Father-Son Relationships: The Father's Voice
I grew up on a farm in Mississippi [just after World War II], and my parents were very religious, very hardworking. I think education was the thing that was stressed most. "You want to get away from the farm, you don't want to do this hard work, son, you'd better get an education," they told me. So education was always foremost. The thing I learned was you have to work hard, and you have to be focused. Those are the things I have tried to pass on to my son. You have to know what you want, you have to work for it, nothing is free. Unless you are willing to pay the price, you're not going to make it.
To understand how this high-achieving group of African American college-age men are succeeding, we interviewed the fathers who raised them. Most of these men were the biological fathers and were living with the sons' mothers. In a few cases, the father was a stepfather or a single father who had raised his son alone. Through our information gathering, we often felt we were weaving together threads that would result in a magnificent tapestry of family culture, history, and life. Part of that construction meant learning from these fathers about their own early experiences and how those experiences influenced how they raised, and are still raising, their sons. Their explanations provide an essential perspective as we progress in the next two chapters toward our interviews with the young men.
Here we focus on the fathers' stories. We asked them about their upbringing. How important was education to their parents? Did the fathers receive special messages about being Black and about being male? How did the fathers' mothers and fathers work as a team? We also ask how they raised their sons and how they help them to succeed when so many young African American males do not. Through this process, we assume an intergenerational perspective.