a life of their own within the limits prescribed for them. Those limits were close but not so close as to preclude entirely the possibility of a private life."

Gutman thus exposes the lie that Black family life did not and could not exist due to slavery and its aftermaths. As a result, he encourages African Americans to take rightful pride in their heritage of family resiliency.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction." He has also authored "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and the forthcoming "Sacred Friendships: Listening to the Voices of Women Soul Care-Givers and Spiritual Directors."
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Purchased the book to supplement my genealogy research, which can be challenging since my ancestors were once considered property. This book contained large swaths of my maternal ancestry perfectly presented directly from Lewis Stirling's slave registry. It also provides an analysis of the familial society that existed under such a horrific existence. This book provided information and a perspective that I could not have found anywhere else.
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This book is a classic. It provides a wealth of information and data which refute the idea that Black families were totally destabilized by slavery. The data is extensive and represents places form many areas in the South. There is much data for the Bennehan/Cameron plantations of NC, which may have the best records of any plantation in the South. I heartily recommend this book, and was thrilled to find a copy in good condition for such a good price.
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This book has already been accepted as a well-recognized source of information related to slavery because of its attention to details not easily found in other sources, for example: the emotional ruptures and affect between parents when families were separated. The focus on the adaptation to the realities of the slave experience and subsequent "freedom" makes this required reading for anyone interested in this topic.
Patricia Heaston, Ph.D.
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Wow! I learned so much I didn't know about the black family during slavery by reading this book. I read the book from cover to cover in a few hours. The more I read the more I wanted to read. If you have an interest in knowing more about this time in our history, this is one of the books I would highly recommend.
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