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Black matriarchy


Black matriarchy

The term Black matriarchy is a reference to the cultural phenomenon of African-American households with children being largely headed by mothers, with the children's biological fathers mostly absent from the household.[1][2][3]


  • First usage 1
  • Statistics 2
  • Cosby and Poussaint's criticism of the single-parent family 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Notes 6

First usage

The issue was first brought to national attention in 1965 by sociologist and later Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in the groundbreaking Moynihan Report (also known as "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action".[1] Moynihan's report made the argument that the relative absence of nuclear families (those having both a father and mother present) in Black America would greatly hinder further Black socioeconomic progress.[1]


A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia shows that three-quarters of Black families were nuclear families, composed of two parents and children.[4] In New York City in 1925, 85 percent of kin-related Black households had two parents.[4] In 1940, the illegitimacy rate for Black children was 19 percent.[4]

When Moynihan warned in his 1965 report of the coming destruction of the Black family, the out-of-wedlock birthrate was 25 percent among Blacks.[1] By 1991, 68 percent of Black children were born outside of marriage.[5] In 2011, 72 percent of Black babies were born to unwed mothers.[2][3]

Cosby and Poussaint's criticism of the single-parent family

Bill Cosby has criticised the current state of Black families being dominated by single-parent situations. In a speech to the NAACP in 2004, Cosby said: "In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on". "You have the pile-up of these sweet beautiful things born by nature—raised by no one."[6]

In Cosby's 2007 book Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, co-authored with psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, Cosby and Poussaint write that "a house without a father is a challenge," and that "a neighborhood without fathers is a catastrophe."[6] Cosby and Poussaint write that mothers "have difficulty showing a son how to be a man," and that this presents a problem when there are no father figures around to show boys how to channel their natural aggressiveness in constructive ways.[6] Cosby and Poussaint also write, "We wonder if much of these kids' rage was born when their fathers abandoned them."[6]

Cosby and Poussaint state that verbal and emotional abuse of the children is prominent in the parenting style of Black single mothers, with serious developmental consequences for the children.[6] "Words like 'You're stupid,' 'You're an idiot,' 'I'm sorry you were born,' or 'You'll never amount to anything' can stick a dagger in a child's heart."[6]

"Single mothers angry with men, whether their current boyfriends or their children's fathers, regularly transfer their rage to their sons, since they're afraid to take it out on the adult males".[6] "If they hear their mom say, 'Black men ain't worth s—-,' the boys wonder whether that includes them. When their moms yell, 'You're no good, just like your father!' all the doubt goes away."[6]

Cosby and Poussaint write that this formative parenting environment in the Black single-parent family leads to a "wounded anger—of children toward parents, women toward men, men toward their mothers and women in general".[6]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Daniel P. Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, Washington, D.C., Office of Policy Planning and Research, U.S. Department of Labor, 1965.
  2. ^ a b Jesse Washington, "Blacks struggle with 72 percent unwed mothers rate", NBC News, July 11, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Jason L. Riley,"For Blacks, the Pyrrhic Victory of the Obama Era", Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Walter Williams, "Victimhood: Rhetoric or reality?", Jewish World Review, June 8, 2005.
  5. ^ National Review, April 4, 1994, p. 24.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Myron Magnet, "The Great African-American Awakening", City Journal, Summer 2008, volume 18, number 3.


  • Collins, Patricia. "Black Women and Motherhood." Black Feminist Thought, second edition 171-199.
  • Feldstein, Ruth. "I Wanted the Whole World to See." Not June Cleaver, Women and Gender in Postwar America 1945-1960 (1994): 261-305.
  • Rosen, Lawrence. Matriarchy and Lower Class Negro Male Delinquency. University of California Press.
  • Collins, Patricia Hill (2009). Black Feminist Thought. Routledge. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-415-96472-5.
  • Herman, Ellen (1995). The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts. pp. 190–191. ISBN 978-0520207035.
  • Christensen, Bryce. "Time for a New 'Moynihan Report'? Confronting the National Family Crisis". The Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society. The Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, October 2004. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  • DeSeno, Tommy. "Black Kids In Asbury Park Shooting Each Other, Part One: Why It's Happening". More Monmouth Musing. TriCityNews, April 12, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  • Nyong'o, Tavia. "Tavia Nyong'o, "Barack Hussein Obama, Or, The Name of the Father". S&F Online. Barnard Center For Research On Women, April 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  • Pramos, M. "The Tangle of Pathology". American in the Sixties. N.p., November 10, 2011. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  • Patricia McBroom. "The Black Matriarchy". Science News, Vol. 94, No. 16 (October 19, 1968), pp. 393–395. Society for Science & the Public.
  • Herbert H. Hyman and John Shelton Reed. "'Black Matriarchy' Reconsidered: Evidence From Secondary Analysis of Sample Surveys". The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Autumn, 1969), pp. 346–354.Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.
  • Mary Louise Anderson."Black Matriarchy: Portrayals of Women in Three Plays". Negro American Literature Forum, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Autumn 1976), pp. 93–95. St. Louis University.
  • Katheryn Thomas Dietrich. "A Reexamination of the Myth of Black Matriarchy." Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 37, No. 2 (May 1975), pp. 367–374. National Council on Family Relations.
  • Melina Abdullah. "Womanist mothering: loving and raising the revolution." The Western Journal of Black Studies, 36.1 (Winter 2012), p. 57.
  • Roger H. Rubin. "Adult Liaison in the "Epidemic" of "Teenage" Birth, Pregnancy, and Venereal Disease." The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 29, No. 4 (November 1992), pp. 525–545.
  • Collins, Patricia Hill. "Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination" .Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination. N.p., n.d. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
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