On the Plantation : The Black Family From 1850 Through 1877
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Contrary to the common misconception, even in historical circles, that the slave family was matriarchal, new treatment of primary sources reveals that in the majority of situations the family was centered around a strong male figure. This is not to suggest that the black woman was not a sturdy figure also, but to suggest that because she was subjected from "sunup to sundown" to heavy demands of slavery that destroyed the slaves' gender roles, she encouraged a separation of roles in the home. However, perhaps more important than understanding the isolated black family, is understanding what shaped and supported the isolated nuclear family and the individuals within it, namely strong kinship ties. This kinship system had its roots in West African and early Afro-American behavior, but was still very present at the close of the Civil War. This system was, claims historian Ira Berlin, "perhaps the single most important "achievement of black people during slavery."