Slavery and the African-American Family

Recently Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann came under fire for her signing a document titled “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family.” This document, drafted by a conservative Christian group promotes the notion of marriage being a union between one man and one woman by condemning gay marriage, abortion, infidelity and pornography.

As an African-American father, I was particularly disturbed by the document’s opening statement:

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

I will admit that marriage rates among African-Americans have declined over the years, out-of-wedlock births are more prevalent, and too many African-American children are suffering as a result; however, it is irresponsible and ignorant to suggest that slavery was a better situation for children.

In college, I read several authentic slave narratives and I was often moved to tears by the brutality and harsh conditions that slaves had to deal with. Slave owners discouraged marriages among slaves and families were regularly disbanded and sold. Even if the family unit managed to remain intact, parents were frequently beaten and humiliated in front of their children.

Slavery was a horrible time in our country’s history where people were stripped of their humanity and free will. The big difference between then and now is that African-American men and women are free to make choices about their family situations. If they decide not to get married, it’s their choice. If they decide to have children out-of-wedlock, it’s their choice. You can place value judgments on the choices, but they have the right to make the choices and must deal with the consequences.

As for me, I choose to remain faithful to my wife and build a strong marriage. I choose to care form my children and raise them to be respectful, intelligent, productive, Americans. I choose to volunteer in my church and community to help uplift children and families of all races. And finally, I choose not to support Michelle Bachmann for president.

The group has since removed the statement, but the wounds remain. Race in America is always a touchy subject, but we have to have better dialogues to better understand each other and make sure that truth trumps ignorance.

Stay Strong,



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About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at or on Twitter at