In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina

By Orville Vernon Burton | Go to book overview

7. Black and White Postbellum Household and Family Structure

In the decades after the Civil War, the family was the core of Southern society; within its bounds everything worthwhile took place.

F B. Simkins, History of the South (2nd ed. revised)

When Francis Butler Simkins noted the importance of the family in southern society after the Civil War, he could have been speaking of both black and white families. This was true despite enormous disparities in wealth: in 1870 only 266 Afro-Americans (5.5 percent of household heads) owned land and personal estate; that same year some 2,245 whites (65.8 percent of household heads) owned 97.8 percent of all real and 96 percent of all personal property. Notwithstanding these differences, blacks and whites in Edgefield had remarkably similar family structures.1


Family Structure

In both 1870 and 1880 two-thirds of both black and white households consisted of nuclear families (see Figure 7-1). The strongest evidence of a maleheaded family structure during slavery was the post-emancipation similarity of black and white households (see Table 7-I. In 1870 and 1880 households of both races in Edgefield County had the same proportion of male heads. Even in 1850 and 1860, before the Civil War had taken its toll in the district, white males headed about the same percentage of households as did Edgefield black males in 1870 and 1880 (see chapter 2).

Not only did males of both races head households in about the same proportion but the percentages of two-parent households were also nearly identical. The age difference between husband and wife was almost the same, and black and white households had about the same number of people in them with approximately the same percentage of children. Age variations between

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In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • List of Tables xi
  • List of Figures and Maps xiii
  • List of Illustrations xv
  • Preface xvii
  • Introduction 3
  • I. Edgefield, South Carolina 14
  • 2. Edgefield from the White Perspective 47
  • 3. the White Family Andlb Antebellum Social Structure 104
  • 4. the Slave Family 148
  • 5. the Free Afro-American in Antebellum Edgefield 203
  • 6. the Culture of Postbellum Afro-American Family Life 225
  • 7. Black and White Postbellum Household and Family Structure 260
  • Conclusion 314
  • Appendix I. Methodology 325
  • Appendix 2. Occupational Groupings 333
  • Notes 335
  • Bibliography 421
  • Index 463
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