The Sociology of an African American Family's Generational Journey

By Lois Benjamin

190 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones, 1 table

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7867-2
    Published: March 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7868-9
    Published: March 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7866-5
    Published: March 2024

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In this masterful work of family-focused sociology, Lois Benjamin considers the lives of Pennie and Roscoe James and their children, revealing how a large, close-knit African American family with humble origins in a small town of North Carolina is shaped by the contours of its religious and ethical value system. Despite the challenges of daily experiences, the James elders transmitted values to their children that provided them with the resources to thrive and the resilience to meet adversity. The James children recount their personal, unique perspectives on how faith, familial solidarity, and savvy entrepreneurship led to their continued generational success. Benjamin uses a blend of ethnographic and qualitative methods to place the James family’s experiences in broader historical context. In doing so, she shows that the family’s values of compassion, empathy, and communitarian and enterprising spirit offer hope in this polarized society.

About the Author

Lois Benjamin is professor emerita of sociology at Hampton University and author of several books, including The Black Elite: Still Facing the Color Line in the Twenty-First Century.

For more information about Lois Benjamin, visit the Author Page.


"A captivating, nearly century-long story . . . that will serve as a methodological and theoretical anchor for other scholars. Benjamin positions the James family as a case study for understanding social reproduction of values. A significant contribution to the field."—Candice Robinson, University of North Carolina Wilmington

"To disrupt long-held beliefs about pathology in Black families, Benjamin uses scholarly literature to tell a beautiful story about the faith, values, and work ethic of one Black family in North Carolina. At times this book reads almost like a memoir, a testimony of love and respect."—Earl Smith, University of Delaware