March 5, 1982

A New Look at Black Families

Author Affiliations

Jackson Park Hospital Chicago


by Charles Vert Willie, ed 2; 250 pp, $21.95, paper $8.95, Bayside, NY 11360 (23-45 Corporal Kennedy St), General Hall, 1981.

JAMA. 1982;247(9):1347. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320340093052

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This is a succinct book on black family life with a concise discussion of the differences among affluent (middle-class), working-class, and poor black families.

In part 1 the author notes that, while slavery did disrupt the black family, it did not cause permanent damage, and that the belief that slavery caused the black family to be unstable and matriarchal is a myth. What is true is that "as family income decreases, the proportion of families headed by one parent tends to increase." He points out that theories of Marxism and colonialism are not adequate to explain the adaptation of blacks in American society. Instead, a situational, sociological point of view is taken as sufficiently explanatory as it considers the most important situation in which blacks find themselves—discriminated against due to racism—and how the behavior of blacks is structured by this situation. He refutes the popular notion that "race is declining