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  • From the Editor
  • Jennifer F. Hamer, Editor

The years 2013 and 2014 mark milestones and landmark decisions directly related to the black experience in the United States, quality of life, and the practice of humanity. Last year, 2013, marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, ending U.S. enslavement of black Americans. It was also the 50-year anniversary of the historical 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This year, 2014, is the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education school desegregation decision; the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; and the 20th anniversary of the year Nelson Mandela assumed the presidency in South Africa and colonialism ended on the continent of Africa. It is also the sixth year of Barack Obama’s, the first black American president, two-term presidency.

Black academic professional associations have and will celebrate these accomplishments, as well as their own respective anniversaries. Most have been in existence for 40 years or more with missions to offer a more holistic and accurate approach to the study of the black experience and to support the professional development of black scholars. Yet, despite their agendas and activism, annual conferences tell us that, for these associations, the issues of blacks of the past remain central to studies of the present. The Association of Black Sociologists 2013 conference theme, for example, was “Social (Injustice) and Health Disparities: A Continuing Saga,” and the organization will sponsor a 2014 symposium titled “Sexuality Matters: Race, Gender, and Class Intersections in the 21st Century.” Black political scientists will come together in 2014 around “Analyzing the Black Political Community: People, Policy, Process, and Politics in the Era of Globalization.” The 2013 Association for the Study of African American Life and History focused on “At the Crossroads of [End Page v] Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington,” and several sessions emphasized how retrenchment, austerity, and racial politics and practices are defining a future of uncertainty.

This issue of Women, Gender, and Families of Color focuses on a range of black experiences in the United States, in recognition of the many 2013–14 anniversaries and the continued efforts by black professional associations to emphasize humanity and maintain their engagement with persistent critical social, economic, cultural, and political issues. In this issue, “The Impact of Community Involvement, Religion, and Spirituality on Happiness and Health among a National Sample of Black Lesbians,” by Juan Battle and Alfred DeFreece, explores variables that enhance or inhibit the health and well-being of black lesbians, a population often ignored in scholarly research. Future issues of the journal will also feature articles developed on this indispensable national survey data to examine and appreciate the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class. In “Doing What’s Right for the Baby: Parental Responses and Custodial Grandmothers’ Institutional Decision Making,” LaShawnDa Pittman offers a study of black grandmothers and how they engage with social services and adult children to make decisions about the care of their grandchildren. As noted in “From the Editor” (volume 1, no. 1 of this journal), black children are overrepresented among those in state care and foster care. And relative to other demographic groups, black grandmothers, many of whom are poor and working-class, are more likely than most to have primary responsibility for the care of grandchildren. Studies that research how institutions support and engage these women and families are essential. Randal Maurice Jelks, in “Masculinity, Religion, and Modernism: A Consideration of Benjamin Elijah Mays and Richard Wright,” contemplates the role of mothering, gender, and religion on the historical direction and thinking of two leading black intellectuals of the 20th century. His thoughtful essay reminds us that directions of meaningful social change in the eras of Civil Rights and Black Power, were often complicated by male leadership and how men understood and practiced race and gender. In “That’s Not Me I See on TV . . . African American Youth Interpret Media Images of Black Females,” Valerie N. Adams-Bass, Keisha Bentley-Edwards, and Howard C. Stevenson, prompt our attention to the historical negative images...


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