SOCIAL SCIENCES

Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage

Seal. Oct. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781580058186. $30. SOC SCI
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Based on her “Black Love” seminar at Emory University, this latest book by Stewart (Three Eyes for the Journey) is an incisive history of Black companionship, beginning with the separation of families during slavery. As Stewart states, family ties were severed in Africa, with husbands and wives on separate slave ships, and, later, on auction blocks in colonial America. Using extensive primary sources, the author shows how slavery made marriage unworkable as spouses, or children, could be separated at any time, with many never knowing each other’s fate. This isn’t an easy read, and it shouldn’t be—Stewart skillfully relates Black women’s lack of autonomy during slavery and how they have been blamed for their own victimization. Later chapters describe the lasting impact of lynchings during Jim Crow, leading to an increase in widows, followed by migrant marriages during the Great Migration and, ultimately, racist welfare policies and mass incarceration in the late 20th century. Noting that Black women are least likely to marry than other races, Stewart contends that we must address oppressive ideologies that paint Black women as undesirable, as well as colorism within our own community.
VERDICT Filling a need for research on Black love and marriage, this seminal social history will enlighten a variety of readers.

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