The Crucial Legacy of the Black Aunt

When it comes to Black families, there is no role more imitated, meme’d, or recognizable than aunt. Whether the aunt you claim is kin or “play,” the role is somewhat universal—a supportive woman in your life, younger than grandma, that bridges familial bonds between children and parents.

For the video above, Jezebel spoke with Dr. Regina Davis-Sowers, a scholar, lecturer, and Black aunt who has conducted and written perhaps some of the only academic studies on Black aunts and their experiences. She believes that the reason why such research is scarce is that the history of survival behind the Black aunt, dating back to before slavery, has gone largely unnoticed.


“In West Africa, we lived in extended families. Children were seen as being every woman’s child, not just the child of their mother,” Dr. Davis-Sowers explains. “Many of the Africans who were stolen and brought to America as slaves, came from that part of Africa. And they brought that sense of extended family with them. And that’s why they were able to survive slavery, because they could depend on each other.”

“It is time to celebrate the Black aunt.”

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