Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America

Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America

Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America

Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America


This book offers a broader, more positive picture of African American fathers. Featuring case studies of African-descended fathers, this edited volume brings to life the achievements and challenges of being a black father in America. Leading scholars and practitioners provide unique insight into this understudied population. Short-sighted social policies which do not encourage father involvement are critically examined and the value of father engagement is promoted. The problems associated with the absence of a father are also explored.

The second edition features an increased emphasis on:

  • the historical issues confronting African descended fathers
  • the impact of health issues on Black fathers and their children
  • the need for therapeutic interventions to aid in the healing of fathers and their children
  • the impact of an Afrikan-centered fathering approach and the need for research which considers systemic problems confronting African American fathers
  • community focused models that provide new ideas for (re)connecting absent fathers
  • learning tools including reflective questions and a conclusion in each chapter and more theory and research throughout the book.

Part I provides a historical overview of African descended fathers including their strengths and shortcomings over the years. Next, contributors share their personal stories including one from a communal father working with underserved youth and two others that highlight the impact of absent fathers. Then, the research on father-daughter relationships is examined including the impact of father absence on daughters and on gender identity. This section concludes with a discussion of serving adolescents in the foster care system. Part II focuses on the importance of a two-parent home, communal fathering, and equalitarian households. Cultural implications and barriers to relationships are also explored. This section concludes with a discussion of the struggles Black men face with role definitions. The book concludes with a discussion of the impact of adoption and health issues on Black fathers and their children, and the need for more effective therapeutic interventions that include a perspective centered in the traditions and cultures of Afrika in learning to become a father. The final chapter offers an intervention model to aid in fatherhood.

An ideal supplementary text for courses on fathers and fathering, introduction to the family, parenting, African American families/men, men and masculinity, Black studies, race and ethnic relations, and family issues taught in a variety of departments, the book also appeals to social service providers, policy makers, and clergy who work with community institutions.


Some years ago, a friend and colleague who was on the program committee of a national conference called to invite me to participate in a panel discussion regarding whether fathers were needed in families. I was initially confused about the topic and inquired as to context for the session. He shared that at a previous meeting a couple of researchers offered the thesis that dads are rather superfluous to families and perhaps families did better without them (i.e., they do not offer anything that mothers cannot provide). Because the presentation had created/generated interest, support, and concern, the organization decided to offer it again at subsequent annual meetings. After some brief interaction, I accepted the invitation and thanked him for the call.

Although I had accepted the invitation, I was confused and concerned that anyone would question the need for paternal involvement/ engagement. As the conference approached, I remained confused about the topic but was prepared to share my thoughts and experiences. At the conference, I discussed my work with low-income men along with the results of my workshops with professional men across racial groups. My work suggested the need for more not less paternal engagement.

Two presenters suggested that some children do fine when dads are not present, but their comments seemed to focus on what the mother(s) wanted and her ability to care for her children. Thus, their arguments flowed from an adult vantage point, where there was satisfaction. But, what about children and their needs/desires? Do they want their fathers present? Who in female-headed households models appropriate behaviors for males? Who demonstrates how men who care about women treat them? Who shows males how to become responsible men and fathers? And, why do some women believe they can father children? Do fathers believe that they can mother children?

In the first edition of Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America, African descended men shared the important roles fathers played in their lives. These men spoke of the need for father engagement and they wrote about the impact of biological, social/communal, and step fathering. Some . . .

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