Week 8: Black Sociology

Image: US American Black. Faith Ringgold. via artist’s website. 1969. Oil on canvas. 60 x 84″. From Ringgold’s “Black Light” series.

First, a few housekeeping details:

  • Remember that this class doesn’t use Blackboard. Check the course website every week for updates and detailed reading instructions which will appear on this page
  • Get a copy of the required course book if you haven’t done so already. You will need it to do the reading assignments for the rest of the semester. No more PDFs of chapters will be posted. Lehman’s bookstore claims to now have rental copies in stock: check with them.

The first written assignment was announced in Wednesday’s Zoom session. Download it on the assignments page. Use the submissions page to turn it in when done.

On the weekly Zoom sessions:

  • Audio of the weekly classes is on the  Zoom archive page. Same password as everything else to access.
  • Sign-up info for weekly Zoom sessions is on the Zoom meet info page. I recommend saving the meeting ID and password in your calendar or elsewhere to easily join

Quick highlights from Week 7 (3/17):

  • Reviewed Chapter 5 in Introduction to Black Studies
  • Reviewed Dr. John Henrik Clarke’s essay “Image and Mind Control in the African World.”
  • Announced first assignment: see the Assignments page for details
  • See the Lecture Notes page for a copy of my presentation
  • Zoom wait music: Alice Coltrane’s: “Blue Nile”–on YouTube here
  • Intermission music: Haki Madhubuti’s’s “Rise, Vision, Comin” from Rise, Vision, Comin–on YouTube here


  • Lehman’s pre-graduate advising program offers weekly office hours for the graduate school application process and is having two sessions via Zoom. Wednesday March 24 addresses admissions interviews. Details and Zoom link at their website.

For Wednesday 3/24, (Week 8), there are two readings to do.

  • Read up to section 6.6 (pp. 249-268) of chapter 6 (Black Sociology) in Maulana Karenga’s Introduction to Black Studies. (18 pages total)
  • Read Charles V. Hamilton’s “Black Social Scientists: Contributions and Problems” and Becky Thompson’s “Reflections on Ethics in Research” Joyce Ladner’s “Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman” from The Death of White Sociology. (15 pages: PDF document on the Readings pageComing Saturday Posted)

What to read for:

The first half of chapter 6 deals with social science approaches of studying/analyzing Black communities, families, and life. Think about how the approaches presented deal with issues of methodology (how research is done and what questions are asked), impartiality and objectivity in research, and the relationship of the researcher to the subject. Try to understand:

  • Issues of ghettoization
  • culture and the different models
  • issues of studying Black family relations and the various approaches

From the PDF reading, think about how Hamilton and Thompson Ladner critique[s] dominant social science theories of approaching research. Reflect on how these issues have been presented in your own classes.

RESPOND to one idea in the textbook chapter or the PDF and DISCUSS it with classmates and myself with the comment board at the bottom of this post

ATTEND the weekly Zoom session @ 6 PM EST on Wednesday March 24

General reading strategies:

  • Underline/highlight key points in the text
  • Use the reading questions at the back of chapters to focus you: read those first
  • Try to understand the definitions of the key concepts listed at the back of the chapter
  • Make a note to ask the instructor to clarify anything you don’t understand
  • Note key issues, approaches, and dilemmas/challenges Dr. Karenga outlines

Discussion questions

  • See chapter/essay highlights above

What’s Next?

Second half of Chapter 6 in Introduction to Black Studies

Comments on posts:

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for the “Leave a Comment” button below. Here’s how it works: you can use this to discuss points raised here.  A few points:

  • Your first comment will have to be approved by me: after that, you can comment without approval
  • Comments section will only be open to enrolled students
  • You have to leave your name (enter as first name and last initial only) so a) I can make sure only people in the class are commenting and b) you get credit for the comment
  • Remember to be respectful, especially when responding to classmates
  • The comments section closes 14 days after a post goes live

To ‘participate’ in the class, I’d like to see everyone 1) post a substantive comment of their own based on either the reading or my lecture using some of the questions raised or conversation prompts, and 2) to respond thoughtfully to someone else’s comment—not just agree/disagree, but add on evidence or ask a follow-up question. You can also ask a question–for me or others–but that doesn’t count toward your comment and reply needed for the grade. It’s fine with me if conversation continues in a thread as long as it does, but two responses showing a clear engagement with the reading will count for being ‘present.’ Does that make sense? You have two weeks to write those two comments for credit.


19 thoughts on “Week 8: Black Sociology

  1. This week’s readings were very interesting. One of the things that stood out to me (particularly in the text book) was the different approaches taken to study the Black family. I agree with Staples claim that one of the problems with the traditional approach to study Black families is their inclination to fit it in a white-middle class archetype. As a result of black families’ past experiences in America, black people have a different worldview than those who are white and have not endured the same adversity. The socially rooted issues that black families are challenged with is the outcome of their history and social class in America. During chattel slavery and thereafter, black families were robbed of the opportunity to obtain long-lasting family patterns and sexual behaviors. African family traditions were demolished during chattel slavery, causing African family patterns to become inaccessible. At any given moment, during slavery, a family member could be sold by their slave master and never seen or heard of again. The black family unit was under attack during this time, and still is presently through systemic oppression.
    Although, African family traditions were destroyed during chattel slavery, black families have shown resilience by adapting and establishing new patterns and traditions. In other words, Back families are unique, and using white families as a model to analyze black families is absurd. That juxtaposition is as senseless as comparing apples and oranges.


    • Hello Meosha, I love the way that you described, how the black family was destroyed. Slavery caused black families to become non-existent because the whites wanted power. To add on, with the study of black families researchers did not conduct a good research. Because as stated in the text book, researchers only take the negative aspects of the black communities instead of understanding why they are the way they are.


    • Hi Meosha,
      “one of the problems with the traditional approach to study Black families is their inclination to fit it in a white-middle class archetype.” This is so power! Because is a widespread problem in the black community, we continue to measure ourselves using European standards not understand that those standards will never fit us, an a result we continue to walk around like the fish that failed the tree climbing test.


  2. I enjoyed the reading for this week because today in, the world Blacks deal with sociology. A specific part of the reading, I found interesting was how the “Ghetto” was characterized. The Ghetto was put in place to isolate the Black community from the world and treat blacks as the others. Ghetto is residential and bounded which keeps blacks down so they are not able to reach their full potential to do well. It is important to understand that black people did not put themselves in these positions, they were systematically placed on purpose. Because if blacks were able to have the opportunity to resources, then many of them will be successful.


    • “The Ghetto was put in place to isolate the Black community from the world and treat blacks as the others.” You are correct about this, and it is so sad how it is still being used today. There are certain neighborhoods where cabs, and food delivery carriers do not deliver to because its too “ghetto”. Black families being forced into living in the same neighborhood by housing authority and the lack of opportunist received this stigma that still lives on today.


    • I like how you put that, I think you’re spot on – they knew what they were doing when they forced the Black community, by limiting their economic prospects so severely, into the outskirts of town, in ghettoes where anyone of any race or creed would experience the same kinds of things (depression, addiction) under dehumanizing living conditions. After emancipation, the government and American society and general seems to have found all of these ways to keep slavery in tact in some way, shape, or form – whether through ghettoization or Jim Crow voting restrictions, or imprisonment and prison labor.


  3. When reading this chapter it caught my attention in the section where it talks about the problem of ghettoization and how it is a social reality define by six basic dimensions which really describe very important aspects.


    • Raquel that segment caught my attention too. I reflected on one of my sociology class when we discuss when blacks moved beyond their bounded area. It also reminds me of when the blacks started moving in certain parts of Westchester County the whites started moving out.


  4. Black families have always fought to have the white-middle class type of home. However to achieve that goal is extremely hard. The obstacles Black people have to achieve their dreams and goals are not the same as white Americans and what they have to go through. During slavery and thereafter, black families were robbed of so many opportunities. They faced so much cruelty and the family traditions that they once had before slavery were non existent. Families were not the only thing torn apart during slavery, traditions, love, the whole structure of what makes a family was torn from black people during slavery.


    • Hello Joyce,

      I agree with your post, it is extremely hard to Black people to be able to afford a white-middle class type of home. The system focuses on restricting them to certain areas where will it be more than difficult to leave because of money issues. And by that they will place certain factors like bad food choices, bad school system and even make the area easier to transport drugs. Which with all this factors in the community will either force you and your family to be in danger in many ways, yet it will be the only place you can afford. In my opinion its a different form of trying to compress the Black community today.


    • Joyce
      Even to this day blacks are still fighting for a place in society. You are correct it is ridiculous how a black person have to fight to keep their head above water to attain certain goals. Not only during the slavery period were the blacks rob of certain opportunity but toward. There are times when I feel like slavery is making a come back . Even though we know these things were torn from the black family it is up to us to not maintain the slave mentality and to continue the struggle to break those chains.


  5. In Joyce Ladner’s essay, I felt a profound interest in and connection to the way she explained her methodology/approach with the girls in that community. She expresses how difficult she found it, as a member of the Black community, though not necessarily the same background (at least not economically), extremely difficult to separate her humanity from her sociologically professional duty to stay “uninvolved” with her subjects. Ultimately, she strikes a balance between the two, and makes a very compelling case that, with regard to fairly assessing her subjects and the conditions in which they live, it is her humanity and relationship to them that best allows her to do so, and to go beyond that and assist and contribute. The majority of sociologists who had come before when assessing the same subject, in fact, and by observing only the subject and not giving the same discerning eye towards the systemic and racially-motivated causes committed just the same kind of bias and neglect that traditional sociology would claim is in violation of professionalism.
    I just found the entire essay fascinating and it makes me very interested to read her actual study, because I think it is exactly her combined methodology of understanding the full scope of what she is studying from a professional, cultural, analytical, and emotional point of view that makes her the right sociologist for this subject.


  6. The reading for this lecture is tomorrow’s tomorrow the black woman. Which begins by stating an important and interesting fact, that it’s beyond difficult to survive in a world where survival for Blacks has not been easy. It also states that it has been ignored the fact that the black community is forced to act upon resistance because of their past history. And how it has been forced to adapt to poverty and racism and a set of unhealthy conditions. And many reports and studies have only focused in this areas and to prove the above statements. “There has never been an admission that the Black community is a product of American social policy, not the cause of it- the structure of the American social system, though its practices institutional racism, is designed to crate the alleged “pathology” of the community, to perpetuate the “social disorganization” model of Black life” (pg.418-419). Therefore lately it has been a strong concern to focus on the positive attitude of understanding the strengths of the life of the Black community. Something from the reading that caught my attention a lot and impacted me was when the writer stated that Dark Ghetto was a form of prison that the white system created. That the observations were made as a prisoner within the ghetto before knowing that they were really a prisoner. And the approach of the book it’s to help Black individuals break away from the cycle, to help them be concerned about a new future direction. To break away from the traditional labels and perceptions of the black community. To be able to analyze the patterns and break away from the formulated behavioral patterns that Blacks are supposed to have or supposed to belong. As mention before there is a system that prevents the Black community to reach their full potential and to break away from the pattern. Yet the system is built to prevent this by having simple things around areas that the black community is located at. For example when I was taking a health course on my previous semester we did research on why in certain neighborhoods it is more difficult to find healthy food options and it was because the system doesn’t want the black community and other minorities to have healthy choices for a better healthier life. It is easier for them to place fast food restaurants in poor communities for them to be force to eat unhealthy and will likely have larger chances to be sick and not live a long healthy life.


  7. Ghettoization happens when the African culture separates and isolates itself from other cultures driving poverty, the worst education, and the high crime rate. Most black families want to be part of the middle class but society construct prevents them from achieving this making this goal extremely difficult. This separation in society makes jobs, healthcare, and the population suffer and struggle a lot.


  8. Black sociology talked about a couple of things, it talked about Blacks and Ghettos, how it was basically

    terriotorial, basically racial, meaning you are a product of your environment based on your race, etc.

    socio economic and Institutional etc.


  9. An interest point of this chapter is “the Problem of Ghettoization” and how the ghetto create a wall for the black community that stops individuals that share that space from taking advantage to opportunities that are available to the larger society. The lack of resources in this area essentially creates an economic and social trap that is hard to scape. These communities are underfunded and as a result have poor education, poor housing, high unemployment, drug addiction/alcoholism, crime, and low life expectancy. It is also important to note how this creates a racial perception that follows those that are able to migrate from these areas.


  10. Black Sociology is more or less the social study of change and interaction among black people. Karenga argue that Black sociology black sociology sets several aim that were basis for itself. The first and very important aim was to recue Black life from the racist interpretations. Also another aim was to generate new concepts analytical frameworks and bodies of statistic that will improve comprehension of not only the Black phenomenon but the best existence of the US civilization. To distinguish, as well as acknowledge opportunities of social change in the Black and larger community.

    Ghettoization: The ghetto was set up to isolate and restrict blacks from certain areas. In areas that are considered ghetto you will find the funding for education, healthcare and other basic ameneties to make life goes by smoothly are limited. It is created to keep certain groups in poverty. The crime rates in these communities are usually high, but it is expected since most in these communities are unemployed. Also when blacks try to move from these communities into others the whites will relocate from that community making it become a black community. Blacks are still considered and treated as minority in the ghetto with variations that are allowable


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