Traci Parker Discusses Black Love and Marriage on WGBH’s "Basic Black"
Friday, February 26, 2021
Friday, February 26, 2021
On a recent episode of WGBH’s Basic Black host Callie Crossley was joined by four experts—including Traci Parker, associate professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies—to celebrate and discuss Black love, relationships, and rituals in honor of Valentine's Day. The episode explored the history of the Black family and how that history has shaped and impacted modern relationships. Contemporary issues, such as mass incarceration, legislation, and economic prosperity, were discussed in the context of how they affect the Black family.
During the episode, Parker was asked to contextualize Black love as it related to the period of enslavement in the United States. Parker discussed how marriage in the U.S. has long been about citizenship, and that “during slavery, it was about a denial of citizenship… Denying African Americans the right to marry is in a sense denying them citizenship.” She pointed out how African Americans stayed engaged and “defined marriage in ways that fit their particular circumstances,” and even built wedding vows around acknowledging the circumstances of slavery. She went on to explain that after slavery, African Americans wanted to ensure the institution of marriage would be a means of liberation.
Later in the episode, Parker discussed how Black love is portrayed in movies and television. “While increasingly we are seeing incidents of Black love [in the media], historically we just haven’t,” she said, explaining how Black love has been depicted as “damaged,” “pathological,” and “dysfunctional.” She went on to say, “African Americans have always believed that Black love, Black marriage, Black family was about community and was about group advancement.”
The full episode, which originally aired on February 12, 2021, is available for viewing on the WGBH website.
In December 2020, Parker was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to work on her book project entitled Beyond Loving: Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Black Freedom Movement. The fellowship will support research that sheds light on questions related to “Black love, marriage, and family as integral expressions of Black freedom movement ideology.” Ahead of writing the book manuscript, Parker plans “to conduct necessary archival research in Georgia, California, Wisconsin, and Mississippi” and “interview veterans of the Black Freedom Movement….” She says, “The interviews, in particular, promise to unearth details about dating, marriage, divorce, and parenthood on the movement’s battlegrounds—topics seldom documented in extant oral histories.”
Basic Black is produced at the WGBH Studios in Boston and is the longest-running program on public television focusing on the interests of people of color. According to the WGBH website, the program—originally called Say Brother—was created in 1968 during the height of the civil rights movement as a response to the demand for public television programs reflecting the concerns of communities of color.