The FAMiLY Leader’s Marriage Pledge Says Unwed Slaves Preferable Parents For African-Americans

The FAMiLY LEADER’s 14-point marriage pledge for presidential candidates references various historic anecdotes to contextualize its principles. The very first point it makes, however, suggests the group didn’t quite do all their history research:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

While the laws governing slavery varied from state to state, one point was consistent: slaves were property and could not be party to a contract, including a marriage contract. This meant that no slave unions were legally recognized, and even the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) did not change this. For example, the 1860 District of Columbia’s Slavery Code dictated that ministers shall not “join in marriage any negro whatsoever or mulatto slave with any white person” (Sec. 56 on p. 19). Slaveowners encouraged slaves to couple (so as to reproduce free new slaves) and slaves certainly held religious marriage ceremonies, but those marriages had no legal validity. Owners had no obligation to respect them or even keep married couples together on the same plantation. Most importantly, as Baratunde Thurston points out, children born into slavery were the property of their master.

In footnote 8(1) of the pledge, The FAMiLY LEADER notes their “never disproven” belief that the health and well-being of children is “best upheld” through “legal marriage, especially faithful monogamy, as between only one man and one woman.”

Essentially, The FAMiLY LEADER has used its marriage pledge to suggest an exception for African-American children — that not only were they better off born into slavery, they were also better off having unwed parents.

Since the pledge was released yesterday, GOP presidential hopefuls Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA) are the only two candidates to have signed it.