Barbara Fleming’s ‘African American Mothers’ nudges policymakers
- Published: November 7, 2023
By Dennis Bova
A longtime village resident has published her latest book, delving into a societal problem and hoping to get the attention of politicians and policymakers to improve the situation.
Barbara Fleming, Ph.D., who arrived with her husband, John E. Fleming, to Yellow Springs in 1988, recently released “African American Mothers: Their Children and Their Poverty in America in the First Quarter of the Twenty-First Century.” The book is available on Amazon.com. As a small independent publisher, she also has a website: silvermaplepublications.com.
“I write in several genres,” Fleming said. “I started writing mystery novels. More recently I have been writing in the field I always worked in: social science research.”
Fleming has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a master’s and a doctorate in developmental psychology.
“My career has been in research and writing,” she said.
Her research into African American parents, their children and poverty comprise her recent book.
“One of the things that has happened to the Black family in America in the past half century, or more,” she said, “is that the rate of marriage has declined significantly. Far more than in the white community.”
She said her research showed that 35% of Black children live in a two-parent family, compared with 75% of white children.
Fleming points to a 1965 study written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a scholar who at the time was assistant secretary of Labor under President Lyndon Johnson, predicting the disintegration of the Black family.
“There was a lot of pushback against him by Black social scientists, who thought that was a particularly negative evaluation. As it turned out,” Fleming said, “he was right.”
She added that the rise in single-parent families “is occurring not only in America among African American families, but all over the western world.”
“It’s a rising trend,” she continued, especially in the European Union. “It’s not something that is going to go away.”
Fleming said research has found that “in the EU, there is more support for mothers and children. We think in this country we have tremendous support, but people have to pay for their own childcare and nursery school. There’s little support in America that matches what goes on in Europe.”
She said, “What I’m hoping to show is that poverty has had a very detrimental impact on single-mother families. These women are poor — extremely poor, making less than half of the poverty level income for a family of four. It’s not a good situation for Black families and children.”
Fleming has an audience in mind.
“This is a book for policymakers, politicians. I don’t try to give solutions,” she said. “I am not in an organization where that would be appropriate. I am a researcher and a writer. I try to inform them of the real situation that’s going on in their constituencies.”
This book, Fleming said, presents data to “let them know what is going on with these children and families who are so desperately poor. They need to start talking about [instituting] a living wage for people to basically survive at a decent level.”
Looking ahead, Fleming said she’s working on a book about Black fathers and incarceration figures.
“So many young Black men are in prison or have been in prison, under probation or on parole or have a record and can’t get a job,” she said. “The incarceration levels have had a tremendous impact on Black family formation.”
Circling back to her recent book, Fleming said, “It is about children, not about mothers who for whatever reason had children out of wedlock.”
She quoted Matthew 19:14 from the Bible, where Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
“Jesus set an example,” Fleming said, “for how those in the political sphere should be looking at these children.”
* Dennis Bova is a freelance reporter for the News and was a longtime copy editor for The Toledo Blade. He currently writes for Wright State University, the Dayton Business Journal, Dayton Real Producers and Toledo-based Healthy Living News.