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American FatherhoodA History$
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Jürgen Martschukat

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479892273

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479892273.001.0001

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Families, Fathers, and the Black Community, 1950–2010

Families, Fathers, and the Black Community, 1950–2010

(p.200) 11 Families, Fathers, and the Black Community, 1950–2010
American Fatherhood

Jürgen Martschukat

NYU Press

Chapter 11 looks at an African American family in 1970s Watts after the civil rights movement and the Watts riots. Its main character is the slaughterhouse worker Stan from Charles Burnett’s independent film Killer of Sheep (1977). In this film, Burnett makes a powerful counterargument in the debate on the “dysfunctional black family,” which a decade earlier was described by Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the Johnson administration as being mired in a “tangle of pathology.” Stan is neither shiftless nor lazy but tries to get ahead and secure a decent living for his family. He endlessly struggles for the survival of his nuclear family but is constrained in his efforts and their success by the racist conditions of his life in 1970s America. The chapter approaches the massive debate on the black family and fatherhood in contemporary America through the film and its public reception, both in the 1970s and 1980s and after its re-release in 2007. Thus, the author uses the film to explore this discourse from the 1960s to today, from Patrick Moynihan to Barack Obama, and analyzes their comments on black families and fatherhood as well as those by their critics.

Keywords:   post–civil rights movement, black family, Charles Burnett, Killer of Sheep (1977), Moynihan Report

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