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Extended Families

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Extended Families in the African American Culture

There are some lines attributed to Victor Hugo which read:

"She broke the bread into two fragments and gave them to her children, who ate with eagerness. 'She hath kept none for herself,' grumbled the sergeant.

"'Because she is not hungry,' said a soldier

"'No,' said the sergeant, 'because she is a mother.'"

These lines of writ are truly identifiable in my past. I have no doubt that my mother would sacrifice her own comfort, as she often has, in order to assure that I, myself, have that which I desire and need. However I would surely be remorsed if I failed to admit that my happiest times come not only when I am in the company of my mother but also in the company with my father, brothers, and sister. The joys of a family are surely among the great gifts of God. It is this feeling of unity that I hate to see withheld from any human being, having experienced this fullness of joy myself. It is this reason among others that pains me to read the accounts of early African Americans that were enslaved and oft robbed of their biological families.

The two pieces that I have most enjoyed reading, Equiano and Douglas, talked of this most severe suffering and pain. Equiano writes, "I remember in the vessel in which I was brought over in, in the man's apartment, there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion to see their distress and hear their cries at parting...Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery." Equiano who had already been stripped of his sister, with whom he was taken captive, would learn that if they had been brought to the auction block together, they still, most assuredly, would have been taken by two distinct masters and hence forced to live their confinements apart.

Frederick Douglas recounts quite a different way in which



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