Friend of the blog J. Victoria Sanders, writer extraordinaire, has released her first book today. Single & Happy: The Party of Ones is part-memoir, part instructional guide for single women in pursuit of patience, hope, and contentment. Though Sanders’ target audience is childless single women, her experiences and tips have resonance for the Beyond Baby Mamas crowd, as well. Before she delves into the dating game and how to get off the find-a-partner roller coaster in order to master self-respect and self-love, she offers a bit of personal context for her views on black relationships, black marriage, and black families:
I learned by watching my mother how easy it was to become an unreliable narrator of one’s relationships, so I became a student of other black women’s relationships in the places from my childhood, but mainly the Bronx. The majority of black women I grew up around were unmarried, with just a few exceptions. Most of them were mothers. Half of them had live-in boyfriends, but they didn’t call them that – they had men, as in, “Girls have boyfriends. That’s my man.”
In [Harriet] Tubman’s case, she married a few times, including one marriage that her biographer Catherine Clinton notes in Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom happened when she was likely well over 50 years old. Back then, marriages between free blacks and slaves were considered informal arrangements, not legally or biblically binding enough to trump the commerce of slavery. Clinton wrote:
“Free blacks were faced with the prospect of choosing liberty in exile or a return to enslavement by remaining with their families…A slave’s master could choose to honor or ignore the couple’s commitment, rendering such unions inherently unstable. The sale of the slave spouse might throw the entire relationship into limbo. Thus, slaves who chose a life partner, whether a free black or another slave, constantly confronted fears not only that their marriage might be shattered…but that they might lose contact with their children as well.”
Any book that purports to be geared toward black unmarried women and/or instruct them on getting a mate that doesn’t acknowledge this historical context is irresponsible.