The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

But Smithers should be forgiven for these; his camera and pen have re-
corded a way of life that even the establishment of a national park could
not preserve. Overall, the book is a treat indeed for aficionados of photo-
graphy, the Big Bend country, and local history in general.
Texas Historical Commission JOHN R. JAMESON
The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom: 1750-1925. By Herbert G.
Gutman. (New York: Pantheon Books, I976. Pp. xxviii+663. Fore-
ward, charts, illustrations, tables, appendices, index. $15-95.)
The problem of the black family in slavery and in freedom continues to
elicit scholarship because it has become- the center of social science contro-
versy as well as the subject of controversial public policy. Though Gutman's
work is a response to the matrifocality thesis of Daniel P. Moynihan's The
Negro Family . . ., students as diverse as E. Franklin Frazier, Stanley M.
Elkins, A. Gardiner and Lionel Ovesey, Joyce Ladner, Carol Stack Blass-
ingame, and Martin Luther King have all examined the black family with
a view to gauging the extent of malaise slavery imparted and its legacy to
the "tangle of pathology" which the black family, as an institution, suffers
today. These studies are important because they seek an answer to the
query, "what is the extent to which the American public conscience, given
the truth, may respond positively to the obligation imposed by a public
policy of race degradation?
"This study is an examination of the Afro-American Family prior to and
after general emancipation; but it is also a study of the cultural beliefs
and behaviour of a distinctly lower class population," Gutman states.
"It examines its adaptive capacities at critical moments in its history .. .
[for] to focus on the family also means to focus on culture [because] so-
cialization starts there and through it historically derived beliefs are handed
on" (xx-xxi). The study is divided into two parts. The first eight chapters
examine different aspects of development of the slave family and enlarged
slave kin group. The last two chapters shift to ex-slaves in the late nine-
teenth and early twentieth century. Gutman rejects quantitative approaches,
but he does analyze slave records, Reconstruction marriage registers, and
census data. What his approach does is to study a particular process of
social and cultural adaptation. The conclusion speaks of the strength and
credibility of the two parent model across the face of slave and post-slave
families down to 1925, and shows how, drawing possibly on West African
models, blacks maintained other "family" practices that contribute to the
cultural stability of the black family. The public policy significance of

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/. Accessed July 25, 2014.