Intergenerational Households Maintained by African American Grandmothers: New Roles and Challenges for the 21st Century

Abstract

The family and the church have been the most important institutions in African American families and communities since slavery. African American grandmothers have played a pivotal role in both institutions. Their role responsibilities, especially in the extended family context, are broad and elastic. They have performed crucial roles in the care and welfare of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, fictive kin, and others who may or may not be related by birth. In addition to caregiving, African American grandmothers have provided social and emotional support to family members, communicated important social values to offspring, engaged in the birth of babies, worked in the fields along with their husbands, and engaged in important leadership positions in the family, church, and community. From slavery to freedom, reconstruction to Jim Crowism, to the present, African American grandmothers have been a major force in the socialization of children and the stabilization of black families. The strength and resilience of African American motherhood is embedded in the ability to withstand the harshness of slavery and oppression, the ability to perform multiple roles, love of family, and strong religious beliefs. The African American grandmother is appropriately described by E. Franklin Frazier (l939) as the guardian of the generations.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Ruiz2004IntergenerationalHM, title={Intergenerational Households Maintained by African American Grandmothers: New Roles and Challenges for the 21st Century}, author={Dorothy S. Ruiz}, year={2004} }