Submitted by: Jabari Walker

 “I am because we are, and because we are, therefore I am,” describes best the importance of family to the African people. Unlike the Eurocentric philosophy of “I think, therefore I am,” this African proverb signifies how community and family play an important role in the psychological development of blacks historically.  A comprehensive theory of black psychology will explain in much detail the dynamics of the black home, family, hero, role models, language systems, work and time management, and the nature of suspiciousness (White 1970).

Historically, African Americans believe that the essence of family is the spirit of our people. This entity is highly essential for adequate survival in society where one group dominates the other.  As Edward J., Barnes eloquently mentioned in his article. The Black Community as the Source of Positive Self-Concept for Black Children: A Theoretical Perspective,those who are concerned about black children must think about them without forgetting that the entire configuration is a part of society, which historically, devalues black people. The black family services as a source to overcome racism and prejudice.

Black families must strive to accomplish the task of child rearing, schooling, providing for necessities, and maintain one’s spirituality with fewer resources than other family groups (Parham, White, and Ajmu 2000). Therefore,to fully understand and grasp the concepts of black psychology, it is necessary to embrace the idea of significantly understanding the structure and function of the black family. The other primary functions to radiate among themselves power of affirmation, nurturance, understanding, shelter and protection, the power of wisdom and enlighten (Parham, White, Ajumu 2000).

In terms of its relationship to the 21’s century, we must realize that the modern black family is not like that of the 1960’s and 1970’s.The civil rights movement gave way to the forceful thrust of the rise of black consciousness, with its demands for liberation and self-determination, still another kind of young black was born (Barnes 1976). These “then young blacks”are now society’s parents and grandparents. The level of black consciousness is no longer the same. Therefore, in many cases, the black community has seen a decline in the value and importance of the black family. There are also other factors to look at such as the changing roles in the black family over the decades.

A number of significant changes have occurred in African American families over the past 50 years (Tucker and Mitchell -Kernan, 1995).In 1950, married couples headed 78% of African American families. By 1996, this number dropped to only 34% (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1996). The number of children raised in mother-only homes increased form 25% in 1960 to 54% in 1993(Hunt, Jackson, Powell, Steelman 2000).

When African-Americans lost our sense of family and community ties, we lost the very thing that preserved us for centuries: family. It cannot be overstated; the collapse of the nuclear family within the African-American community have led to almost 70 percent of African American children born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. Just as it is with wealth, poverty passes from one generation to the next.

Sophisticates often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life, affecting everyone from the bobo Murphy Browns to the ghetto “baby mamas.” Not so, it is a largely low-income—and disproportionately black—phenomenon. The vast majority of higher-income women wait to have their children until they are married. The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal—one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.


Barnes, Edward J., The Black Community as the Source of Positive Self-Concept for Black Children: A Theoretical Perspective. In R. jones (Eds.) Black Psychology (third Ed). Berkeley, California: Cobb & Henry.

Hunt Matthew; Jackson, Pamela; Powell Brian; Steelmlan, Lala (2000). “Color Blind: The Treatment of Race and Ethnicity in Social Psychology,” Social Psychology Quarterly. Vol 63, (4) 352-354

Kendall, Diana. (2000). Sociology in Our Times: the Essentials (second edition). Baylor University: Wadsworth

Mandara, Jelani and Murray, Carolyn B., (2000). “Effects of Parental Marital Status, Income, and Family Functioning on African American Adolescent Self-Esteem,” Journal of Family Psychology. Vol 14, (3) 475-490

Miller, Jerome. (1996). Search and Destroy. New York: Columbia Books.

Parham, Thomas A; White, Joseph L; Ajamu, Adisa. (2000). The Psychology of Blacks: An African Centered Perspective. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Princeton Hall.